This column is adapted from Enterprise One to One: Tools for Competing in the Interactive Age (Currency/Doubleday, 1997). There are four strategies for improving customer retention ­ each effective in its own way, depending on the nature of the customer base and the capabilities of the enterprise.

Customer Recognition. Why not "recognize" valuable customers with some sort of special treatment? The elements of a customer recognition program should be both personal and practical. "Best-interests" marketing is an effective element to include in any customer recognition program. "Best-interests" marketing requires that a customer's best interests be put at the forefront of whatever policy or marketing program is being executed. For example, phone companies and banks should regularly review the accounts of their most valuable customers in order to recommend the best plan for each customer. "Best-interests" marketing requires personal care and attention ­ not a standardized one-size-fits-all program. The enterprise that practices "best-interests" marketing will infuse its culture with the principle that the customer comes first, above everything else.

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