Retention is high on the agenda for companies struggling to make money from cash-strapped consumers, but their words and deeds are not always in tune.

Research from analytics company SPSS suggests that customer retention tops the concerns of executives, with 34% claiming it is their number one priority.

This compares with 8% rating acquisition as their top concern; a remarkable turnaround from last year, when acquisition was rated most important by 40% of participants.

Retention does matter in a downturn. It costs less to keep a customer, but only if an organisation is clear about which customers it wants to retain. Hands up all those idiots that want to retain a customer that, in the long term is unprofitable or just such a pain in the a**e that they make staff want to leave in droves.

That aside, there are too many companies that just don’t walk the talk when it comes to retention. (As an aside, I laughed heartily when an employee of one company said that his bosses don’t walk the talk – they even struggle to stumble the mumble.)

If retention is important, it will be measured religiously – both attitudinally and behaviourally.

Feedback will ask about repurchase or renewal intentions, and this data will be compared with actual retention/repurchase metrics. If retention is important, negative feedback and complaints will be followed up quickly and effectively; demonstrating that individual customers are important.

Executives fail to understand that retention happens one customer at a time. If retention is important, feedback will be gathered and used regularly to identify what matters most to customers and how the company is doing in meting these expectations and requirements.

Teams will be given role-relevant feedback and data to enable them to make operational improvements. Boards will consider feedback when prioritising investments.

If retention is important, the company will have joined up systems that operate across the different channels of interaction with customers.

They will not require customers to repeat information each time they deal with someone new.

If retention is important, executives will talk about the importance of customers and implement recruitment policies that ensure staff are hired that can empathise with customers as well as having the requisite functional skills.

Now – is your organisation serious about retention? If not, it should be.

David Jackson is the Managing Director of