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Want More Profits? Focus on Your Best and Worst Customers

Want More Profits Focus on Your Best and Worst Customers 351x200 Want More Profits? Focus on Your Best and Worst Customers

Salespeople or account representatives are especially familiar with this. If you’ve only got so many hours to manage for yourself, and you’ve only got so much energy, be like smart sales reps who only go after clients who aren’t a drain on their limited resources.

“Limited resources” can include a lot of things. There’s the time limitation, of course. Then there are the resources some extra-demanding clients may require from your company. Maybe you have to get help from other departments to support some of your customers. Or maybe you have to ask your manager to keep making exceptions to company policies for a particular client.

Then there are emotional resources. Some clients are … ahem … less pleasant to work with than others. Less patient.

And if they’re really bad, less professional.

That all takes a toll. It’s a kind of overhead cost.

A friend of mine is a high-level financial advisor. He has some clients who love him – he always feels energized working for them. Other clients … not so much.

Once, back in my advertising days, my agency lost an account. I had been working on this account, suffering through dealing with an inconsistent, impatient, and often verbally abusive client. So it was a relief when one day our team leader announced in a meeting: “Company X isn’t going to be sending us their jobs anymore.”

The room was quiet for a moment. Then somebody said, “Are we sad about that?”

So, let’s face it: Some customers/clients just aren’t good to work for. Their “overhead” – whether that’s in servicing time, resources required, or how much emotional strain they elicit – are simply not worth their revenue. And typically (here’s the 80/20 rule again), these “super-awful” clients tend to be worse than other clients, not by a little, but by a factor of 4x or 16x.

Unfortunately, as businesses, we typically handle these problem clients after they’ve become clients. We screen them out (if ever) only after they’ve already started to damage morale and profitability.

What if we started screening them earlier? Like in the marketing department?

3. Negative Personas.

You know what a persona is, right? I’m talking about marketing personas, aka customer profiles. Marketers use personas to help them customize the messages they send out to keep customers and to offer special services or tools and to create content to retain certain customer types.

It’s a best practice now in marketing to create content that’s specifically designed to engage with each different type of persona. And so any content marketer who’s been at their job awhile has probably developed a few customer personas.

Maybe you have, too.

But have you ever defined a negative persona? A type of customer you do not want to attract?

I recommend you do.

To create this negative persona, you’ll need extensive help from both the sales department and customer service. You might want to pull finance in, too. Because I guarantee that if you look at your customers’ overhead costs (including the toll they take on your sales’ and customer service staff’s morale) they will be able to tell you which types of customers they really don’t want.

In fact, sales may already have a working profile of this type of person. They may already be deliberately not following up on certain types of leads. Or they may be trying to avoid dealing with some clients.

You may also need some input from your executive team. It is possible that your #1 negative persona profile is actually a customer type for which your senior staff is developing a strategy. Your company executives may think this customer profile is profitable – but only because they haven’t considered the “invisible” overhead costs of these customers.

That is not an easy conversation to have (no kidding, right?). But if you’re in an open, high-functioning organization, it might be one of the most profitable conversations you can have.


No matter what department we’re in, or what level employee we are, we all want more results. Many of us don’t just want those results – we need them if we want to keep our jobs.

But there comes a time when you’ve maxed out your hours. When you’ve maxed out your energy, your enthusiasm, and your budget. Then there is no “more” of anything to put into your system.

At that point, if you want to get more results, the system itself has to get more efficient.

Finding your super customers and firing your “super awful” customers is one way to make your system more efficient. A good customer management strategy can get you there.

Back to you

Does your company treat all its customers alike? Or do you have customer tiers, with a minimum level of customer care (lest you become United)?

We welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Skin cancer meets its worst nightmare: IBM

Skin cancer may have found its worst enemy: IBM’s cognitive computers.

VentureBeat has learned that IBM Research will announce a partnership today with New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on technology that, in tests, successfully evaluated patterns in medical images and detected even the most deadly forms of skin cancer as much as 97 percent of the time.

The project, run out of the Multimedia Analytics group at IBM Research’s Yorktown Heights, N.Y. headquarters, is Big Blue’s answer to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2014 “Call to Action” to defeat skin cancer. Citing its crippling massive annual national impact — 9,000 deaths and $ 8 billion in health-care costs — IBM and Memorial Sloan Kettering set out to find a way to apply automated analytics to better detect the disease.

Led by IBM researcher Noel Codella, the project builds on the company’s work on machine learning techniques aimed at automatically picking out things like dogs or cats in imagery, or even picking out a dog or a cat in a photo.

At the same time, Codella told VentureBeat, Memorial Sloan Kettering has been building a database of dermatological images that show different kinds of skin lesions and other elements of diseases and tie them to specific clinical properties.

“Our cognitive systems are using this data to learn what types of features and patterns are most frequent in melanoma to help recognize the disease in images,” Codella said in a phone interview.

Codella added that IBM’s technology has proven adept at analyzing large numbers of images far quicker and with a more finely detailed level of measurement than any doctor could do. The system is designed to evaluate an image in less than a second.

While Codella’s group often works with IBM’s Watson division, Watson — which famously beat the world’s top Jeopardy players and is now being used to tackle large-scale computing problems in everything from finance to health — was not involved in the skin cancer project.

IBM used its technology in controlled tests of more than 3,000 cases of melanoma and other skin lesions. Codella explained that the system was able to identify positive and negative cases of skin cancer with 95-plus percent accuracy.

The highest level of accuracy humans have achieved is 84 percent, Codella said, while some automated approaches have hit 90 percent.

For now, this technology is still in the research stage, and Codella said it could be some time before it is available to dermatologists everywhere. That means, of course, that it could fail to emerge from IBM’s research labs. But if it eventually emerges as a tool available to doctors, skin cancer patients could have their best ally ever in combating the disease.

More information:

Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was built by a team of scientists to accomplish a grand challenge –a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accurac… read more »

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