Now is the perfect time to look back to evaluate and peer forward to plan for the next year. The ready-mix industry is steeped in best practices and measuring efficiencies related to operations.

Producers know their numbers when it comes to most things about concrete manufacturing. Yet, sorely missing in evaluating “how we did” is assessing customer retention and adhering to a strategy to improve the customer experience.

Setting SMART goals is an easy first step to take in the journey of becoming a customer-focused culture. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound. A producer who proclaims he is going to focus on the customer in 2013 but has not set goals to do so is simply wishing.

A producer who wants to improve customer retention could use SMART goals in the following way.

Specific: Improve customer retention by 20 percent.

Measureable: The success toward meeting the goal can be measured. Analyze the 2012 customer base. It would be even better to measure the customer retention rate of several prior years. Once the current retention rate is known, improvement by 20 percent is calculable.

Attainable: Goals are realistic. Once you know what the customer churn rate is, you can look at the 20 percent goal you set and know if it is attainable. I recommend standing on your tip-toes to reach a goal, but don't use a ladder. Goals set too high cause frustration and ultimately failure. Goals set too low have no impact.

Relevant: Goals fit the ultimate plan. Designing goals related to customer retention is relevant to a company whose overall strategy is to be profitable. It costs a company three to five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.

Time Bound: Goals have a clearly defined time-frame, including a target or deadline date. If the goal for the year is to improve the customer retention rate by 20 percent, quarterly check-in targets can play a huge role in motivation.

Setting goals is the first step. Next, what do we need to change, stop doing, and start doing to achieve this goal? Stay tuned for more. In the meantime, get SMART.

Joan Fox is a customer experience consultant to the ready-mix industry and a popular conference speaker. Click here to read her other Service Matters articles. Telephone 513-793-9582 or email joan@joanfox.com.