Global Crossing: The Transition from Customer Retention to Customer Acquisition

By Lain Ehmann

Throughout its struggle with Chapter 11, Global Crossing stayed afloat thanks to strategic efforts that retained the majority of its existing clients. Once back on solid ground the telecommunications company felt it was time to stop treading water and start acquiring new customers. But would the company’s sales force be able to shift its focus to new business without losing its existing base?

The answer is a resounding yes, says Paul O’Brien, Global Crossing’s senior vice president of enterprise sales. The $3 billion company’s strategy of customer-centric sales and service has proven to be as successful growing its business as it was keeping customers on board during its tumultuous restructuring. In fact, says O’Brien, Global Crossing has acquired several hundred new customers in the first quarter of this year alone and customer satisfaction scores are up across the board.

O’Brien says the sales organization took several key steps that allowed the company to keep its loyal customers while reaching out to new prospects.

  • Set expectations. The year started with a scaled-down sales meeting in New York. While the lavish parties and luxury hotels of yesteryear were noticeably missing, enthusiasm still ran high. O’Brien says that while it was clear the sales organization’s focus was moving to include new business, reps were told, “Don’t ever forget that the existing customer base kept this company alive.”
  • Provide the right incentives. While Global Crossing sales reps are encouraged to expand their business, they are rewarded for keeping their base intact. “They’re clearly given incentives to protect the base,” says O’Brien.
  • Look for new business among the old. O’Brien stresses that you always don’t have to look outside your current customer base to bring in more business. “My predisposition here is that enterprise clients, once they begin to buy, continue to buy,” he explains.
  • Leverage existing customers to demonstrate your company’s strengths. Because of the success Global Crossing has had retaining its customer base despite its reorganization, existing customers serve as one of the sales force’s best resources. A strong list of customer referrals has made it easy for Global Crossing to share its success with new prospects. “Self-promotion is not the way it works,” says O’Brien.

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