Cell phone companies have recently learned from performance studies that dropped calls, lost calls, texting failures, and other problems with network quality have been one of the primary reasons for a lack in customer retention. In an industry where customer loyalty is unusually high, any reason for customer loss is cause for concern. These same performance studies have discovered that customers who experience very few technology problems have a much higher opinion of their provider and a much greater likelihood of sticking with them. This rated higher than other factors such as cost, phone features, or data plans.
Focusing on the Real Problem
Not every company is exactly like a cell phone provider; however, the lessons gleaned from this information can be applied to a variety of different areas. The most important thing that these studies have done is provide focus for the industry. They’ve been able to isolate the most severe cause of customer dissatisfaction that leads to customers leaving the company. In any business, the first step in solving a problem is in properly figuring out what the problem is. In this instance, the cell phone companies could slash prices all they want, but that wasn’t going to help if that wasn’t the problem. In another industry, price might be the number one problem for customers. The important thing is that you are carefully analyzing your customer’s habits, concerns, and preferences to determine what exactly is the reason for their leaving.
Finding the Ideal Solution
If the problem is one of quality, then it’s important to solve this problem satisfactorily. In some instances, there may be only so much you can do, so it’s important to improve your product or service carefully. For instance, for cell phone companies, difficult geography and technological limitations can mean that there will simply some areas where dropped calls are unavoidable, but they can certainly redouble their efforts to improve the areas where possible. Figure out what area of improvement will lead to the greatest customer satisfaction and focus your efforts there.
Marketing Departments Begin to Understand Customer Retention
The CMO Club in partnership with IBM recently researched top marketing firms in order to determine how their budgets were being developed in order to get a sense of where their funding was going. What they discovered was quite surprising. Many CMOs are increasing the budgets for the express purpose of retaining customers and improving customer loyalty. This shift is both necessary and intelligent. Loyal customers who come back to your company again and again can greatly improve the bottom line, so it’s no wonder that marketing firms are beginning to see these benefits of customer retention.
- Existing customers have already demonstrated a clear interest in the product at least once. Why try to find a brand new fish when you’ve got a perfectly good one already hooked on the line? All you have to do is reel it in.
- Customers who have a bad experience with your company and aren’t brought back can have an adverse effect on new business. it’s hard to battle negative word of mouth, but if too many dissatisfied customers leave your company, it will sully the overall impression of it in your local or online community.
- On the flip side, happy and loyal customers can spread excellent information about your company free of charge. People like to recommend companies and products that they genuinely like, and a friend is more likely to encourage a sale than a stranger. Happy and repeating customers are the best advertising you could have.
- Existing customers are reliable and predictable in the long run. Even if a loyal customer isn’t coming in every single week or month, in the long run you know that they were come back at certain intervals, whether it’s quarterly or on holidays. That’s income that you can count on.
Just Looking for a Sympathetic Ear
You’re doing everything right. You serve your customers with a smile. You keep your products in good working order. You attempt to run a business at the highest level of quality possible, and yet, no one is perfect. Eventually, something goes wrong. Maybe you run a restaurant, and the ice machine breaks. Perhaps one of your employees just went ballistic and shot his mouth off to a customer. Whatever the situation, there may be a problem that just can’t be fixed. The customer’s unhappy, and there’s nothing practical that you can do to solve his or her problem. What can you do then?
It may sound naive, but the most effective thing you can do in such a situation is to simply be sympathetic. Let’s say it’s a hot summer day, and the air conditioning at your store is completely broken. The repairman won’t be out for a few days, and the customers seem to be very annoyed with the heat. Even in such hot conditions, you have to keep your cool. You’re not going to make the customers any cooler, but you also don’t want to pretend that nothing has happened. Most people are very reasonable and understand when life just hands you a bad situation. That’s true as long as you approach the situation correctly. If you behave in a sarcastic or aggressive manner, treating the customer’s complaints as insolent whining, then that only aggravates the situation. Sympathize with their situation. Demonstrate that you understand how they feel, and you know you’d feel just as upset in their situation. Honesty and empathy go a long way.
Spend a Little Now, Save a Lot Later
If a certain element of your business isn’t working properly, consider offering discounts or free samples as a show of goodwill. This may cost you money in the short term, but the good feelings created in your customers will ensure that you aren’t losing business in the long run.
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Telemarketer?
Recent studies show that not only do people have a negative opinion of aggressive telemarketers, but calls from them often create a sense of anxiety and discomfort in many people. This is often the result of very deceptive or unseemly business practices that put the consumer in a very defensive position, constantly vigilant against unwarranted marketing ploys. Unitel Marketing, however, operates on an entirely different principle. Our company recognizes that a fearful person on the other end of the phone call is not someone who’s going to be receptive to a call about customer retention. Breaking those negative connotations with telemarketing and instead creating an honest and empathetic bond with the customer are the cornerstones of our business model. Loyalty isn’t achieved through trickery and deceit; it’s built through trust and integrity.
Changing the Conversation
The most important step for our concierge consultants is changing the conversation from the first sentence of the conversation. People can tell almost immediately if the person on the other end of the line is a genuine individual who is calling in a natural, honest way or a punch-clock salesman who’s reading from a script and waiting for quitting time. It’s all about tone. From the moment we open up a dialogue with your customers, we want the conversation to be something personal and emotional. The greater the emotional investment in the conversation, the higher the likelihood that the customer will come back.
Forming a Real Connection
Most telemarketers who created the miserable stereotypes are the ones looking to sell new products, unwanted upgrades, or fly-by-night deals. Unitel Marketing is fundamentally different in that we want to offer a product that the consumer has already shown a demonstrated interest in. Our consultants ask what led them to leave in the first place and ask about how they can help. The questions are more personal because people almost always leave for emotional, personal reasons, so the conversation has to be conducted on that level.
Professionalism: A Lost Art?
The word “professional” can be a vague one. What does it mean for someone to be professional? Many people equate the word “professional” with words like “emotionless” and “uncaring.” They see a professional as someone who never gets involved in the emotions of the people with which they deal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Professionalism means that you conduct yourself with the proper decorum for your given job. A drill sergeant acting professionally is yelling loudly at his troops, but a child psychologist who uses the same approach would be fired on the spot. Likewise, direct call marketing requires its own kind of professionalism, and at Unitel Marketing, there are some key things we do to maintain professionalism.
- Callers listen, but they don’t criticize. There’s a difference between understanding a customer and sympathizing with their problems and siding with them against the company. If a customer complains that the product they ordered was defective, a good representative says, “I understand. I hate it when that happens, but I can assure that’s not typical of their products.” Saying something like, “I know. Those products sure do break a lot” might resonate with the customer, but it’s not the kind of professional remark that’s benefiting the client.
- Professionals treat all customers with respect. Some customers might be angry or belligerent because you called at a bad time or because they had a bad experience with a company. Returning their anger and aggression might be cathartic in the short term, but it won’t yield any real results. Our professionals are able to sympathize without returning those negative feelings.
- Good consultants know their professional limits. It’s perfectly acceptable and very effective to use humor when building a rapport with a customer, but off-color jokes and bawdy humor can backfire spectacularly, and it gives the impression of an unprofessional company.