Everyone is Responsible for Customer Retention

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I recently read an article related to sales where the writer posed this question: what if everyone in your organization did what they were supposed to do and in result, you never lost a customer? As I pondered the question further it occurred to me that when I decide to leave a company in my personal life it almost always has to do with something they consistently did poorly, my business was taken for granted or too many errors occurred, without improvement. Now, to no fault of our own, we will lose customers through the years. Customers will move, go out of business, get sold or maybe our contacts leave. We’re not talking about these types of things. We’re talking about the “people” side of the business for this article.  How our people respond to hundreds of events and occurrences during a week can make a big difference in a customer’s perspective.  How the phone is answered, how you are treated, how long you have to wait for an answer, and other factors come into play. Let’s discuss some small items that can add up to be big reasons why customer’s may leave you.

1. Rapid ASA and High FCR. In customer service training we discuss rapid ASA and high FCR. ASA is Average Speed of Answer. How long does it take your company to answer the phone? When the phone rings and rings, people lose patience. Especially in today’s world, people are impatient. Make sure every single employee that works for you understands this. Make it a mantra that it is never acceptable to wait to answer the phone longer than 3 rings. Make everyone understand that you shouldn't wait for someone else to pick up the phone.

FCR stands for First Call Response. FCR is calling back a customer after they call in, before they call again. If you’ve ever been the customer calling a company to find out information, get answers to questions, complain or make a request, nothing is more frustrating than having to call a second time because no-one has called you back. First Call Response can be implemented quickly and easily with only a few rules of engagement. 

a. Have your people tell the customer exactly when they will get back to them. That way, the customer understands clearly the window of time required for a response and need not wonder.

b. Use specific language. “I’ll get back to you right away” could mean different things to different people. A customer could assume “right away” means within the hour while you may think it means by the end of the day. Very different.

c. Tell your people that if they aren’t able to get back to someone promised in the allotted time that they should call the customer back to tell them they are still working on it. This one goes a long way. You can actually build a bond and further trust with your customers just by doing this.

2. TCO or Total Contact Ownership. Total Contact Ownership is when a complaint, question or situation comes in from a customer and the person taking the call takes care of the situation until complete. They follow the call from when it comes in to them directly until it is complete. As example, if a customer calls in with a billing question, TCO is not simply putting that person into the accounts receivable voicemail. TCO is locating the person and putting them on the line while the customer waits. Or, it means you follow up with either the customer or the accounts receivable department to verify that the situation is resolved. Without TCO, items will tend to slip between the cracks. Unresolved matters go unchecked and assumptions are made. Both typically result in an upset customer that could potentially leave and never come back.

3. Managing Dead Air while on the phone with them. When someone in your organization is looking up information on their computer for a customer on the phone, managing dead air is telling the customer exactly what you are doing to help and how long it will take. Without this step they may wonder how long it is going to take, whether or not you are actually working on their situation or wondering if you’re still there because you aren’t saying anything! Silence is never good in these situations. It causes the customer to wonder what is going on and it makes them feel out of control. 

Instead, manage dead air by telling the customer what you are doing and when you are doing it. They know and understand exactly what you are doing and they feel much more comfortable. As example, “Let me check my computer to see when the product will be delivered. I need to change screens…ok. Here you are, let me scroll through your line items and see what happened…” The customer can literally picture the steps you are taking and they remain calm. Without it they hear nothing but keystroke clicks in the background. Before long they are asking themselves, “what are they doing?”  “Why is this taking so long?” “What could they possibly be typing?” or even, “Uh-oh. Have they lost my order?” Managing dead air solves all of this.

4. Be sure; no hesitation. Your customers stay with you because of their confidence in you and your company. When we are wishy-washy with our language, using words and phrases like, “might, maybe, could, not sure, I think and probably” it can cause misunderstandings and certainly lack of confidence in your organization. Teach your people to be confident with their words. As example, if they don’t have an answer or are uncertain of the answer, instead of saying, “I’m not sure about that. I could ask someone if you’d like” they can say, “Good question. I’ll check and call you back in the next half hour”.  Much better, don’t you agree? Have your people change words and phrases to these instead: “I will check, I can find out, this is what I’ll do, we can, we will” and other phrases that are much more confident and certain.

In our training, we teach over 35 things companies can do to keep customer forever or at least longer. Many of these types of strategies, as mentioned earlier, can be quickly and easily implemented. Entire organizations can make the change.  Department heads can track and verify employee participation and make adjustments as needed. If you’re wondering if your company should implement these strategies, you can simply ask yourself: what would it mean to the company revenue and profit if we never lost a customer? How about losing 50% fewer customers? Even losing 10% fewer customers affects the bottom line. Growing sales is awesome, but keeping customers longer is just as, if not even more, important.