Acquiring new customers in today's economic climate is harder than ever as people watch their wallets and have less money to spend on new products and services. To ensure continued revenue, companies need to focus on retaining their most valuable assets — existing customers. Therefore, many companies are asking: What do we need to do to make our customers stay?
There are many facets to customer retention, not the least of which is providing a good product at a reasonable price. Since most companies put a lot of energy into research and development (R&D) and sales, I'm going to assume you already have the product and price.
What you probably don't have is a focus on what I call "the moment of power."
Most of the time, consumers don't think about customer service annoyances because they exist on the periphery of their daily lives and don't happen every day. But when an issue arises — the Internet connection goes down or the drain gets clogged — suddenly the provider of that good or service becomes important in the consumers' lives. This is the moment when you — the provider — have the power to make a lasting and valuable impression. This is the "moment of power."
How you respond in these moments will determine if the customer remembers the experience as a good one or it pushes her to look elsewhere.
Exceeding expectations, which have become incredibly low after years of general decline in customer service, will help ensure consumers remember you positively, thereby increasing their loyalty and retention. Commit to providing customer care that creates a connection between your business and your consumers. All it takes is thinking about your customers as people — like you. How would you want to be treated? Better yet, how would you want your best friend to be treated?
Here are five customer service opportunities where you can maximize your "moment of power" and improve retention:
- Make it easy for your customers to reach you. Offering multiple ways to contact you — email, IM, Twitter, telephone, Skype, Web forms, snail mail, Facebook, etc. — makes it easy for your customers. Having more options shows you care about your consumers' preferences, as opposed to your own. Make sure any contact methods you offer are prominently displayed. Consider having live chat available on your site to immediately reach a service representative. By providing clear, quick access and choices, consumers will appreciate your efforts to help them reach you.
- Make the connection personal. Whatever channel of communications you utilize, make sure you acknowledge your customers as human beings. They're not just another number at the end of a line or a line item in your budget. Any effort to reduce the pain of automation — whether it's waiting endlessly for someone to answer a call, or not getting a response to a Web inquiry for days — is something customers notice and appreciate. Finding a balance is key. Listen to your customers and they will provide you with a path to providing a system that makes it personal for them and efficient for you. If you really want to impress them, call them back — promptly.
- Give people more control over their appointment times. Ask customers what works best for their schedule first, instead of offering up dates, and try to meet their preferences as closely as possible. If you're making a service call, provide reasonably prompt availability and give them a reasonable wait time — people are busy and don't enjoy being homebound for hours just to wait on a service call.
- Commit to meeting your appointment times. There are intelligent systems on the market that allow you to accurately predict a one-hour window for your customer appointments and proactively notify customers. Surprise and delight people by showing up on time, or even early. If your employee happens to be running late, keep customers in the loop with real-time updates. If they know a 1 pm appointment now will be bumped to 2 pm, they can plan accordingly. In fact, studies have shown that consumers don't feel like the appointment is late — it's just been rescheduled an hour. Moreover, some consumers still consider the final package delivery as on time. High-end retailer Arhaus Furniture has found that by providing an accurate one-hour delivery window, its customers are far more likely to make another purchase and also to tell their friends about its top-notch service.
- Follow up after the job is done. The appointment is finished, but your customer service shouldn't be. Take the time to get feedback about your employees from your customer. Automated phone and email surveys are an easy way to get valuable insight that can help adjust your care. If you call within 15 minutes of the completed appointment, you might find out the problem actually wasn't fixed and you can send your employee right back before she's driven too far away. Try it — your customers will be amazed and impressed. And they'll feel like you're connected with and care about them.
Those are just some of the opportunities for your service to shine. If you create a company culture that appreciates and encourages going above and beyond, your employees will show you more ways to improve. More important, your customers will respond with their loyalty. So remember: What's good for your customers is good for your revenue.
About the Author
Yuval Brisker (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president and chief executive officer of TOA Technologies. He is a passionate customer service advocate and the thought leader behind TOA's unique, customer-focused approach to mobile workforce management via the company's predictive SaaS solution. For more information, please visit www.toatech.com.
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