According to my friend Charlie over at newsminer.com, there are several reasons why you may be losing your customers.
Some of them die or move to a different area or country. Others leave because of a competitor’s price or their high level of customer service. More will leave because they are dissatisfied with your company, whether it’s your brand, price, quality or service issues. Even more, up to almost 70% of them in any given year, will leave because of a sensed attitude of indifference or, even worse, rudeness by one of your employees.
Let me give you a real-life example. A good friend of Charlie’s shared a horror story with him about her experience with a local “fast food” franchise. After she placed her order and paid for it, she was told to join other gourmet diners waiting in front of the restaurant, cars running, waiting for their orders. More than 15 minutes later, a runner delivered her order. After she asked for a refund, the supervisor tossed her credit card voucher back at her and told her, “Don’t ever come back.” She won’t. Charlie won’t. Neither will most of the people that heard the story she told them.
So here’s the two-part, million-dollar question:
What are you doing to ensure that more than 2/3 of your customers don’t leave you? How can you influence the attitude and energy that your support and service agents convey to your customers?
Hire happy people who like people. Your interviewee should have a history of solving problems and turning upset clients into loyal customers. They should be optimistic and build up and energize their co-workers. Then do your best to keep them happy.
Put a small mirror in front of them on their desks. Print out a sheet of paper with the words: “Smile! We love our customers!” written on it. Cut the paper into a thin strip and tape it to the bottom of the mirror. While working in the rent-to-own industry, we always tried to promote from within. I had an employee who was an exceptional delivery man, but I knew he could do more. One day he was talking to a customer and I could tell things weren’t going well – for either of them. There was a mirror behind him. I had the idea to put it in front of him, so I did.
Then I made the biggest, nerdiest smile I could. He laughed and actually told the customer why he was laughing and apologized for possibly sounding disinterested in or annoyed at what she was saying. He won back the customer and I feel like I won back my employee. The mirror stayed in front of him. I added the thin strip of paper with the words “Smile! We love our customers!” on it. In less than a year he was running his own store.
Ask your customers if they are happy. Unhappy customers typically will say they are unhappy if asked. The best news is you don’t have to hire a marketing consultant because asking this simple question doesn’t have to cost anything. Charlie says that Stew Leonard’s Grocery in the Midwest offered his customers a small, mostly ignored, suggestion box. When Stew replaced it with a big suggestion box in front of a huge sign with his smiling face, with the text, “Hi, I’m Stew tell me how we’re doing,” he went from one to two comments per week to 40 to 50 per day. He listened to his customers, and as a result, Stew Leonard’s Grocery prospered.
Listen to your customers and your support agents. At the time that Charlie’s friend told the “fast food” supervisor she was unhappy with their service, she was that franchise’s best friend. When she drove off, committed to fulfilling that supervisor’s desire to never return, she became the franchise owner’s worst enemy. This problem could have easily been fixed – so much so that she could have remained their biggest supporter. People who complain give us a chance to fix the problem. Have you ever listened in on one of your customer service agent’s calls? Do it! Use a friend to call them pretending to be upset or use a mystery shopper service. These are great ways to find out what your customers are hearing from your company’s representatives. Use live chat and an easy to use customer service software program to resolve concerns quickly.
Don’t be afraid of losing your customers. It’s true that you can’t control if people die or move on you. You may not be able to control the fact that your competitor can spend more on marketing and can afford to provide less-expensive products. But you can control how people think and feel about you and your company. Hire happy people and keep them happy. Also, let them see their own smile every time they talk to a potential or current customer. Ask your customers and your employees questions and then listen to their answers. Your company will ignite, fueled by loyal customers who will stay with you forever.