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Customer Retention Strategies

People tend to do business with companies recommended to them by their friends and colleagues. Regardless of the product or service, a consistent client list and a positive referral file will inspire confidence in a new customer. Recruiting new clients is only the beginning; keeping client files current and maintaining positive customer relationship is what drives a business. When customer relationships are neglected, the result is bad word-of-mouth and lost business.

An important element in building customer relationships is finding the right person to head the customer service department. The person in charge of customer service needs to earn the respect of both the customer service representatives and upper management. It's a poor move to make this a dump position by putting an inexperienced person in charge. Instead, choose a person with a strong reputation who is enthusiastic about the position. This person will be responsible for keeping moral high among the customer service representatives and working with customers who may be upset. In other words, this person is your connection to the outside world, so hire or promote someone who is courteous and assertive.

When a customer service manager is in place, they should review and revise the current customer service guidelines. What works? What needs improvement? Begin with concrete guidelines, not fluff-filled objectives such as "service with a smile" or the "customer is always right." As well, you should replace vague phrases such as "fast response time" with something clear and measurable like "answer the phone in two rings." Attempt to consolidate and reduce the customer service representatives' files and procedures package to a simple, easy-to-follow guide. Simplifying policies and empowering representatives to handle customers quickly and directly will improve the overall customer service experience.

Design a thorough training program for new representatives to attend before they work with customers. Begin with discussing management expectations and answering questions. Have each new representative listen to phone calls, take orders, file customer complaints and record recommendations. Pair new representatives with more experienced ones during their first month of service. Provide a tour of the company and invite representatives to ask questions or visit with upper management. Post customer praise on a bulletin board for representatives and management to read.

Handling customer complaints is an critical aspect of customer service. Most customer complaints are related to pricing or billing. There are three steps for handling customer complaints. Begin with listening and allowing the customer to complain or ask questions. When they are finished, ask what can be done to resolve this situation. The customer might have a quick solution, so follow it within reason. If the customer does not provide an amicable solution, offer one or two reasonable options. For example, send the customer a coupon for a future purchase, replace the damaged item or grant a full refund.

Empowering customer service representatives the handle and resolve situations is the most important step in customer service. To often customers hear "I'm not authorized to handle this or worse, these are the rules I have to follow." Deflecting customer complaints or transferring customers 30 times is poor customer service. When the business is at fault, make a goodwill gesture and admit to any errors. In order to maintain the relationship, you must show appreciation for the customer and attempt to exceed their expectations. Most customers continue using the business or service when problems are handled in a prompt and efficient manner.