While many companies establish new business promotions, few devote an equal amount of energy teaching employees techniques to do a better job of retaining customers.
Try this: Go back to your customer rank report from 1996, just ten years ago, and take a look at your top ten customers. How much does this top ten list differ from your top ten list in 2006? Odds are, few of these high volume customers are still on your top ten list, or for that matter, still doing business with your company. What happened to those that left? Where are they doing business now? If they left you for a competitor, do you know precisely why?
Here are 15 ideas for improving your customer retention rate:
o Measure customer retention by salesperson. This will give you a good idea of which salespeople are losing the most customers.
o Hire a professional to train not just your salespeople, but all customer contact personnel on how to deliver Level III customer care. Drivers, customer service personnel in the yard, credit personnel and inside salespeople interact with customers sometimes more often than outside salespeople do.
o Teach all employees how to most effectively deal with an irate customer.
o Set a standard within your company for customer response time and monitor how well your people are doing against these standards.
o Make it a policy to answer all phone calls by the third ring.
o Install a policy to under promise and over deliver when making promises to customers. Without training, conscientious employees who are trying to please the customer will often do just the reverse.
o When a customer complaint is unresolved, keep the customer informed. Call customers before they call you even if you have nothing to report ― giving them an update on the status of the complaint.
o Give your people the flexibility to change the rules to serve the specific needs of individual customers.
o Measure service! Measure on time delivery, backorders/fill rate, accuracy of deliveries, accuracy of billing, etc. Improve your company’s credibility by using these numbers to support your service claims.
o Follow up with customers to check their satisfaction level, especially when a customer is new to your company. Ask customers questions. Don’t assume that they are happy with your quality and service.
o Invest in quality people. When it comes to people, you get what you pay for. Don’t pinch pennies when hiring customer contact personnel. The quality of your people equals the quality of your company.
o Empower your people to take whatever action is necessary to take care of a customer. If you are going to spend money, spend it to improve your rate of customer retention.
o Don’t solicit business from a customer until you are convinced that your company can meet his or her stated customer service expectations.
o Make a list of each of the value-added services your company offers. Ask each employee to commit it to memory.
o Show your customers that you care. Ideas: Incentive travel programs, educational contractor newsletters, thank-you notes, open house events, educational contractor seminars, etc.
By John Hester