The importance of forging and maintaining customer relationships is fundamental at all levels of business. You’ll hear it again and again. You’ll hear it so often, in fact, that the idea can lose some if its impact.

Customer Relationships – Combating Customer Attrition

Let’s consider some of the ways businesses alienate customers:

  • By selling products that don’t live up to the hype
  • By having low quality control standards
  • By not meeting delivery deadlines
  • By offering poor customer service

These are only a few of the ways a company can drop the ball, but they’re big missteps that lose good customers. It isn’t uncommon for businesses to think of existing customers as reliable, renewable resources. Sales meetings that focus on future purchase expectations from existing customers aren’t unusual. The only problem is that you won’t keep the customers you have today unless you treat them with the same respect and attention as you do all those tantalizing new prospects out there.

Here are some tips for addressing and controlling customer attrition:

You can’t always satisfy an unhappy customer, but you can try. That means communicating, listening, and participating in a dialogue. Answer your customer service or help desk line consistently and reliably. If your customer service process involves a curt email or a dismissal from a temp with a big slush pile of complaints, you’re missing the point. Sometimes people just want to be heard and understood, not allowing them that option will cost you in the end.

Review your marketing for inaccuracies and overstatements. Nothing angers customers more than being hoodwinked. It’s better to be scrupulously honest about your products before the sale than have to deal with disgruntled customers afterward.

Insist on consistent quality control. Small businesses often experience growing pains, and that’s a good thing. It means you’re enjoying a measure of success. Don’t blow it by ignoring quality control issues. Hiring new employees, running additional shifts, and implementing new processes without enough time to do the proper research and development all put your product quality at risk unless you focus on establishing and maintaining quality standards every step of the way.

Keep your promises. If you say it’ll ship out today, make sure it does. If you’re about to tell a customer you have a replacement item in stock, double check your inventory. When you tell someone you’ll call back before the end of the day, do it. These are simple courtesies. They are also huge customer hot buttons that can distinguish your brand as a stinker or a keeper.

Be clear and honest. Don’t make the mistake of talking down to your customers or they’ll become someone else’s customers. Even if they don’t know the technical side of your business, customers can recognize condescension, excuses, and misdirection a mile away. Once a customer has a complaint or an issue, he’s probably already sporting an attitude, so don’t make it worse.

Use empathy as a tool. Saying no without alienating someone takes skill, and it’s a skill most customer service departments need desperately. Your collections clerk may be great at scaring payment out of a delinquent account, but do you really want that person dealing with delicate customer service issues. Hire skilled customer service representatives who know how to handle difficult situations with grace.

Give something to get something. Playing well with others sometimes means compromise. A customer doesn’t have to be absolutely right to be right enough for special consideration. No one is suggesting that you give away the farm, but being flexible, diplomatic, and gracious can pay dividends. You never know how far a few judicious concessions will take you. In the internet age, one very verbal customer can upset your carefully constructed applecart or make you a superstar.

Pay attention to the trends. Know how many complaints you receive in a week and what they involve. Address recurring problems quickly. It can be challenging, but consider complaints opportunities to implement positive changes. If something is wrong, your customer service department will hear about it, and so should you, sooner rather than later.

You’ve read that it’s easier to keep a customer than it is to make a new one. Now consider how much creative energy and money you’re putting into marketing as opposed to customer relationships, support, and care. If the numbers don’t add up, make some changes. Your customers will thank you — and stay with you.

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