Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Business retention.

TCTC have seen an increase in demand for training on telephone business retention.  Most typically this is where customers are considering cancelling their policy / subscription or taking their money elsewhere.

When faced with these situations it is essential to remain calm, not to appear annoyed or defensive and to treat the request with respect and professionalism.

When a customer is calling to cancel they are often focussed on that objective alone.  To be successful in retaining business we must first change the customer's mindset.

2 important tips for successful business retention:

- Plant the seed for retention in the mind of the customer very early in the conversation.

- Create a thought provoking reason for the customer to consider retaining their business.

The seed for retention
When responding to a request to cancel or terminate business we often make the mistake of fully explaining the cancelation procedure without even considering alternative options which may help the customer.

The customer of course has every right to terminate and your approach must not block this but simply outlining the cancellation process alone will result in an almost certain loss of business. 

Failure to make the customer aware of all the options open to them is a failure to deliver good customer service.

In most cases there are alternatives.  For this reason reference to options (or similar) in the early part of the call will help plant the idea of retention.

Take a look at the following 2 financial service examples and consider the differences in their approach:

Example 1
Customer - I am thinking of redeeming the funds in my ISA, can you tell me how I can do this please?

- Certainly, you can do this over the phone today or you can put this in writing.  Once we have your instructions it should take a maximum of 5 working days to have the funds sent to you.

Example 2
Customer - I would like to sell my ISA investment please.

- Yes of course, I can help you with that. I will take you through the redemption procedures and also explain some of the other options you have.

The key difference between these 2 examples is the effect on the mindset of the customer.  The first example answers the customer's question directly but almost invites them to proceed with the cancellation.  In the second example the advisor is equally helpful but crucially, opens the customer's mind to the idea that there are other options for consideration. 

Thought provoking reasons for retention.
We need to create a relevant, thought provoking reason for the customer to consider retaining business.

These reasons could include:
- The alternatives to full cancellation e.g. retaining part of your investment / policy
- An outline of the consequences of cancelling i.e. the "what if" scenario.
- An explanation of benefits which the customer will no longer enjoy.
- Highlighting additional benefits associated with a product / service which the customer may not have previously been aware of.

A common error at this stage is to use negative re-enforcements questions / phrases which make the customer feel pressured and therefore invite them to respond in a negative way. 
"Would you be interested in hearing more about other offers we have?

To successfully engage the customer in the mindset of retention we need to identify what is important to them and obtaining the reason for cancelation is the critical starting point.

To see how this works let's return to our ISA example:

Agent - May I ask the reason for wanting to sell your investment?

Customer - I am going to use part of the funds to assist with a house refurbishment.

Agent - ...You mentioned that you are intending to use part of the funds, were you aware that you do not have to sell the complete holding?  You have the option if you wish to withdraw part of your holding and leave the remaining invested in the fund...

Customer - No I was not aware of that and it may in fact be something to consider...

In this example the agent has not asked the customer if they would be interested in hearing about other options.  She has instead taken the lead and subtly provided the customer with a relevant reason to consider retaining part of their investment.

As a result the customer's mindset is now far more open to alternative ideas / suggestions on some form of retention.

For an example of how these retention principles worked successfully on an extended warranty for kitchen appliances read the following article:

Sunday, 5 June 2011

What every customer wants...

- Ownership
- Reassurance
No matter what the reason for calling, whether it be an enquiry or a complaint, every customer wants to be greeted by a service professional who takes ownership and offers reassurance.

This is the conclusion of some very interesting research conducted by TCTC.

We believe that these 2 factors are so important they should form the corner stone of every set of customer quality standards.

The first chance you have to demonstrate both qualities is in the instinctive response to a
customer's enquiry.

For a practical example of how ownership can be taken and reassurance offered at the start of a call read the following article:

Scoop's shopping trip to Sainsbury's

Face to face customer service is a little off-piste for Tele Scoop and the supermarket has rarely been fertile ground for service excellence but today's trip to Sainsbury's (St Clare's in West London) was to be a pleasant exception.

Scoop had completed his shopping and was waiting at the checkout in a haze of boredom when his attention was drawn to an exchange between a female shopper (with a toddler in tow) and 2 members of staff.

As the shopper was loading her groceries on to the checkout belt she called out to a couple of staff members who were chatting happily amongst themselves at the next (closed) till.

Now in Scoop's experience interrupting service staff in the middle of personal conversations can be a dangerous business - but happily not today!

The first member of staff was a middle aged man who seemed to exude natural sunshine.  His colleague was a younger lady who had the look of a supervisor about her.

The customer attempted to grab their attention as follows:

"Err excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt, can I ask a favour?  Do you know if the latest copy of New Magazine is in stock please?"

Scooped watched with interest to see how the staff might respond.  The male member of staff sprang into action:

"I can do better than that Madam, I can go and get it for you."

Scoop was suitably impressed!

As he walked off his colleague smiled warmly at the customer and said:

"You asked the right person there, he puts out the magazines every morning."

Within a few moments the man returned cheerily with said magazine in his hand:

- "There you are madam, one copy of New Magazine."
Customer - "Thank you so much, that's very kind of you."
- "It was my pleasure."

Scoop was struck by the look of pride and satisfaction on the man's face as he walked back to his counter.  This was matched by an equally pleased expression on the face of the shopper.


This man is a shining example of how customer service can be.

He is unlikely be earning a fortune in this job yet he displays a genuine pride in his work.

His initial response shows his desire to go one step further in helping the customer.

His final response is even more impressive:

"It was my pleasure."
He did not have to say this and it's almost certainly not part of any prescribed service standards.  This was a spontaneous response to the customer's expression of gratitude.

There is something very special about this type of final response.  Uniquely it has an equally positive effect on both the customer and staff member and therefore cements a satisfying experience for both. 

This example encapsulates the positive sentiments which can be generated in customer service.  The member of staff clearly welcomed the opportunity to make life easier for the customer.  The customer (having originally been apologetic in her request) was in the end genuinely appreciative and was pleased she asked for help in the first place.  A sweet taste is left all round.

There is a difference between a mechanically correct customer exchange and a genuinely pleasant customer experience and our man at Sainsbury's demonstrated this to perfection.