By Monique Martin
An important part of any business is minimizing customer defections. It’s far cheaper to keep customers than it is to get new ones, so keeping your current customers happy is critical to your success. But, no matter how hard you try, some will want to cancel your service. Having a simple save or win-back protocol in place can help you salvage customers when the time comes.
The first step in saving a customer is knowing they need to be saved. Be sure you put some friction in the system so they can’t leave with the simple push of a button. On the flip side, you don’t want to be the old AOL, the Hotel California of service providers, where there’s no way out either. Just give yourself a chance to save the customer by having them call you to terminate service.
In a small business, owners and employees usually wear many hats. If you don’t have a dedicated customer service rep, take the time to train yourself or an employee in the art of customer service. The keys are the ability to listen, patience and a positive attitude.
When a customer calls and wants to cancel, they’re unhappy. Let them vent. Listen to what they have to say. Be sure you don’t interrupt and don’t argue the issues. Once they’ve finished, tell them you’re sorry they’re having a problem and you’ll be happy to help them resolve it.
Paraphrase the problem and repeat it back to the customer. This assures them that you really do understand their issue.
Find out why they became a customer in the first place. Understanding why they valued your business will help you make them see that value again.
Ask them what you can do to make them happy. Say something like, “We value you as a customer. What can we do to resolve this and keep you with company X?” This is the key to any negotiation; make the other party put up the first offer. You might be surprised at how little they really want.
When you counter-offer, make sure it’s commensurate with the problem. First, make sure that the customer understands the full value of your service. They might be missing out on a key value that could win them back without costing you anything.
Is there another product or service that would better suit their needs? Is there a cheaper, streamlined offering that would satisfy them? If the issue is bad enough, a discount (i.e., one month free) might be in order.
If you find a resolution that will satisfy the customer, take care of it quickly and courteously. If they just can’t be satisfied, use the opportunity to get feedback on why they’re unhappy and take care of the cancellation request promptly. Whether you save them or not, leave the customer happy with your service. A happy defector is more likely to come back to the fold than an angry one.
About the Author
Monique Martin served as chief operating officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.