Customer retention means listening with more than your ears…

Customers pay your salary, afford your lifestyle and ultimately, fulfil your dreams, so why are you talking and not ‘listening’ to them?

Annually billions of dollars are lost owing to poor listening skills. Customers need to be heard, to feel heard — and to not be herded. And the proof is, you just try telling them what they want if you want to see customer defection en masse.

The customers have high hopes of the companies they choose to patronise and support, and all it takes is one instance of missed expectations to make customers change providers and go looking for pastures greener.

According to PWC, 32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience.

Retaining customers is as much an art as getting them in the first place.

It’s a fact that most companies usually spend more money on customer acquisition because it’s seen as an effective means to increase revenue, while in reality, customer retention on average, is often faster and costs up to seven times less than the whole acquisition process. The reason is, it’s easier to sell to someone that you have already convinced. But this is not time to rest on you laurels.

While employees will swear that they listen to their customers, the reality is that they don’t. What they often do instead, is overtalk the customer, bombard them with information about their vast product knowledge, assuming that that will fulfil the customer’s needs and expectations.

What then happens is the customer is left to wander around in the aisles in a daze of information overload and indecision, totally perplexed as to what to do next, as they head for the exit, the only thing they recognise in a sea of doubt.

Customers must want you as much as you want (and need them) so, once you have managed to lure one of these rare creatures over to you, you need to look after them; yours must be a non-defection-zone, and it starts from the minute you first interact with them, right through the entire lifetime of the relationship. You must be prepared for the long-haul, as you do not want them drifting over to other pastures, no matter how green, lush or inviting.

Companies need to embrace and practice becoming a listening culture if they intend to retain customers. They need to build trust, and this isn’t a case of ‘one-size-fits-all’ implemented overnight. Too often, companies chase their competition’s strategies, hoping that by mimicry they will see their coffers bulge. There are few companies that actually take the time to stop and listen to what their customers need, to engage, to respond to what they require and go the extra mile to exceed in customer service. This is the difference that will ensure retention.

Engagement also means taking constructive feedback. Proactively and regularly reach out to your customers to find out what they like and what they think you can improve on. Don’t wait for negative feedback to come to you, be prepared with answers and solutions, after you have heard what they have to say!

Businesses need to make it a practise of talking with frontline employees, salespeople, and support people about any customer complaints they hear, whether directly or through the company grapevine.

Often, companies don’t investigate the root of issues, while even fewer implement processes to prevent a reoccurrence. Reviewing emails, letters and social media posts are a good ‘ear to the ground’ method of hearing what the tone is on the street.

Unfortunately, too many businesses will make a sale only to never be heard of ever again. You need to collate customer data and stay in contact with them if you want your revenue to grow along with your loyalty base. Stay on their radar after your cash register has pinged. Care about the customer as a person, and don’t simply see them as a sales generating resource!

Basically, give them a reason to want to come back and stop telling customers what’s good for them — listen!

When customers know a company cares about them, values their input and is improving because of them, they will return.  

And listening is not just hearing about their problems and being their psychologist — although that can help. It’s not just a simple case of picking up the phone or sending a general email, it’s all about connecting with them, showing you care, listening to them, actually hearing them.

The most successful sales and service employees are excellent listeners, with patience that Mother Theresa would envy. These people are so in tune with their clients that they easily recall when the budgie died, when Johnny graduated, or Gramma had her hip replaced.

Well, maybe not, but you get the drift?

They can recall relevant details that formed part of the case in hand and are unswervingly in tune with the customer’s emotions and requirements. This saves frustration as the customers don’t have to repeat information which can add friction to the experience.

Show that you have been listening and who knows, you may more frequently hear the ping of a sale on your Smartphone, instead of a stampede to the exit.



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