Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kindness, Customer Retention, and the Contact Center Agent

By Sean Hawkins

By definition, customer retention is the activity an organization undertakes in order to reduce customer from leaving the business relationship. It is a shared responsibility of every person and department in a company. Most often though, it is the contact center that interacts with those customers who wish to leave. While the functional role of retention is housed within a specific team, everyone in customer service impacts the company’s ability to preserve customers.

Most retention efforts occur when a customer has expressed a desire to leave the business relationship. This is often too late, and may come at a high price to your bottom line. Furthermore, once the incentives offered to keep a customer expire, they still leave. I believe the process of reducing customer churn is an ongoing process that starts at the beginning of the relationship. It should take place before dissatisfaction arises, and continue over the customer life cycle. Additionally, policies, processes and procedures, should be developed to make the relationship easy, beneficial and fair to your customers. One of the easiest ways to begin, is through your customer service team(s).

In particular, customer service agents should take a proactive approach. They must be empowered and encouraged to help build customer loyalty. As the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” I know someone is saying, "Why would you call your customer a fly?" Simmer down my dear friend! I only suggest it is easier for people to like you if you are pleasant, rather than unpleasant.

With this in mind, below are some quick and easy ideas contact centers can implement:

  • Discounts
  • Free service
  • Gift cards
  • Contests
  • Thank You cards
  • Acknowledgment of milestones
  • Newsletters
  • Reports, whitepapers or books
  • Self-help tools
  • Random acts of kindness

These ideas allow the contact center agent to be proactive in the retention process rather than reactive. Don’t wait until a customer is frustrated! Kindness has a greater impact when it is unexpected and unwarranted. In other words, be kind at all times, not once the customer is upset, and the relationship begins to sour.

When kindness is displayed as a gesture of appreciation, or used to aid the customer's journey, they aren't viewed as retention. Rather, they are opportunities to create loyalty, brand ambassadors, and build long lasting relationships. But more importantly, it's great to be kind, simply for the sake of being kind.

Some may see this as a loyalty initiative, but I don't. Loyalty, and your ability to retain customers, are the results of your kindness. 

I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors. I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

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