Over the past couple years, I’ve had to push a number of clients to ask themselves some of the toughest questions a business owner could ever face. If you’ve not asked yourself these questions about your business, you might by the time you get done reading this.
Without a doubt, there will always be a level of customer attrition to some degree. And of course, as a business grows and gains more visibility, you may see that number rise a bit. But what if there’s more to it? What if your customer base remains somewhat stable and you continue to lose more and more customers by the day/week/season/year?
It’s easy to point your finger and blame it on the economy, industry trends, poor web design, marketing, lack of a customer’s understanding, and so forth. But what if that’s not the case at all? What if you have a problem, a much BIGGER problem?
Sourcing the Problem
Well, now comes the hardest questions you, a business owner, must ask yourself:
- What if it’s you?
- What if the source of the problem only sits a few feet away from you at the office?
I’ve seen various situations over the years where business owners or employees were unintentionally driving customers away. A majority of the time, I find situations like these were caused by a lack of process or understanding of the company’s expectations as it relates to the type of information that should / should not be communicated with their customer base.
For example, discuss customer service. This has shockingly been one of the areas where I’ve seen this problem the most. Many don’t seem to realize the various forms of communication being handled or passed back and forth between the company and the customer and therefore, it has a tendency to be overlooked and go unnoticed if you’re not paying close attention.
Here are a few examples of communication that is often handled by customer service:
- Product & Service Information
- Status Updates
- Order Shipments
- Services Scheduled
- Lead Time & Expected Delivery Dates
- Follow Ups
As you break down the various forms of communication happening, it’s important to educate employees and establish some basic guidelines when it comes to communication between your company and its customers. Here are a few tips to consider:
Customer Service Communication
If email is the main form of communication being used with a potential or existing customer, be sure to educate your employees on words and phrases that have a tendency to send your customers into panic mode.
Once a customer has already started to become leery of your product, there is very little opportunity to correct the problem. They have most likely already lost trust in you and your business. That said, try to be clear about your expectations and goals in this area. Manage customer concerns, address them, and work to gain customer trust back.
You need to set the expectations of how you communicate with customers early on. Make sure everyone who will interact with leads and customers is on the same page!
1. If you know of specific words or phrases that tend to make customers skeptical, be sure to make a list of them (see below) and share it with those who engage with your customers regularly.
2. Emails should be clear the first time around to avoid duplicate emails from being sent back and forth. If further explaining is needed, a friendly phone call should be recommended to gain a better understanding of the customer’s needs.
3. When a customer reaches out to you expressing a level of confusion or frustration, use it as an opportunity to educate. Teach and explain the benefits of your product.
Common Words & Phrases to Avoid
Your word plays a huge part in your customer relationships, maybe even more than you realize. Here’s a list of some words and phrases you’ll want to avoid when talking with a prospect or customer:
- Mix Up
- IT / Programmer (yes, this word tends to escalate something as simple as a minor change/update to the entire site and business is about to crash in 2.2 seconds)
- Tools (it makes creating a simple account sound more painful than a root canal)
- Any other words or phrases that may elude to the fact your company, process, products, service offerings and or website is complicated, broken, etc.
Essentially, you want to be as up front, honest, and clear as possible when talking with your customers. And, if you have some complicated or “bad” news to share, try to frame it, as much as possible, in a positive light. Or, make sure to include a solution to overcome the problem. Your word choice can either make your customers more comfortable and lend you more of their trust, or it can keep them at arms length. The choice is up to you.
Educating yourself, as well as your employees, on how to effectively communicate with your customer base is the key to success. Not only will this help improve your customer retention management, it may potentially increase the number of repeat customers who ultimately refer new customers. It’s a great way to grow your small business and increase the bottom line without spending a dime!