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Monday, May 24, 2010

THE RETENTION FACTOR: Thank You For Contacting Us

The Retention Factor with Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D.

Have you ever been told "thank you so much for calling" when you telephoned a company? In my experience, it's been often, though not all the time. Here's the more pertinent question: How often does the person "thanking you" sound sincere?

Would you agree that it is much less time? What's the solution? I believe it should be very sincere and the person should truly mean it, don’t you? Why?

Because if someone isn't calling you with a problem or a complaint, where is your opportunity to assist them? How can you remedy their situation if they don't call and present it to you?

And even more important, if they don't contact you, you never have the opportunity to resolve their issue and move them onto a productive interaction; create relationship with them so that they ultimately see your company as their vendor of choice.

If they don't contact you, does that mean they're not talking about their issue or problem? No, it just means they're not talking to you. As a matter of fact, they will tell anyone who will listen. Statistics say that people tell more people about a negative experience than a positive experience.

I’ll bet you've had this experience. An upset customer contacts you with a complaint and you turn them around such that at the end of the conversation, you walk away feeling good about yourself, the customer feels good about him or herself, and each of you feel good about the interaction. Truly a win-win-win (you/the customer/your company) scenario.

Your answer is yes, right? Otherwise, you'd probably be burned out and flipping hamburgers at a fast food restaurant. However, please know I do not mean to be glib here.

Let's look at complaints for example. By definition, complaints are about something that happened in the past, whether it was a day, a month, a year ago, it's still the past--not the future. The past is the past. We have no choice or power over the past. It has already happened!

What we do have the choice about, however, is the present. Your choice is how you interpret the past, as well as how you will treat your customers.

Our experience tells us that focusing on creating a relationship with the customer in the present, and in that space resolving the issue works best. Even though the customer may not expect to be helped, they are still making the effort to contact you so there is a modicum of hope of being taken care of on their part.

Sometimes the most important thing a customer wants is to be heard, to be treated with respect and dignity. What if it were just that simple--listen to your customers. Very interesting concept, don't you think?

The Impact of Conflict Management Training on Customer Service Deliver is the title of my case study that was in partial fulfillment of my doctorate degree, and included, among other things, the following pertinent data:

Research shows that listening to the customer may increase repurchase intention even if a complaint is not resolved (Lapidos & Pinkerton, 1995).

That is, it was not an initial failure to deliver service alone that caused dissatisfaction, but rather the employee’s response to the failure (Bitner, 1990, p.80).

A dissatisfied customer, once persuaded to stay, was more loyal and more valuable than before (Fornell & Wernerfelt 1987, p.141).

Therefore, when you say 'thank you for calling' you create an incredible opportunity for you and your company, to cement the relationship with the customer--current, potential, or future-- regardless of the outcome.

We like the acronym *HOP

H – How would I feel in this customer’s place

O – Oh no, I can't believe that happened to you, or I’m so sorry that was your experience

P – Poor you I’m so sorry that happened to you

HOP is an internal interpretation of what the customer is presenting. It is not intended that you use these precise words, but to demonstrate the concern, empathy, or commitment to assist in one’s own words.

* Excerpted from Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanize Your Interaction Hub, 4th edition, by Rosanne D’Ausilio, PhD., p. 28. Purdue University Press, with permission.

Mother Teresa said kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

Please post your comments, feedback, questions, your own experiences, or topics you’d like to see covered in future columns.

For more information, please visit Rosanne's TNNWC Bio.

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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