Customer Churn is a given

“Show me a company with high customer loyalty and low employee engagement – I dare you.”-Bill Cusick, Customer Experience expert

Despite a company’s best efforts customer churn is a given for any company – size and repute notwithstanding.  There are a number of reasons for this and company must take ownership of the reasons. Post the selling phase it would seem that companies falter in making the customer feel truly welcome and taking time out to ensure that they can see real value in the association. Often the gap between buying and experiencing this ‘real value’ is too great, leaving the customers with a feeling that they may had made a mistake. Unfortunately, this would be despite the fact that the quality of the company’s products and service is good. Customer churn is a given, but given how tough and costly it is to retain new customers, companies really must approach this problem proactively.

Given customer fastidious expectations and the constant ‘race’ between companies to comply, customers have come to believe that their interaction and relationship with the company would not be riddled with problems and all will be hunky-dory. When the problems do arise for whatever reason, disillusionment and this conceptual thinking becomes predominant and then customer churn is a given. The fact is that the business environment is in a state of constant flux and is highly volatile and to believe that there would be no small or big issues is a thought process that needs altering. Customers now are a known to be busy, on the go and extremely fussy about little details. They know what they want and how they can get it and hence the slightest inconvenience and the tiniest hassles have the ability to make them look at the relationship as cumbersome and onerous. It is a tough call, but to avoid customer churn, companies must pay close attention to detail and ensure that the customer service offered is of the highest order.

Customer churn is a given since no one, especially the customers, do not factor in the possible ‘teething’ problems because they are so caught up in the excitement of the new relationship. The promises the company has made, the excellent job they did on pitching the product and understanding the customer’s needs and expectations and the alignment of the company’s capability to the customer’s vision all seem completely real and infallible. However, being overlooked is the implementation of the service, delivering on promises and other aspects will be done by a completely different set of individuals who probably still require training. Then there are the tasks – to integrate all the parts and departments on the company to manage a different set of customer expectations and ensure that each person is following a meticulously drafted plan – that may not work as envisioned.

Given all the aspects mentioned, it is not hard to see how customer elation can swiftly turn to regret and may feel that they have been short-changed, sure reasons for customer churn and ire. How does your company handle these situations and how often does this kind of customer regret set in?

To avoid regret and customer churn, it is imperative that companies look at their sales and marketing strategies and efforts as part of customer service and customer acquisition. The sales and marketing representatives must be realistic when pitching a new product or idea and it would be prudent to be completely forthright and transparent when informing them of the company’s capability and the timelines by which they can begin to expect results. This is a crucial part of customer acquisition and the sales teams must remember to be completely honest when trying to sell. The more ‘dreamy’ the sales pitch, the higher would be the frustration of the customer when they finally perceive that those ‘dreams’ would take a lot longer to fructify. Customer churn would be inevitable since customers would feel cheated and end up regretting their decision to do business with your company. This should be so easily understood by companies and their representatives, but given that very often the sales and marketing teams work on commissions, the temptation to push unrealistic ‘dreams’ is very real and it is no surprise that companies face higher volumes of customer churn than they expect.

Let us assume that the sales teams managed to clinch a deal. What happens next? The customer must then be carefully ‘handed over’ to the customer service team. Here is where there are major obstacles. A badly managed handover process could leave the customer feeling extremely frustrated and ignored. How often have you heard “now that I am a customer, I will have to fight for service”? This thought process and would inevitably kick in if the teams have been unable to communicate with each other. Complete details of the customer, details of the promises made relating to service and product quality and other details regarding the newly formed relationship must be shared with clarity since it is crucial to gaining the trust of the customer to ensure the success of the relationship. The whole idea of a customer-company relationship is one of mutual benefit and trust and unless this is clearly visible, customer churn would be unavoidable, very early on.

Given that the relationship is new, it is the responsibility of the company to ensure that the customer is made to feel welcome and be given all the details such that, there is no apprehension. A roadmap should be provided to the customer that details the list of tasks and responsibilities and what they can expect from the company. We spoke in detail about easy customer service – allowing the customer to be free from the practical details will ensure that they are able to trust and depend on your company. The amount of effort they need to exert while doing business with a company should be at a minimum. However, they must still feel like they are in control and that the relationship and service will lead them to achieving their goals and vision as they were promised in the sales pitch.  Customers expect to receive understanding and consistent reassurance that your company has a strong team that will make things work. As much clarity and detail can be provided to them regarding the implementation plan, the more faith the company would be able to instil in the customer, reducing the possibilities of customer churn.

As mentioned, customers need to feel valued and know that they are in the ‘driver’s seat’ with regard to their project. In order to cement this feeling, companies must ensure that achievement of milestones in the project path must be honoured and customers are part of the celebratory events. This reiterates your company’s commitment to ensuring success for the customer and is a great way to recognize those employees in the company who would have worked hard to achieve the milestone. Such ‘celebrations’ also provide indicators to all involved that the project is on the right track and the efforts are producing the results as expected and if any changes are required for the next stage, they could be made at this juncture. Consistent communication and recognition is vital to any customer relationship and significantly reduces the incidents of customer churn and keeps up the momentum of the project. Such relationship building events are highly essential and crucial and provide the impetus for customer loyalty and profitability.

The fact is that no new relationship (outside of one’s home) will ever have complete trust and customer relationships are even more fragile than other associations. It makes sense then to plant the seeds of faith and dependability early on in the relationship to ensure its success. Mitigating the causes of customer churn is crucial – ensure that your existing customers receive easy – prompt, effective and efficient – customer service. Understand your customers thoroughly, to proactively address their needs and exceed their expectations. Not only will you be able to reduce customer churn, your company will also gain profitable and willing brand ambassadors.

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