While most merchants are prepping for the 2019 holiday season, they should also be thinking about next year. And the thinking should not be as much about the 2020 holiday season but retaining current and any new customers they acquire.
While holiday sales are important, building and retaining one’s customer base is critical to growing a business and revenue. The attrition rate for customers who buy once and who don’t return is high. Studies show that it costs a lot more to gain a new customer than to retain a current one.
In the retail sector, the 2018 attrition rate of new customers was 27%. For online retail, it was a bit lower at 22% Any company in a different sector should determine their rate and compare it with the industry average.
Another Important Team
Obviously the front-line people in retail hold the key to customer retention but often forgotten are those in the call centers. Hours are spent training salespeople on the floor but call center employees are often just briefed and perhaps given a booklet.
Another study surveyed customers on their expectations when speaking to someone immediately wasn’t an option. 75% said they expected a response sometime the same day with 20% saying they anticipated hearing back immediately. 24% said they expected an answer within an hour. What was revealing is that 25% didn’t expect to hear back at all!
If that wasn’t convincing enough, consider this. A recent study found that 73% of customers prefer live conversations over any other form in getting information and questions answered.
Getting the Call Center Up to Speed
It’s important that marketing work with their HR department in the screening and hiring of customer service and call center reps. These folks should be problem solvers. When first hired, they should be introduced to the product lines and begin handling online queries and complaints. Only after satisfactorily completing what a company might consider enough should they be assigned to the call center where they should begin by listening in on actual conversations between customers and experienced call center reps before jumping into the fray. Most call centers aren’t staffed 24 x 7 so have a system in place where after-hours calls are returned as soon as possible the next business day. Whether the call is live or a returned one, be sure the results of each call are logged into a customer record. That not only helps in monitoring rep success but also allows the measurement of any success in retaining customers.
How about Chats For Customer Service?
Many merchants also utilize chat centers where reps handle questions and issues in much the same way as call centers. The difference is that they can “buy time” when posed with an issue they haven’t handled before. They can summon help from a supervisor who can step right in, to help and advise the rep.
Sometimes, however, chat center issues can’t be easily addressed because of the time it may take to explain a particular problem. Reps should be trained to recognize such situations and call the customer instead. Some problems are simply too long to write out and cause extreme frustration to the customer.
It’s all About the Customer Service Team
Whether a company’s chat and/or call center is on-site or remote, it’s important that the face of that company feel important. It’s easy to forget these folks because they’re not the ones on the floor selling the company product. But they’re just as important because customer dissatisfaction is the leading cause of customer attrition.