Customer retention is handled by your customer service team, and is arguably one of the most important part of your business. Sales may bring them in, but customer service is what can help keep them around.
If you have extraordinary customer service, you can be heralded as one of the best. Another hidden benefit of great customer service? When your customers talk about you, they become your sales team.
So how do you deliver excellent customer service? Consider implementing F.L.O.W. These are the four elements I believe every customer service rep should be attuned to and trained on. You can put this acronym above everyone's desk and have a meeting every morning to ask if your customer service team is going with the F.L.O.W.
So what does F.L.O.W. stand for?
First, your customer service team needs to get the facts. A big mistake that customer service reps can make is jumping to conclusions. Because reps are faced with maybe six to 10 common challenges, they may assume the customers are struggling with the same.
However, when a customer calls, encourage reps to get the full story and ask deeper questions if there isn't 100 percent clarity on the facts. Think like a journalist by asking who, what, when, where and why.
Getting the facts can help your reps determine what kind of resolution the customer is looking for, if they haven't told them already. You can make it a mission to know what they want to accomplish by the end of the call.
Your customer service team is on the front line. If a customer is calling, they have most likely encountered a problem that is frustrating them. Customers will usually try to resolve the issue themselves before resorting to picking up the phone, so expect them to be confused or disgruntled.
Part of a customer service rep's job is to allow the customer to vent. Encourage your team to not take this personally. It's unlikely that they know who the rep is or anything about them—they just had a bad experience. So encourage your team to listen to the customer and, at the same time, get all the facts out of them. Otherwise, customers can get lost in the heat of the moment.
You can remind your reps that part of listening is acknowledging: “I understand you're extremely unhappy right now, but it's my job to help you as best I can. I just need the facts and then we can see what we can do." Listening can mean letting them vent, acknowledging their emotions and then getting back to the facts.
One mistake that many customer service outlets make is only offering one resolution. This can inadvertently take control away from the customer.
When the opportunity presents itself, consider presenting two or three options. A classic example is someone receiving a product they're dissatisfied with and only being offered store credit. Instead, you could offer to either return the full credit to their credit card or issue them store credit with an additional 10 percent coupon bonus. Then ask their preference.
If you give the customer two or three options, you're allowing them to determine the outcome. They may react more favorably if they don't feel painted into the singular solution.
The last component is hard to teach, but is important to successful customer service. It's work ethic. A stick-to-it mentality can help elevate customer service. If a resolution can't be made during the call, encourage your team to propose the next step and be prepared to deliver on that expectation. If customer service promises to get back to the customer in 24 hours, have them get back to them in 23.
If a resolution is made and the customer is satisfied, still commit to a follow-up. Your reps can ask if they can call again in a week to ensure that everything has met the customer's expectations. Make doing exactly what you say you're going to do (and then some) a part of your customer service team's mission. One of the differences between a company that struggles and one that excels in customer service is work ethic. They often follow up on what they commit to and surpass expectations.
It's no surprise that companies with excellent customer service have strong retention rates because their customers become their loyal salespeople. The opportunity is right in front of you. By mastering the F.L.O.W., your company may be able to best others when it comes to providing excellent customer service.
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