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Innovation: Want to Make Customers Stay? TALK to Them

It may sound simplistic and inefficient, especially in an age when we’d like to eliminate people from the equation, at least the high cost factor of having people involved. Yet, all the enrollment programs will not work if once your new customers are in they find no reason to stay. And there is eventually a finite number of customers to woo.

It may sound simplistic and inefficient, especially in an age when we’d like to eliminate people from the equation, at least the high cost factor of having people involved. Yet, all the enrollment programs will not work if once your new customers are in they find no reason to stay. And there is eventually a finite number of customers to woo.

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I worked alongside customer service professionals I wanted to have as friends – courteous, prompt, and with seemingly an over abundant reservoir of smarts and empathy. In B2B, customer service may either be a key component of your supply chain — taking orders and following up with your customers when billing — or an important team that supports your ongoing sales efforts — making sure people know about current programs they may need and want.

What about B2C? At least one company is bucking the trend towards automation and email by placing importance on talk. As The New York Times reported recently, Netflix has set out to provide its customers a friendly and personal experience by phone and gain loyalty while staunching potential defections. In this case, service representatives have the ability to reach out and help retain that customer.

“Autumn Daste, 30, who has worked at the call center for two months, managed to halt one potential defection recently when a call was routed to her from a polite but unhappy woman in New Jersey who had not received any movies recently.

Ms. Daste called up the member’s account information on her screen, including the type of service to which she subscribed, the frequency with which the member ordered movies, the number of months she had been a member, the number of times she had contacted Netflix in the past and a brief description of what those calls had been about.

Ms. Daste pointed out, ever so politely, that no movies had been sent to her because the woman’s queue was empty. “There’s nothing on your list that’s of interest to me,” said the caller, referring to the 80,000 movies Netflix carries.

Undeterred, Ms. Daste suggested they find a movie together. The woman mentioned one she had been wanting to see for a while, an Indian film titled “Fire.” Within seconds, Ms. Daste had it on her screen. She added it to the customer’s queue and told her she would be receiving it shortly. Customer pleased. Disaster averted.”

This story highlights the fact that the real reason for dissatisfaction may remain unknown to a company until it’s too late. If you’re on the phone with a customer, you have the opportunity to figure out what’s really going on and in Netflix’s case, the ability to do something about it.

With the competition from Blockbuster heating up, the differentiating point cannot be price alone. It has to be service. So it is, and having a real person on the other end of a phone line may well be the most delightful news of your day. Where people may quit indifferent to bad experiences easily, it might be a bit harder to walk away from a friendly person who is trying to help you.

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • www.conversationagent.com

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