The fastest way to lose a customer

By: Dave Millett

Date: 21 August 2017

The fastest way to lose a customerDo you know how your customers would prefer to contact you? If not, you could be forcing them to call your competitors.

Different groups of people prefer different communication methods; and yet so many companies focus on the cost to them rather than convenience for the customer when it comes to communication channels. They forget that making it difficult for a customer to contact you will probably mean they contact the competition instead.

By difficult I mean being forced to use a contact method that doesn't suit them. Some people prefer email, others like WhatsApp, some prefer social media and others still like to pick up the phone and speak to a real person.

Do you know what your customers prefer?

For those companies that expect their customers to call them, here are some common mistakes that will almost certainly put off prospects and could even prevent them from doing business with you:

0844 or 0871 numbers: People are becoming aware that companies using these numbers make a profit on every call they receive – even a sales call. There is a useful website that lists many alternative numbers. Ofcom's clear calling policy requires companies using these numbers to display the cost of calling them in close proximity to the number, wherever it is displayed. Unfortunately, to date, they have been slow to enforce this.

Choose from the following options: Companies using "press one for…" options to route calls to various departments may not be aware that this often prompts customers to abandon the call altogether. Even if they stay on the line, they'll be irritated at having to listen to a number of options, especially when an automated message eventually tells them to go to the website. How much simpler to speak to someone and say: "can I talk to someone about…".

Too much information: No-one likes systems that prompt users to enter their account code or customer number before they talk to anyone and then, having eventually got through to someone, the first thing they are asked is: "can I have your account number?".

Talk is cheap: Most irritating of all are the businesses that spend a lot of money playing comforting messages – stressing how important your call is to them. If it were that important why not hire more people to answer calls?

Smaller companies may not be able to afford complex customer communication options but they still need to consider how they deal with a contact when it is made.

Should they use an answering service or let a call go to voicemail? Should someone review all incoming emails and send a holding message saying "thank you for your email, X will be in touch within 48 hours" for example? Should the person in charge of your social media be tasked with replying to contacts? Or does this require input from someone more senior?

A great way to test your system is to pretend to be a customer and contact your own company through different channels – was it a good experience for you? If not, put some thought into how you can improve the experience. If you don't then your customers could end up contacting your competitors.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2017 Dave Millett, independent telecoms brokerage Equinox.