Note: This piece is written by Lisa Hession-Kunz, Executive Interviewer at Anova. Having performed hundreds of client debriefs, Lisa shares her perspective of a Departed Client program and the impact that such research delivers to organizations and to the departed clients.
A client has just dumped you. They left you for another business provider who promised better service, more functionality, or cost savings.
Maybe they left due to forces beyond their control. Maybe this was a result of an acquisition or merger, or a new directive based on a personal relationship, and there was nothing you could have done.
More often however, a client leaving a business relationship has gone through a frustrating experience. Perhaps they felt you didn’t listen to them or value their business. Perhaps they tried to resolve an issue for a long time and even if the problem was satisfactorily addressed, they still do not feel valued as a customer.
Even though they are leaving, they are willing to do so with a few parting words of insight and advice. So, what can you do?
Give them the final word.
Have you wanted to give a company a piece of your mind? Having an opportunity to vent and knowing that someone is listening, taking notes, and reporting back to senior management is cathartic.
From the Executive Interviewer’s perspective, we are there to listen. We listen to stories about service issues, product functionality gaps, pricing concerns, and outside forces. We listen to the real story that led to the dissolution of the relationship. The customer doesn’t have to be polite; they just say what is on their minds.
If there was a negative experience, customers often long to complain to someone who will listen. We let them do just that and then probe deeper to better understand the root causes, asking questions such as:
Customers also often offer solutions that fit within your company’s structure. The departed customer knows the communication channels, key contacts and can often pinpoint the breakdown that lead to their decision.
Finishing the conversation on this note takes interviewees into a more positive place, a proactive thought process reflecting on what went right to begin with and how their experience may differ with their new provider. A departed client interview can leave your customer feeling better about your company despite the departure. In fact, many clients say that they would do business with you again and provide actionable insight for your team to avoid costly mistakes and another departed client. You just need to give them the voice to do so.
Note: This piece is written by Zach Golden, a Consultant for Anova, about his first-hand experience in seeing the importance of giving customers a voice.
A few months ago, I was sitting in a meeting with the Head of Service for one of Anova’s clients, a large retirement services organization with thousands of clients across the country. We were discussing the current state of their customer base including satisfaction and retention.
The Executive was talking about the steps his organization was taking to determine which clients were loyal, referenceable customers, and which ones were at risk of leaving. His response was relatable to many companies. He said, “We do pulse checks of our customers multiple times throughout the year, almost whenever there is an interaction with one of our service reps. We send them an online survey to fill out asking for an NPS score, and all the answers come back with great responses. But then we lose a bunch of clients at the end of the year and our salespeople want to know why we can’t retain the customers they sold.”
This problem is indicative of a trend that has overtaken the marketplace: the over-simplification of customer satisfaction research.
The Net Promoter Score is meant to be a relationship metric, not transactional. However, so many organizations get sucked in to trying to quantify the interactions with their customer base. These organizations tend to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Some organizations obsess over each touch point, but fail to understand how the overall relationship with their client is being perceived.
In the case of our retirement services customer, the friendliness of their call center representatives resulted in high NPS scores because their clients were pleased with the cheerfulness of the service personnel. However, these same customers were dissatisfied with the overall relationship because there was little proactive communication or help offered to them, particularly during tax and reporting season.
Customers need to be heard from. They need a platform to voice their satisfaction and dissatisfaction about all aspects of the relationship. They need someone to listen to them and ask questions about specific pain points. A simple NPS metric cannot deliver that detail.
In-depth phone conversations serve as a contrarian approach to gathering feedback from today’s overly web-surveyed customers. They allow the person to feel more valued because their feedback is actually being heard, instead of being lumped in with all the other web surveys they receive after every transaction at the supermarket, coffee shop, or car wash. The conversations let customers voice their opinions on a wide range of attributes impacting their entire relationship.
It is estimated that it costs 7 times as much to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. At that cost, keeping current clients as satisfied as possible is a necessity for companies looking to improve their bottom line. What is the most effective way at ensuring clients are satisfied? Actually listening to what they have to say.