Judy and her team continued to work with the agents to help determine the cause of the customers’ rejection. Agents quickly had the answer (as they often do) when they told her that the customers were irritated at being asked why they wanted to cancel. Some customers even said, “It’s none of your business, just cancel.” It is a standard opening question in most call centers, and yet, it undoubtedly puts the customer on the defensive. “Why do you want to close your account?” or “What didn’t you like about the product?” may seem like decent opening questions but really causes the consumer to ‘put up their dukes.’ It was clear that the company had asked the wrong question. But how do we fix it? How do we find out why the customer wants to cancel without asking, “Why”?
The answer is to simply ask them about what caused their consideration, their choice, or what made them choose to opt out. We recommend an opening question like “May I ask what led you to your decision today?” This question gives serious importance to the customer’s right to choose. It empowers the consumer and opens a dialogue that will often reveal clues on the underlying reason for the cancellation. The approach does not just throw money or an offer at the customer. Instead, it acknowledges their choice to choose us.
Judy recently had a wonderful opportunity to work with a company that sold a continuity plan for cosmetics. After listening to a few calls, Judy got the sense that the customers felt that they had been tricked into buying some slick membership plan. It was strange; the cosmetics were AAA quality and sold at a very affordable price. So, why were there so many cancellations? After digging into the challenge, Judy realized that the real reason for the cancellations was too much product. No one could actually use all the wonderful lotions and creams in one month, so the customer was overwhelmed. Judy in conjunction with the call center management set out to re-word their scripting. Representatives were taught to simply ask, “What caused you to make that decision?” Customers responded well and were eager to tell the representatives that they had too much product. As a result reps started moving the customers to a smaller plan (instead of cancelling) and ultimately saved the company millions of dollars. Even if the customer still said, “No thanks,” they went away from the interaction saying, “Someday we will come back, we really love the product.” What a win…the company won, the customer won, as did the representative who no longer had to ‘fight the customer.’
Leaving a lasting impression…
As more and more industries gravitate to a centralized call center strategy, the need for Customer Care to serve as a differentiator is growing. We can continue to operate in a ‘business as usual’ manner or we can surprise our customers with a new approach. An approach that empowers our customer, one that lets them decide. Yes, we can give them options, give them all the features and benefits, try to find a plan or product that works for them, but, ultimately, if they want to go, let’s wish them all the best and not fight them on the way out.
At the end of the day, retention is not about the $24.99 product, or the 1-year membership that we are trying to protect, it’s about how the customer thinks about us as an organization as they are walking away. Let’s not deliver a knockout punch when a customer calls to cancel. Let’s hope we can all be saved by the bell. When that phone rings, let’s give our customers a chance to be the winners and unlike a boxing match, no one gets counted out, everybody wins!
My hope for every customer that touches my call center is that they walk away saying, “Well, their service was not for me, but when I called to cancel, they sure treated me well.”
What do your customers say when they are walking away?