Arguably, phone, wireless, and cable providers are simultaneously the most predatory and desperate of all direct-to-consumer businesses. They conspire with each other to set inflated prices for mediocre service and negotiate territories to avoid competition, which, in turn, helps them set inflated prices for mediocre service.
They demand your loyalty but only seem to reward that loyalty when you threaten to unsubscribe in favor of another provider. We all know the story: You call to cancel a contract or service and when the phone agent discerns that you’re serious about leaving, they pass you over to a “cancellation specialist” who psychoanalyzes you in an attempt keep your business. Oh, and lookie there…just when they realize they can’t change your mind, this wizard magically uncovers a new, better price and service package that’s nowhere on the books for other “loyal customers” to access.
Comcast has taken this practice to a new level. Not only does it have specialized recovery staff, its staff are seemingly military-trained in psychological warfare. Case in point: Below is a partial recording of a conversation between a Comcast customer and one of these recovery specialists. The audio clip, recorded by the customer, features a recovery specialist who simply won’t take “let me go” as an answer.
“Why would you want to leave the number one cable provider in the US?” the phone representative demands repeatedly. When the customer refuses to divulge the reason, stating that he doesn’t owe them an explanation and to please just cancel the service, the recovery specialist continues to demand a reason. His point of view seems to be, “Clearly, we’re the best so there must be something wrong with you and we’ll not let you go till you realize that.” Take a listen for yourself. It’s really quite unbelievable.
Comcast Customer Recovery Strategy – Too Much, Too Late.
Churn is a problem for many consumer businesses and for wireless and mobile companies in particular. Cable companies are starting to experience the same issue with the popularity of web-based entertainment sites like Netflix offering competitive programming. Similarly, traditional phone companies are fighting consumers cancelling their wired in-home phone service in favor of mobile phones, VoIP or cable-based phone lines.
These are examples of verticals stuck in old operating paradigms and failing to listen to their customers. The social channels that have given a stronger voice to consumers have also emboldened those consumers to take control of their customer experience. Further, the lessons learned from those online conversations have empowered competitors to innovate beyond the stodgy and staid business practices of some Fortune 500 companies.
Lack of focus on customer development is all too common in these industries, as well as other such as banking and insurance. In my professional experience, I’ve often encountered businesses whose sales teams are consistently meeting their quotas, yet overall revenues are shrinking. Further investigation uncovers that they’re losing more customers out the back door than those coming in the front door. The typical solution is to invest more money towards driving more leads and to create better strategies to retain customers threatening to leave. The more obvious “let’s create a better experience that recognizes and rewards our happy customers so they don’t want to leave” is just, well, too obvious I guess.
Customer Development – It’s a Thing
Today, more than ever, the most direct path to business success is building loyalty and advocacy from existing customers. Now, loyalty and advocacy are not the same things. Loyalty is earned by offering a quality product and at a fair price that meets the customer’s need. Advocacy is earned by delivering an experience that far surpasses the loyal customer’s expectations – an experience so good, the customer feels compelled to recommend the business, even when not solicited or rewarded to do so.
Potential customers driven into the sales funnel through the recommendations of such customer advocates, according to the studies performed by Satmetrix when developing the Net Promoter Score, are more qualified, thus more easily converted into new satisfied customers. Further, these customers contribute more profit margin from their business and demonstrate greater customer lifetime value than those converted from other marketing efforts.
For Comcast and businesses like it, here are a few simple tips that can build customer loyalty and create customer advocates, so that money does not need to be invested in desperate customer recovery.
- Create a hand-off process between sales and inside sales or customer service teams in order to document the customer expectations set in the sales process. Check in with new customers in the first 3 months to ensure sales and product promises were met. If not, remedy the problem immediately.
- Chart the customer journey and determine where blockages occur that prevent new customers from progressing towards advocacy.
- Monitor customer usage and feedback. Based on that analysis, proactively offer products, services or price plans that are better suited to their needs and budgets BEFORE he/she cancels his/her service or seeks competitive bids.
- Recognize loyal customers in a manner that improves their experience with the product and your business AND improves their lives in some way, even if unrelated to the product/service.
- Recognize that loyal customers are not advocates; don’t rest on your laurels. Facilitate a dialogue with loyal customers to learn what it will take to turn them into advocates.
- Advocates are more valuable than their direct revenue stream; their greater value is in building a more convertible list of high-yield prospects. Offer price plans commensurate with that value or reward them accordingly.
Is building customer recovery programs a better (more profitable?) business strategy than building customer loyalty and advocacy programs?
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego