The first (and debatably the most important) strategy in customer retention is properly setting expectations. This actually comes during the sales process, rather than afterward, and this element ends up being the downfall of many “talented” salespeople.
Set proper expectations.
Imagine buying a new SEO service for your website. The sales person, perhaps feeling pressure to hit quota, tells you you’re going to get at least 15 leads per week, and close deals with at least three of them. Sounds pretty great, right? You buy the service and wait eagerly. And wait. And wait. Maybe a few leads come in, but you don’t hit that promised number. You feel cheated and lied to, and you cancel.
This is called “selling hot”. The salesperson will promise the moon just to close the deal. Although this tactic can generate an impressive volume of closed business (after all, who wouldn’t want to buy a product or service that can deliver such amazing results?), the turnover and cancellation rates will be equally as high, and tarnish the brand reputation. It’s a classic case of over promising and under delivering. It’s critical to set the right expectations before the deal is closed so the client doesn’t feel disappointed when their imagined outcomes don’t happen.
Now imagine the same situation, but instead of making promises in hopes of exciting you into a deal, the salesperson sets appropriate expectations. He explains to you that every client experiences different results, and you can definitely expect some new traffic with the opportunity for incoming leads and closed business (after all, the company has a great portfolio of successful clients), but the results really depend on the client. You purchase the service, get a few leads, close some business, and feel completely satisfied.
Don’t avoid setting expectations.
Sometimes salespeople will avoid setting expectations at all, which can be a big problem too. If you don’t tell the client what they can expect as a result of doing business with you, you put the client in control of setting their own expectations. This can be a huge problem. Customers will, by nature, have a preconception of how their life or business will be affected once they purchase a product or service. Typically customers set high expectations because they are investing their money in what you’re selling, and need to justify the purchase. Depending on the product, they could have wildly unrealistic expectations that simply can’t be achieved from your service. As a salesperson or account rep, you must be in charge of setting the proper expectations so you can avoid backlash from clients who don’t hit their unrealistic goals.
By setting proper expectations, your clients will know exactly what they should be getting by purchasing your product or service. There will be no surprises or disappointments. In fact, if they have an unexpectedly positive experience, they will be thrilled that the service over delivered. This, obviously, is the ideal situation.
Take the opportunity to level with your clients.
Most customers will appreciate the breath of fresh air when a salesperson can set appropriate expectations without promising them the moon. People can often see past audacious promises, and don’t like dealing with the stereotypical “used car” type of sales associate anyway. If you can relate to and level with your client, and honestly explain to them what they can expect as a client of yours, they will appreciate your honesty and like the fact that you’re not using high pressure sales tactics to mislead them into buying your product.
Retention is built on a solid foundation of meeting expectations. It’s not about under promising and over delivering (although over delivering is always great), and it’s certainly not about over promising and under delivering. It’s about setting appropriate and realistic expectations, and meeting (and/or exceeding) them consistently. If a customer knows exactly what they will get from your product or service, and their goals are met, they will have no reason to be disappointed or cancel. Decrease turnover and increase retention during the sales process by setting the right expectations.