Saturday, June 7, 2008

How A Cell Phone Company Gave This Writer Some Food For Thought About Customer Retention

Learning to get repeat business in freelance writing is important. Regular clients can help you meet your monetary targets and it's important to deal with those who you know will pay you regularly. A large portion of my business is built on regular business clients who use me weekly or monthly and I have some repeat business that comes back occasionally as well. For some of these clients, I charge less than new clients because I am getting a bulk amount of work or because I get other benefits such as referrals or references or quick payments.

Sometimes a new client turns into a repeat client. This is definitely what I want. The less I have to go out and bid on new business the better. Who wants to deal with a buyer who's difficult or slow paying. I have had enough of the slow payers lately, for sure.

When I have a positive experience with a new client, I write to them a few weeks after the order to see if they're happy and to show my virtual face. A quick 2-3 line e-mail to say "Hello" can bring you more repeat clients.

Speaking of customer retention,
I learned a lot today about customer retention by my cell phone company. This doesn't particularly translate to my writing business but I was rather impressed with them and thought it relevant to today's subject matter.

I let my pre-paid service cell phone run out and didn't bother to refill it. I let it go long enough that I would have to speak to them to reopen the account. That wasn't appealing to me and I've been busy so I didn't bother. Last week my husband got a flat tire that took two hours to change due to some bolt problems and that phone would've come in handy but other than that, we hadn't really missed it in the last two months.

My provider started calling me. I knew they were calling but didn't feel like being pitched so I ignored the calls. It got on my nerves because I was getting calls 2-3 times a day and they didn't ever leave voice mails. I picked up the phone a few times but knew it was an autodialer so hung up before getting sent to someone who probably would mispronounce my name. (My married name is different from my writing name, my birth name)

After a week of ignoring them, I got calls from a different number. This was obviously a different department assigned to try to get to me. The calls got more frequent but talking to them still didn't appeal to me until today. Today, I must have hit the magic list of customers long gone because today I got a voice mail with a free $10 voucher code that I could put in my phone to reactivate my cell phone. That got my attention and made me forget how irritated I've been with them. I'm again a customer because they were smart enough to get my attention before I went elsewhere.

Some food for thought:

I'm sure this can be a valuable lesson. If I didn't hear from a client for some time, I might be tempted to make them a bonus offer. Offering a discount on pricing could definitely get someone's attention. I sure don't plan on irritating them to the point where they don't want to read my e-mails but dangling a carrot could be helpful in aiming for high levels of customer retention.

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