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Broken Window: How to fix customer churn in business

 Business owners identify the most common complaints regarding their services. [iStockphoto]

Keeping your customers happy cannot be gainsaid in an ever-changing business environment characterised by cut-throat competition

Therefore, business owners must continually devise ways to keep their customers satisfied by offering the best service possible while promptly dealing with any negative feedback regarding their services.

Managing an issue to the customer’s satisfaction could prove the difference between customer retention and churn. 

But it is not always easy to gauge the level of customer satisfaction, especially if you manage an online business, with customer calls the only likely person-to-person interaction with customers.

However, for conventional brick-and-mortar businesses, you can generally tell how happy or unhappy your customers are.

For instance, in a restaurant setting, it could be that diner scowling at their overcooked food or the one irritably scrolling through their phone when their order delays for too long.

If you are keen to ask for feedback often and try to make things right, you are likely to turn such negative experiences into positive ones.

Unfortunately, many businesses let glaring gaps in their customer service go unresolved, inevitably resulting in the loss of customers.

This phenomenon is best explained by what has come to be known as the Broken Window Theory, originally formulated by criminologists James Q Wilson and George L Kelling.

The theory posits that visible signs of disorder and neglect in an environment invariably lead to an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

The theory suggests that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may prevent further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.

When applied to customer service, the Broken Window Theory implies that small lapses in service quality, if left unaddressed, can lead to larger issues, ultimately degrading the overall customer experience.

To avoid customer churn and maintain a healthy customer retention rate, business owners must, therefore, identify the most common complaints regarding their services and address them accordingly.

Just like the theory suggests, it could be a small crack on a window pane that goes unattended for long periods, or small issues in customer service such as unclean facilities and unprofessional staff behaviour.

This calls for attention to detail on the part of the business operator as letting such issues linger signals a lack of concern.

Addressing these small details promptly can prevent the escalation into bigger problems that potentially could harm the business’s reputation.

As a business owner, you must also ensure consistency in your standards across all touchpoints by not letting small things slide. Always ensure that every customer interaction is positive and that any issues raised are resolved swiftly.

Consistency in every aspect of the business will eventually build trust and loyalty among customers. Another approach in avoiding customer churn is employing proactive problem solving strategies by identifying and fixing minor issues before they evolve into major problems.   

For instance, if you notice unprofessional behaviour in one of your staff in how they treat customers, you need to nip it in the bud before the trend spreads to the rest of the group.

This proactive approach can prevent customer dissatisfaction and reduce the likelihood of negative reviews or complaints.

Additionally, employees need to be empowered to address minor issues as they arise, the same way community members take responsibility for their environment.

Training and encouraging staff members to handle small problems immediately fosters a culture of attentiveness and care, which eventually builds a good reputation for your business.

This is closely tied to customer perception, where customers are more likely to trust that you will handle more significant issues with the same level of attention and care the business takes care of little things promptly.

You can also encourage and utilise customer feedback to identify and rectify small issues before they grow. This feedback loop ensures that customers feel “heard” and valued, and it helps the business continuously improve its service.

When all is said and done, it is important to prevent escalation by addressing minor service failures promptly. This way, businesses can prevent these from escalating into major dissatisfaction. For example, a simple apology and quick fix for a minor inconvenience can prevent a customer from feeling undervalued and choosing to take their business elsewhere.

- The writer is founder, The Loop Consulting, and a part-time lecturer at a local private university 

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