HERSHEY, Pa. - Steve Coscia said there is definitely a correlation between customer retention and proactive customer service behavior. The speaker at the National Association of Oil Heat Service Managers’ (NAOHSM) annual meeting in Hershey, Pa., had a decades-old study to back up his statement. He said that a 1974-79 study found that effective complaint handling and a complaint prevention system results in retention of customers, increased revenue, and improved quality and efficiency.

Coscia, a customer service consultant with Coscia Communications Inc., noted that even when businesses couldn’t resolve a complaint, just being available to listen to a complaint can double the customer retention rate. “When customers get emotionally upset, it presents an opportunity,” he said.

“And if you don’t follow-up with them, they will begin to form their own conclusions, which could be negative.”

Part of an effective follow-up is face-to-face communication, according to Coscia. He has found that during face-to-face communication, people are judged by their body language 55 percent of the time, as opposed to telephone communication where people are judged by their tone of voice 82 percent of the time. Since many follow-ups are done via the telephone, Coscia offered some suggestions.

“Pause, breath, and think rationally,” he said. “Listen attentively and be prepared to say what you can do, not what you can’t do.”

He added that getting angry with a customer is a choice and “you don’t have to gravitate to anger or frustration.”

Coscia said that the cost of customer retention is usually free if an employee is fearless, courteous, smiling, and has a good attitude. He added that good customer relations begin with empathy and said, “When someone is ranting and telling their story, your job is to interject empathy. Let them tell their story. Let them reach the top of their venting hill.”

Being empathetic is also a courteous behavior that keeps customers coming back. Coscia said that most Americans “think that lack of courtesy is a problem that is getting worse. This could be an opportunity for you.”

By showing courtesy, a business shows that its employees listen to customers, and not just hear what they want to hear from them. Coscia said that listening opens up opportunities for increased sales, customer testimonials, referral opportunities, learning opportunities, training opportunities, and relationship opportunities.

He also said that asking questions of customers is one more way to be courageous. Coscia said, “Asking questions - even if they are dumb - is better than having to correct dumb mistakes.”

For more information, visit www.hvaccustomerservice.com.

Publication date:06/18/2007