It's a given that if you want loyal customers you need to provide them with top-notch service. But achieving the highest levels of customer retention and renewal rates involves more than just being attentive and responsive to consumer demand and behavior. You need to get your hands dirty with details that can be easy for management to ignore. That's according to Jennifer Lemcke, COO of Weed Man USA, a national lawn care franchise with a collective 78-percent customer retention rate. Here's her advice on how you can achieve such a number.

Your data must be clean.

Not only do you need to use some kind of database software to capture and store customer and prospect information, you need processes in place to prevent human error from mucking it up. For example, when doing forensics on a franchise with abnormally low retention rates Lemcke tracked the source of the problem to duplicate files created by an administrator overriding customer address discrepancies. "We can have a hundred thousand files on prospects and customers and old customers in a database, so the importance of cleanliness is very, very important," she says. Weed Man's solution: Companywide training so everyone inputting data became educated on how to handle data gleaned from every kind of customer interaction.

Record incoming calls and track how office staff handle web leads.

Weed Man recently spent six months listening to office staff around the country talk to clients and prospects and watching how they handle web leads. The company found that employees in lower-performing franchises were not trained as well as those working in the top 25 percent franchises. "It's not to be big brother. It's just the ability to train them better," she says. "The first person to speak to the prospect and get a price in their hand is typically the person who wins the business."

Pay attention to your outbound selling tactics.

Your salesperson could aggressively sell your product or service and get a commitment during first contact with the prospect. Or, she could email the prospect a document he needs to sign which communicates his commitment to the sale, a tactic that likely involves less probability of the prospect cancelling. "The more aggressive you are at trying to gain the customer, typically your retention rate will drop off," she says. "As an owner you really want to make sure you're not pushing that envelope to the extreme where you're upsetting customers and giving yourself a bad brand."

Make sure your employees are happy.

Disgruntled workers will never be the ones delighting your customers. "You need to breed good, happy employees and have a culture in which employees believe in your culture," she says. "And the only way that you can do that is right at the hiring process--hiring the right people that will fit into your culture, and then not cutting corners on your training."

Published on: Feb 25, 2015