Major Media used the following methodology
to isolate the skills which contribute to an employee's ability to retain
individual customers who have decided to withdraw their patronage.
The research group consisted of 100 members
of a dedicated customer retention unit within a major financial services
organization's call center. All participants in the study had previous
training in product information, customer service and sales, as well as
six months to one year of experience in the specialized unit. Approximately
80% of their discussions were initiated by the customer. The remainder
were outgoing calls to individuals who had recently canceled their accounts.
In studying this group, it became apparent
that the behavior of the representatives and their customers, cut across
industry lines. We found that the reasons why customers leave relates less
to the true value of the product or service than to the customer's perception
of its value in terms of:
the customer's life situation,
the specific or general competitive environment,
The common denominator was the customers'
the customer's experience with the company's
employees, product(s) or service.
that they did not have a real need for the
This held true even in the small fraction
of cases involving a specific grievance or dispute.
that they could obtain a better price or better
In conducting this study, our goal was
to determine the extent to which the individual representatives' behaviors
influenced the outcome of their calls -- and whether highly successful,
average, and below average results could be correlated to the use of specific
interactive communication skills. The following research methods
Analysis of detailed questionnaires completed
by all participants. Questions were worded to reveal patterns of behavior
and attitudes about the customers with whom they spoke. Responses were
cross-correlated to participants' success in retaining customers.
Confidential interviews with 21 group members
whose retention rates reflected the overall group curve, ranging from extremely
unsuccessful (less than 10% of customers retained) to extremely successful
(more than 60% retained). These interviews were used to amplify and cross-check
the results obtained from the questionnaires.
Statistical behavioral observation and
analysis of the skills used by 20 group members across several conversations
(3-5 calls per subject). Subjects included both members of the interview
group and individuals who had not been interviewed. In this portion of
the study, we statistically correlated the outcome of each call to the
behaviors demonstrated by the subject. The results were further checked
against each individual's retention rate, as well as his or her responses
in other phases of the study.
Focus group session involving 10 group members.
Major Media identified two categories of skills
which are critical to the successful customer retention call: "Maintaining
a Positive Environment" and "Controlling the Discussion Process." Each
category consists of a set of measurable verbal behaviors. We found a strong
correlation between the way in which these individual behaviors are used
and the outcome of the call. These findings were validated in studies conducted
at other organizations.
Individual interviews with the direct supervisors
of the study subjects, and department management.
The study results enabled Major Media to
develop the behavioral profile and five-stage process model which underlie
our "Customers Saved, Customers Kept"sm training and
coaching programs, which have consistently produced significant, long-term
business results. Click here for details on
these business results.
For more information on Customers Saved,
Customers Kept click
here to go to our Products page,
When Major Media was selected to develop
advanced collections skills training for a leading credit card issuer,
our researchers discovered that existing training programs in this area
were based on anecdotal information or the personal experience of self-designated
Major Media conducted extensive, on-site
performance analysis at three of the client's operations centers,
in the Northeastern, Midwestern and Southwestern United States. Each
of these centers advocated a different methodology from the other two.
Our research was designed to isolate the behavioral factors which contribute
to successful collection calls at each level of collection activity, from
30 days past due through charge-off. We defined "success" as:
the ability to reach a payment
agreement which is mutually acceptable to the company and the customer,
and which the customer fulfills.
To identify the cause of performance gaps
between the most successful collectors and those who achieved average or
below-average results, our study included statistical behavioral observation
and structured, individual interviews with representative collectors at
each site. Additional data was gathered through detailed, blind questionnaires,
closed-door collector and supervisor focus group sessions, and interviews
with all levels of collections management.
This initial research included nearly 800
collection representatives, as well as their supervisors and managers.
The length of collection experience of the collectors studied ranged from
two months to twenty years, with an average of six-months to two years
in their current positions. These individuals provided a representative
sampling of all levels of collection activity ... from 30 days past due
through charge-off and recovery accounts.
Our study revealed that collectors, at
every level of collection activity and job experience, experienced the
greatest difficulty dealing with customers who displayed two types of defensive
behavior: overt (i.e., aggressive, hostile, belligerent or abusive behavior)
and covert (uncommunicative, overly cooperative, or untruthful behavior).
Of the two, the covert style was consistently described by the representatives
as (and observed by the researchers to be) the most frustrating and difficult
The research showed that, when confronted
by customers displaying either of these styles, collectors tended to respond
in one of two ways: (1) by accepting a payment arrangement they doubted
the customer intended to keep, or (2) by becoming increasingly aggressive.
Although the aggressive approach yielded a larger number of promises to
pay, it did not generate a corresponding percentage of promises kept.
In analyzing the data, Major Media found
that, at every stage of the collections cycle (i.e., 30 days past due through
charge-off ) the most successful collectors demonstrated interpersonal
and negotiating skills similar to those of successful sales people and
Major Media identified two categories of
skill, which are critical to the successful collection call. Each
category was broken down to a distinct, objectively measurable set
of verbal behaviors. The ways in which these behaviors are used were found
to directly affect call outcome. These findings were validated in studies
conducted at other organizations.
The results of this research became the
foundation for our "Promises Made, Promises Kept"sm
training and coaching programs, which have
consistently produced significant, long-term improvements in collection
results. Click here for details on these business
For more information on Promises Made,
Promises Kept training, click
here to go to our Products page, or contact
your Major Media Learning Resources account executive.