By Lori Karpman, Client Tether
Building your business isn’t only about acquiring new customers. In fact, keeping your current customers happy should be high on your to-do list.
Though big promotions may draw customers initially, it’s what you do post sale that matters in generating repeat business. To really impress customers, it’s important to offer them something beyond what they can get from your competition. The small things make the biggest impact, and can help communicate to the customer that you appreciate them, and their business is valuable to you.
Here are seven ideas to get you started on attracting and retaining customers:
1. The early bird catches the worm
Whether it’s through an email, phone call, or an in-person meeting, contacting the customer with the shortest possible delay is the way to get new business. If you can respond to a customer within the first five to 10 minutes of their inquiry, then you’re more likely to get their business. Afterall, you may not be the only company the customer contacted—but reaching out immediately helps you get in front of the pack. It’s shown that 70 per cent of business goes to the supplier that contacts the customer first. Statistics show that 45 per cent of consumers will abandon an online transaction if they can’t get an immediate response to their inquiry. Proper support should be provided at all stages of the sale. Try to promote communication mediums like live chat or social media, where responses can be delivered quicker. Getting immediate attention will increase the satisfaction level of the customer.
Whenever you make an outbound sales or customer service call, you have about seven seconds to make a great first impression. How you set the tone in this seven seconds is critical for how the rest of your phone call goes and how your business is experienced by your prospect. It’s essential to have both superb phone etiquette and a great opening line in order to make an excellent first impression and engage your prospect. Engaging in this way leaves the prospect with a sense of trust and connection.
2. The customer is always right
Your customer database is a business’ most important asset. Studies have shown that it costs five times more to get a new customer than it does to retain an old one. In my former life as a restaurant franchisor, we had a policy that “no customer left unhappy”—ever! Servers and staff were empowered to respond to customer concerns and were tasked with ensuring that the customer left feeling satisfied with the resolution.
Word of mouth advertising can make or break a business. Unhappy customers traditionally tell more people about their bad experience than happy ones do. The consequence can amount to the loss of tens of thousands in sales. Companies living and breathing the motto “keep the customer happy,” will fare much better and grow over time.
3. Who doesn’t love surprises?
Most people love surprises and customers are no exception. Special gifts, discounts, or vouchers can be hand delivered with the bill or delivered online after the transaction. Offering beautiful, personalized, celebration cakes is a great way to distinguish yourself from the competition in the restaurant industry. Another favorite is to offer the client a new service or product to try out for free. All of these gestures result in creating a great first impression and are essential in building long-lasting relationships. Personalized customer service really does matter.
I’m especially fond of “loyalty programs” which reward customers for repeat business. The traditional “Buy five, get one free” approach works for coffee shops, but depending on your business, you may want to give away something more special. I like discounts based on purchases, e.g., get a $25.00 coupon for every $250.00 spent. Not only does the customer return, but they almost always purchase in an amount in excess of the coupon value. When the customer gets to choose their own gift, it can be much more meaningful.
4. Keep the promises you make
The biggest mistake for salespeople is to make promises to the client and then not fulfill them. The expression “under-promise and over-deliver” could not be truer than in sales. Never make commitments just to get the sale if you can’t deliver. By making false promises, you may get that one sale, but you can lose that customer in the long run. When asked to rate their buyer experience, most buyers commented on how they were treated as the most important factor in their repurchasing from that seller. By giving the customer the best buying experience possible, you can create raving fans.
5. Listen first, talk later
Being a good listener is an important customer service skill. When interacting with a customer, let them talk and explain their needs before spewing a thesis about your product or service. Really listen to what they need, then suggest a solution that takes care of that need. This is also a good time to upsell other products or services. Gaining a proper understanding of your client’s needs goes a long way in closing the sale.
In certain industries, it may be worthwhile to learn about your customer first. With so many social media outlets, it’s not hard to gain some insight into what the customer may need. You can also use their information to connect with them on a personal level. If their social media is filled with wedding pictures, then congratulate them, or tell them how cute their fur baby is. Even just pulling one item you can relate to from their social media creates a chance to connect and gain instant trust. However, make sure to be honest and authentic. If you hate dogs, don’t pretend to love them just to create a false sense of connection with your customer. Also, be conscientious of professional boundaries, and don’t dig too deep into their social profiles, to avoid being creepy!
6. Continuing the relationship post sale
A customer relationship doesn’t end as soon as they make a purchase, in fact this is where it begins. Follow up calls are especially important in the service industry. In some cases, it may be appropriate to send a “Thank You for Your Business” card. This may be the perfect tool to cement the positive impression of a company.
7. Do excellent work!
My last, but most important piece of advice is to do the work well and beyond the customer’s expectations. Do what you do better than anybody else and you’re sure to own the competitive field. There’s absolutely no substitute for quality work. Delivering high quality work will get word-of-mouth advertising going, and that’s the best marketing tool there is. Capturing referral business should be an essential element of your marketing plan. People absolutely notice when they’ve received great service, which they can then communicate to family and friends. The cost to acquire this referral customer is zero.
To conclude, treat the customer as if they were your boss. Interaction with customers should be kind, polite, and honest. Building a long-term relationship with customers is a long process that begins at “hello, how can I help you?”
Vice President of Sales, Canada
Voted Entrepreneurs Magazine’s Top Franchise Technology Supplier