Customers go where they feel wanted, appreciated

In today’s economy we are subject to constant change. The Internet has given us access to unlimited opinions, options and choices. This volume of information has both positive and negative impacts. We like to have options, but the number of choices can be stressful and overwhelming.

In today’s economy we are subject to constant change.

The Internet has given us access to unlimited opinions, options and choices. This volume of information has both positive and negative impacts. We like to have options, but the number of choices can be stressful and overwhelming.

Through the Internet, your business customers also have an unlimited selection of, and access to, products and services. They no longer have to rely on location and can make purchases from anywhere around the globe.

New technology provides instant communication between customers and their friends and family. Social media has the potential to disrupt your industry, your markets and your bottom line. One poor buying experience translates to one disappointed customer, and they share this at a touch of a button.

According to one Harvard Business Review study, 67 per cent of customers who chose a new supplier said they were satisfied with their former supplier. Some statistics indicate that, on average, most businesses lose 50 per cent of their customer base every five years.

So why would customers who are “satisfied” stop doing business with you?

“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all,” states Michael LeBoeuf, a speaker and author. In his book, How to Win Customers & Keep Them for Life, LeBoeuf includes the following statistics about why customers leave:

• 68 per cent leave because they are upset with the treatment they’ve received;

• 14 per cent are dissatisfied with the product or service;

• nine per cent begin doing business with the competition;

• five per cent seek alternatives or develop other business relationships;

• three per cent move away; and

• one per cent die.

Estimates vary, but the cost of acquiring new customers is six to 10 times more than selling to existing customers. Losing customers can drastically affect your company’s reputation, credibility, referrals, sales and profitability.

Customers go where they feel wanted and appreciated. The simple fact is that consistent, friendly delivery on basic services maintains your customer base more than that dazzling buying experience.

So what are you doing to keep your customers happy and returning to your business? The following points focus on the key areas to retain your valued customers.

• Never assume you know what customers want. Customer surveys are a great tool for gathering information on customer needs. However, a sincere, face-to-face conversation with your clients will identify innovative ways you can solve their problems or exceed their expectations.

• Reward customer satisfaction. If customer satisfaction is really a priority in your business, demonstrate this to your team. Develop a method to measure it (Goggle “Net Promoter Score” for one example), set goals for improvement and reward the team when the goal is accomplished.

• Hire and train people to interact with your customers. The hiring and interview process should identify aptitudes like trust, empathy, flexibility and verbal communication skills.

Each customer contact with your team is an opportunity to build your reputation or destroy it. Hire for attitude, train for skill.

• Say thank you. Take the time to make a personal phone call or send a simple thank-you note. E-mail is acceptable but it’s less personal.

This simple strategy can really make an impact and says a lot about your company and the value you place on customers.

• Stay connected with your customers by phone, mail or email. While the frequency may vary, every customer should receive a “touch” at least once per quarter.

• Reward loyalty. While new customers are critical to growth, make sure current customers get some VIP treatment. Programs, offers or specials for current customers only work well.

• Be a one-stop solution provider. Look for opportunities to simplify the buying experience. Offer multiple products or services to your existing customers to alleviate stress.

Research shows this builds loyalty and retention. It’s also a great way to increase revenue and profit!

• Finally, make customer service everyone’s responsibility, especially in a small business where team members wear many hats. Train your team on customer service.

From the receptionist to the delivery driver, your team will make an impression. The kind of impression they make is up to you.

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.