There is an old adage that says your clients are your business. Anyone who runs a business knows how true this is. Without clients or customers, you wouldn’t have a business. So how come some businesses have a hard time getting their customers to come back, while others have customers so loyal they wouldn’t go anywhere else?
The key is proactively “wowing” your clients on a regular basis so they have no reason to go anywhere else, and every reason to be loyal to your business. If you’re not wowing your clients, someone else will, and in today’s consumer-oriented society people will turn with the wind to one of your competitors if you haven’t given them a reason to stick with you. So what is it that builds loyalty in your customers? How can you keep them happy and coming back for more? Here are ten principles to keep in mind.
Have systems in place to measure everything you do. If you don’t know how you’re doing, how will you know if you need to improve? From cost-effective management to product price and client service, find ways to evaluate how you’re doing business and you’ll know quickly when and where changes need to be made to increase your productivity and client satisfaction.
Don’t know where to start your evaluation process? How about asking your clients? Nothing makes a customer feel more valued and appreciated than being asked what they want and then seeing those things being delivered. It’s easy to assume you know what they want, but asking them is still the best way to be sure. You may be surprised by the results. How do they really feel about the service or product you deliver? How could you better serve them? Written questionnaires, personal interviews, evaluation forms, or simple telephone calls are useful tools to help you determine what your clients want and expect.
It is better to promise less and then exceed your clients’ expectations, than to promise them the world and under-deliver. Be careful to promise only what you can deliver, but make every effort to exceed their expectations every time.
Remember, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers. A successful business is 80% client-focused and 20% prospect-focused. Don’t lose sight of this important fact and spend your time, money and energy nurturing the clients you already have.
Nothing frustrates a customer more than calling with a problem, only to be told the person on the phone can’t do anything for them. Every employee who answers your phone should be empowered to give the customer some level of satisfaction. A response such as, “I’ll look into it right away and someone will get back to you before noon” satisfies the customer’s desire to have something done without feeling like they’re being put off.
Your marketing strategy should include a continuous plan of customer care that has nothing to do with you and everything to do with your customers. Regular contact, client-focused seminars and events, gifts, invitations to social events, newsletters, open houses, and discounts, are just a few ways to focus on your customers. Do this and your clients will begin to develop the kind of loyalty that keeps them coming back.
Remember when you were starting your business you had to come up with a USP (unique selling proposition) that set you apart from everyone else? Use your imagination to come up with new ways to make your business stand out again. Offer your customers a spring or fall discount, invite your best customers to a special event. Connect your marketing with your product or service. For instance, realtors might send a package of flower seeds to their past customers in the spring. Selling a product? Have a local chocolatier create a miniature mold of your product and leave a chocolate treat with every estimate or purchase.
Ask any consumer and they’ll tell you how hard it is to find good service. It is surprising how few businesses offer exceptional customer service. Be the business that always says YES – the business that goes the extra mile. Fix problems quickly every time – don’t let anyone fall through the cracks.
Showing politeness and respect is not a lost art. Which store would you return to? The one where, when asked where a specific product is, the clerk rolls her eyes, flicks her head, and says “Aisle 10”. Or, where the clerk smiles and walks with you, while making small talk, to show you the product?
The more regular and frequent your contact with your clients, the more solid your relationship will become. What works especially well with B2B clients is to send them things you think might interest them about one of their hobbies – a relevant web site or a newspaper clipping perhaps. Distribute a monthly or quarterly newsletter.
The extra effort it takes to wow your customers and set you apart from your competitors will result in long term, satisfying relationships with clients who will be loyal to your business and tell all their friends how great you are. Wowing your customers cements existing relationships and perpetuates new ones.