Dec 152011

It’s cheaper to keep present customers than to find new ones

Someone has done studies to look at how/why customers stop using a business and the results are startling.  A few percent move, another few percent move because they get a better offer, some die (literally) but by far the biggest percentage – around 69% – move on because of indifference from the business they were using.  That sounds like bad news but in fact for you, if you’re going to run your business properly, it’s going to be good news.  If 69% of companies don’t have a good customer service program the it’s not going to take much from you to become one of the 31% who do.  Let’s look at a few ways to keep those customers.

Talk to them.

Not just please and thank you but ask them what they really, really want.  Very often what the customer wants and what you think the customer wants are two completely different things.  One client of mine asked a customer what he really wanted from the business and he said ‘flexibility – to be able to order at short notice and get the product as soon as possible’.  When my client got deeper into the discussion he asked about price; ‘I don’t care about the price if you can meet my demands for flexibility’.  My client was then able to sideline his usual process of going out to two or three providers to get the best price and, as a result, was able to significantly reduce the time from order to delivery.  Both parties happy.

Reward them.

This can take many forms from the simple ‘5th cup of coffee free’ through to their own special phone number to call to place orders.  Remember the birthdays of key people in the company (yes, the boss’s secretary is a very key person!) and send them a present and a card.  The secret with gifts is not to make them lavish and expensive but to make them personal.  To do that you have to get to know your customers but that’s good because it’s strengthening the relationship all the time.

Keep questioning yourself.

Keep looking at the service or product you provide and think about the need that you meet.  Then think about how you can go further towards meeting that need in an even better fashion.  If you provide a standard product can you go a step further and tailor it for each client?  Would it be helpful if you provided a complimentary product alongside the primary thing that you sell?

Whether you’re starting a small business or just improving the one you already have these three simple ideas will go a long way to making you stand out from the crowd when it comes to keeping customers.