By Roger Watson
Sales Trainer & Advisor, Key Business Advisors
Keeping customers for life is vital to every business. Most people may not realise, however, that gaining customers’ trust and loyalty is not done in a single transaction – it is an ongoing process.
Attracting customers in the first place can require a significant amount of resources. Consider all the advertising that you do via your website and other media, then add the cost of your salespeople who either canvas clients by phone, spend time cold-calling face-to-face, or in the case of retail, wait patiently for people to walk into the store. You will also have spent time and money recruiting and training your staff so that they can better serve your customers.
Let’s face it, up until now everything is a cost to your business, and the only avenue for a return on your investment comes from customers who are continually willing to pay you for your product or service. The price they are willing to pay also has to be above the cost of being in business. I was lucky enough to be told 30 years ago by the company accountant that “we aren’t in business to break even.” So what do you need to do to ensure your customers, especially your most ideal ones, continue to come back and therefore help keep you in business?
Let Customers Know What You Can Do for Them
In simple terms, “customers buy what we show and tell them about”. If people don’t know you are a great hairdresser, the best plumber in the area, have the best cakes in Australia or can save their company money, you won’t have them as a customer in the first place.
Advertising and salespeople help set expectations in the customer’s mind of how your products will either make them money, save them time or money, or bring them pleasure in some way. If you can do all three, then you have a very happy customer and possibly one for life.
Make Them Want to Continue Coming Back to You
Like any relationship, businesses and customers can have a “honeymoon” period, when the customers are over-serviced, much loved and nothing seems too much trouble to keep them happy. But how long can you keep it up? In retail, the customer’s expectations can be shattered within seconds of walking into the store. Staff might be talking to each other, chewing gum, or simply don’t listen to the customer to understand what their needs are.
Good questioning techniques and active listening are skills that great salespeople use before they think about offering a solution to the customer’s needs or wants. It is interesting that the more you know about your customer, the more they end up buying from you. Never stop training your staff in the skills of asking questions to dig deeper into your customers’ current situation and future needs. Anyone who talks to a customer needs sales and/or customer service training!
Look after Your Staff
Loyal Staff often means Loyal Customers. Both customers and staff will evaluate on a regular basis why they want to be with your business. Customers can often “outlive” your salespeople in a business sense and will interact with three or more staff members over the time they do business with you. Customers don’t want to train your staff and will leave if they feel they are also working for you and not being paid for it.
Therefore, effective recruitment is vital to ensure you have a long life with both your staff and your customers. When recruiting, do you stop and ask yourself, “Will my customers like this person and relate to them?” and “Will this person like my customer base?” Many business owners employ young people who find it hard talking to older people whom they might think are “uncool” or “don’t know what they want”. Such attitude from staff isn’t going to help keep customers for a week, let alone for life.
Follow Up on Your Customers
What systems do you have in place to keep track of your customers’ changing needs? There are numerous Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems currently being used, but like most systems, these are only as good as the information entered into them. If a staff member left your business, could another colleague confidently take over the account or would most of the information be lost because it was mostly just stored in the head of the original salesperson?
Customers want their interactions with your business to be seamless. Whoever they talk to should know some history about their dealings with and purchases from you, and why they choose to buy from you. Every interaction should be like a “first date” when we do everything to impress the customer in order to get them to go to a “second date” and beyond.
I hope we have given you some things to think about and to evaluate how you currently treat your customers. With such a big topic, we intend to conduct a webinar in the near future covering techniques and processes that you can put in place to keep your customers for life. Please follow the link to register your expression of interest and we will contact you with details of the event.