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A-Z of Business: C – Customer

Customers are the lifeblood of any business.  It doesn’t matter how good your product or service, if you don’t have customers willing to buy, you have nothing.  In such challenging times, and considering the cost of attracting just one customer (have you ever done the maths on this?), customer retention is a stronger strategy than customer attraction could ever be.

Yet, it seems that customer care has taken a back seat to profit.  A short-term tactic with long-term consequences.  And yet, effective customer care does not have to be costly.  Not only that, you can expect to see your profits increase as your customers stay longer, buy more and refer more.  And the benefits don’t end there – your employees will be happier.  I am always struck by the check out staff at supermarkets who don’t acknowledge you – how unhappy they look.  I pay extra where the staff are happier – it makes such a difference to the buying experience.

Below are my top ten tips for customer retention.

All customers:

  1. Acknowledge them by name if known, and a warm smile – a genuine smile even comes across over the phone.
  2. Tell them you’ll be with them in a moment if you are busy with someone else.  If it will be more than a moment – let them know in advance.  Set realistic expectations.
  3. Ask yourself how your processes and actions serve customer needs and affects their experience .
  4. Make sure your staff are knowledgeable and find answers to questions if in doubt.  Saying “I don’t know” is just not acceptable.
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver – essential for trust.  Do keep them updated if delays are foreseen.
  6. Hire and train staff who have a strong customer service orientation – be uncompromising about this.  Any apathy or negativity affects profit and morale of other staff members.
  7. Treat your customers how you want to be treated yourself.  You know how it feels when you are respected and when you are treated well.  I am reminded of a friend of mine who recently reported that she closed her bank account as her bank was offering new customers a better interest rate, despite the fact she had been a loyal customer for years.

The biggest risk factor in terms of customers is how you deal with them when there’s a problem.  Here are my top tips to deal with unhappy customers:

  1. Respond positively and empathetically:
    • Thank them – their feedback is a gift and helps you improve your business.
    • Be quick to apologise authentically.
  2. Inform them of what you will do with their feedback – and then make sure you do what you say you will do– it will help build your business in all kinds of positive ways.
  3. Resolve problems quickly and thoroughly.  Be sure to give a little extra to make up for the inconvenience.

Responding well to complaints can not only redeem you in the eyes of the customers but make a complainant into an ambassador for your company, bringing in new business.

Finally, one last thought – do make it easy for people to do business with you – don’t let apathy be your only weapon for customer retention.  Delight them and make raving fans.

To your success!

Tricia Woolfrey

PS  Customer attraction and retention are a very complex area – to book a consultation to find out how you can gain more business through customers new and existing, call 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey

Tricia Woolfrey is a business, performance and productivity coach, helping people to succeed in their business, and for their business to succeed. She has extensive experience with clients across several business sectors, including IT, telecoms, event management, entertainment, recruitment, finance, PR, coaching and therapy, support services, legal and more, ranging from large corporates to start-ups and the solo-preneurs.

Prior to running her own consultancy, she was Group HR Director for a multi-national organisation and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Professional Development. Her integrative approach to change has had profound results for individuals and organisations alike.

“The results there were nothing short of fantastic”- Guy Apple, VP Marketing & Sales, NVT, UK

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