01 May Five ways to treat customers like the assets they are.
By Gregory Demetriou, President & CEO of Lorraine Gregory Communications.
If you treated customers as the assets they are they would never leave.
Think about your other assets. Bank deposits, real estate, stocks, bonds and 401k accounts are important that they demand your attention on a regular basis. You manage your health with regular check-ups to make sure all systems are as good as can be. You make sure your car gets regular maintenance, gets washed and vacuumed to keep it running well and looking good. So why don’t customers get 1/10th of the attention you pay to other assets?
Your customers are where the gold is. You worked hard to get them in the door, you serviced the accounts, you made sure they got your best. It would be a shame to lose any due to neglect. It will be far more expensive to replace them and the revenue they generate.
Customer Retention Management programs only go so far in keeping your company top of mind. As utilitarian as a well-executed CRM program is there’s no substitute for human contact and interaction.
- Get to know something personal about them. Go beyond recognizing them and knowing their name. Where do they live? Do they have kids? What are their hobbies? How was their vacation? Anything that expands on the business relationship and moves it, at least tangentially, into the personal. People are much more apt to deal with people who take time to engage them on a real level. It also makes your interactions friendlier and more interesting.
- When you customer has a need that is not something you can supply refer them to experts that can help them. If you have such a person in your realm, great, go ahead and make the recommendation. If not, you can take a moment to ask your contacts for a recommendation and pass that along if you are satisfied the referral is worthwhile. Such actions are recognized as going the extra mile when you have nothing to gain, but gain you will. You will gain esteem and gratitude from the customer. After all, aren’t you in the business of providing the product or service that addresses the needs of the customers.
- Respect their opinions and preferences. You are in business because you are an expert in what you do, but that does not give you the right to lord it over the customer. Just as you would listen to the advice of an attorney or accountant and then tell them how to proceed. You need to give the same latitude to clients; your advice is just that, advice. Ultimately the decisions are not yours; and you must understand that your job is to be an advisor. If you are selling products or services the client will not always make the choice you think is the best but it will be what they perceive as the best for them. Inform, advise, shut-up and then execute as instructed.
- Following up is supremely important. If you were a donor to a charity would you expect a thank you? Of course, you would. How would you feel if your contributions were not acknowledged? The same can be said about your customers. It is probably not possible to thank each and every customer for every transaction, but a periodic outreach will go a long way in letting them know they are important and you value them. Try to think creatively and develop a simple process that will not be unwieldy to execute. Social media is a great way to be in contact with your customers. If you link to their social media profiles, posts and articles you can like, share or comment to show them you are engaged with them.
- Ask them. You may remember New York City Mayor Ed Koch who was famous for always asking “How am I doing?” It made him more approachable, sincere and humble in the eyes of many of the citizens. You can ask clients the same thing. You can call them call them from time to time. You should do so with your top tier accounts as a rule. You can also use one of the online survey platforms, like Constant Contact or Survey Monkey. You can attach a premium for taking the survey, such as a “free” or “upgrade” or even a drawing with a gift to the winner. Either way, it is about staying involved on the customer’s radar for the future.
No one likes to be ignored. All customers need to feel the love. The better you do it the longer the customer life cycle will be. When you look at your customer base and can recognize that you have many of them for years and years you will know how well you are doing at communicating the value of the relationship. Too many onetime customers are a warning sign. Retaining customers is job one.