Article by Bruce Hall FSBI
To benefit from repeat business, it is not enough to just provide good service and a quality product to meet customers expectations – these are both the customers right and their minimum expectation!
To enjoy the benefits of repeat purchasing you need to exceed their expectations!
In the pages that follow I have outlined actions business owners can take as ways to keep your customers coming back AND to help win your customers hearts and benefit from repeat purchases and word of mouth referrals.
Most do not involve spending money – rather they are about attitude and being prepared to be a little different! Download PDF
Do Be the “Purple Cow” of your industry
Give your customers a reason to talk about you – is the customer experience you provide “bland as a bottle of milk” or something they will remember and talk about?
What can you change in the way you greet and talk to your customers, the way you dress, the layout of your premises, the way you educate, the amazing after sales support you provide.
Being the Purple Cow often doesn’t cost money – only the courage to be different!
Do Decide the business you are really in!
Just as the online shoe retailer, Zappos is not in the business of selling shoes – but “delivering happiness” – decide the business you are really in!
Whatever that is – EVERYTHING – in your business needs to be aligned to it.
One client who runs a Hairdressing Salon transformed her business when she recognised she and her team were in the business of peoples self-esteem, helping the customers feel better about themselves.
Another client, who is achieving remarkable things, is in the business of “helping her clients love themselves”
So, what is the business you are REALLY in?
Do Truly value your customers!
Research tells us approximately 70% of customers do not feel valued by the businesses they deal with – and as a result many do not repurchase and certainly don’t refer others.
Your existing customers are gold – let them know they are valued – remember names, important milestones and their preferences.
Simply treat them, as you would like to be treated!
Do Understand the power of product knowledge
Product knowledge is critical – not just the various elements of the product or service – but
crucially, what they mean for the customer – how it can change or improve their world
Don’t make the mistake of assuming your customers know all there is to know about your product or service or how they can get the most from it
Do Educate your customers!
An educated customer can be a walking billboard for your business – if they can get the most from your product or service, they are likely to be delighted and share their experience and story with others.
Ask questions to ensure they understand & in what situations will they be using the product or service. Provide educational material. Use your website and You Tube as education platforms.
Do Only sell what the customer needs!
Very few people like being “sold to” – only sell what the customer can actually requires – while this may mean you forego some revenue – if you sell something the customer doesn’t really need it invariably leads to resentment and they are unlikely to come back!
Be honest if something is not right for the client – this will help build trust and loyalty
Do Never pre-judge a customer!
Prejudging a customer by their age, background, the way they dress or sex, is a quick way to get customers off side and lose a sale!
In the workshop I gave the example of my sister-in-law who went into a car yard to buy a BMW – the salesman suggested she came back with her husband – she promptly bought another brand!
Do Follow Up
Far too often in business, the term “valued customer “is a motherhood statement – with the relationship ending when the sale is made.
Build trust and relationships by following up your customers, confirm they are satisfied, answer any questions they may have – show that you care!
This step alone will set you apart from most of the competition – as so few do it!
Do If you don’t know – admit it and do the research
Demonstrate to your customers that you are prepared to go the extra mile – if they ask a question to which you do not know the answer follow up – this will surprise the customer and show you actually care about their needs!
Do Run client appreciation events!
Show your customers that you value them by running “client appreciation” events – where the purpose is to simply thank them for being a customer.
Perhaps include a speaker on a topic likely to be of interest to your customers. One client in the fashion field has emerging designers speak about their work, another engages a comedian to entertain – but the most important element, is to simply say thank you!
Do Send SMS reminders
In a world where everyone is increasingly busy – SMS reminders can be a great way to help your customers be organised.
Research has also shown that SMS’s are far more powerful in terms of taking action compared to emails!
Do Provide a CONSISTENT customer experience!
Find out what works – then systematise your business to ensure customers are given a consistent experience.
Love them or hate them, this is what McDonalds do really well!
Every customer, every time, needs to be given the same experience!
Do Decide what you want your customers to feel – or become!
What do you want your customers to feel when they deal with your business? Reassured? Confident? Elated? Excited? Fulfilled? Valued? – Decide and then think about what you need to do to make it happen!
Similarly – what do you want your customers to become as a result of engaging with your business?
What do you need to do, or add, to make this a reality?
Do Ask how could we improve!
Show your customers you care – tell them you are keen to improve the service you provide.
Ask how they perceive your business, what could be improved? What needs to change? What is missing? Important – when you get the feedback – tell them what action you have taken!
While Surveys can be used – face-to-face is best – either one on one, or as a group!
Do Keep it simple!
In an increasingly complex world simplicity is highly valued – but achieving simplicity can be hard and takes courage. The Apple iPhone is an example of something that at the customer end is simple, but the back end, is complex – it transformed an industry because they made it simple for the customer!
What could you strip out of your product or service to make it easier for your customers?
How could you change the language you use, your promotional material to simplify it for the end user?
Could you set yourself apart by simply eliminating jargon? Being a human in an industry of robots!
Is there something you could add to your product or service to make life easier, simpler for the customer?
Do Let the customer sell themselves!
Many sales are lost simply because the salesperson talks too much – often this is driven by the desire to be helpful, but by talking and not listening, we can miss what is truly important to the customer!
Try to talk 30% of the time and listen 70%!
Ask open ended questions starting with, tell me, what, when, where, why or how
Do Turn a customer complaint into a raving fan!
In Australia only 4% of customers complain – most do not, they simply share their bad experience with others and don’t come back!
Recognise for most people to complain, they are stepping way outside their comfort zone!
If you want to create a loyal customer and potentially a raving fan – ask the customer what they see as the solution. Listen, don’t justify, and then fix the problem as quickly as you can!
Give your team as much authority as possible to fix customer complaints – whilst this may come at a cost – the real cost of a dissatisfied customer is often much higher!
Do Provide MEMORABLE customer service
Do you provide good customer service or memorable customer service?
Good service is the customers right – it is expected, but quickly forgotten.
Memorable customer service is shared and gives a reason for the customer to come back!
What can you change in the way you serve your customers to make it memorable?
Take your time to understand your customers and what is important to them
While this may seem like common sense – too often the focus of a business owner is internal – on making a sale.
Taking the time to truly understand your customers, not only builds stronger relationships, but also invariably, uncovers opportunities that would be otherwise missed!
Demonstrate you have listened and understand their world
It is not enough to simply listen – you need to demonstrate you actually understand!
Repeat what they have told you – use their words, particularly any emotional “trigger words” they may have used (frustrated, concerned, disillusioned etc.) – then talk about how you will change their world/experience.
Touch base with customers on a regular basis – Good intentions do not count!
Over 60% of customers never repurchase from the same business again – the reason being – they did not feel valued!
Diarise to follow up with customers – not to sell anything or advance your own interests, (they will pick up on that in a heartbeat) – but to check how they are going!
Customers want to feel cared about and valued!
Remember important events in their lives!
If you want your customers to feel valued – remember & acknowledge the important events in their life and/or that of their family.
Make a phone call, send a handwritten card or provide a small gift. To work, however, it needs the personal touch! Simple, but powerful!
Send a card or gift they can give to their partners!
Help your customers remember important events of their partners!
Be the guardian for your customers – ensure they don’t overlook important events (& pay the price!)
Send them a reminder, a card or even a small gift they can give to their partner.
Recognise your product or service are simply a means to an end!
No matter what your product or service, it is critical to recognise from the customers viewpoint, it is only means to an end to achieve/provide something that either meets a need they have, or allows them to achieve something important in their lives.
Don’t talk about what your product or service is – only what it does for the customer – how it changes their world – this is what they buy!
Help your customers recognise their achievements
Most people having trouble recognising and celebrating their own achievements – instead focusing on their deficiencies and/or what they still need to achieve.
“Look for the good” and point out to your customers what they do well! It may be their achievements, how they as people, their philosophies, their dress sense, how they support family.
Do something to make your customers smile!
In a serious world, it pays to put a smile on your customers face!
One of the guiding principles of the amazingly successful online shoe retailer, Zappos, is “be a little bit weird”
They know the power of humour – it builds relationships, removes barriers & is remembered. It also gives the customer a story to share!
Explain your “Hidden Secrets”!
Most businesses do things or have processes they adopt to ensure they provide the customer with a quality experience – but most fail to explain them to the customer!
Hidden Secrets are powerful! They can create a point of difference relative to your competition – but the customer needs to be made aware of them!
Hidden Secrets also provide the customer with a “story” they can share with others.
Give your valued customers first access!
Give you loyal customers first access to new product lines – invite them to evenings where suppliers talk about the new products – what is different etc.
Even if the customers don’t buy – they will feel valued!
Make the way you answer the phone memorable!
In a world of bland – create a point of difference in the way you answer the phone:
- Close the computer screen – be 100% focused on the call
- Answer with enthusiasm – and maybe a great tagline!
For many customers, the phone will be the first point of contact with a person in your business – it is a chance to impress and be different!
Run free “no strings” workshops for your customers
Most businesses have a wealth of knowledge they could share with their customers to help make their businesses or lives easier.
They are also likely to have access to contacts that would willingly share helpful information on a “no strings” basis.
Doing this adds value to relationships & helps create a point of difference – all for minimal cost!
Build personal connections with hand written notes and cards
In a world dominated by email and overflowing inboxes – set yourself apart by adding a personal touch to your communication – send hand written notes and cards written in “human” language.
The cost of this is small both in terms of time and money – but the payoff in terms of building relationships, and putting a smile on your customers face, is huge!
Use your network to add value!
Introduce you customers to contacts who can add value!
Care! Before you make the introduction, agree the ground-rules as to how the customer will be handled, the services to be provided and pricing.
Ensure you will learn of problems before the customer. Eliminate nasty surprises!
When you make an introduction, follow up with the customer to make sure they are happy with the service being provided.
People want to do business with people – not a robot!
Be yourself, talk to your clients the same way you would family and friends (Your friends are friends for a reason!)
Eliminate jargon! Let your personality and humanity shine through!
Do The cost of cheap!
If you are getting hammered on price, that is a signal that you haven’t given the customer a reason why they should pay more with you than the competition.
Point out what is different about what you do, your hidden secrets! Don’t be afraid to spell out the risks that come with someone who sells on price! Cheap always comes at a cost!
There will be some customers whose sole focus is price – don’t make the mistake of building your business around this type of customer!
Do Rather than discount – reward!
In some cases discounting for valued clients is justified – however care is needed that you don’t simply shift their buying until the discount is available. For many businesses a significant increase is sales is needed to cover the cost of discounting.
Another option is to surprise clients with a small, unexpected reward. In the workshop we spoke of a client who simply offered a cake clients could enjoy when they purchased a coffee – instead of a discount.
The clients enjoyed the “reward” – she still sold the coffee – and many clients purchased other items while they were in the store
Do Beware the Elastic Band Principle!
Habits are hard to change – work out what you want to be known for and make that the focus of everything you do!
Frame everything you do in the context of what you want to be known for. Use your focus (e.g. outstanding customer service) as a filter for all decisions you take in your business.
If you have employees, talk incessantly about your focus – evaluate their performance by it.
Do Be the Wikipedia for your industry
Use your website to become the “go to” resource for your industry – share your knowledge and information to help your clients make informed purchasing decisions – also further information to help them get the most out of your product or service.
- 7 critical questions you should always ask before ………….
- 5 common mistakes people make when……..
- How to make sure ………….
- 5 ways to ensure you get the most out of…………
- 3 surprising facts about ……….. many people don’t know
Sharing information demonstrates your expertise and builds trust – people do business with those they trust!
Do Fun and a positive work environment makes good business sense!
Shawn Accor in his fantastic book – The Happiness Advantage – demonstrates that creating a fun and positive work environment, is good business senses – it can result in significant lifts in both productivity and sales!
So many people drag themselves through the day – if you encounter a positive uplifting environment it gets noticed – gives them a lift – something they will remember!