Hanging Onto Your Customers

Don Doman

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What is a customer worth to your business? No matter what figure you come up with, the actual answer is that they are invaluable. Any customer or clients that you have, you should provide the best service to them so that they keep coming back - bringing their friends with them.

You can maintain a customer base by providing them the services they need and expect. You can grow an ever expanding customer base by providing just a little bit more than your clients expect.

Here are eight ways to provide exceptional customer service:

    Don't you appreciate the fact that your customers could be going somewhere else? If you appreciate them, then you need to show them that you do. As soon as you provide your service to your customer, you should show them that appreciation. Some people give small gifts, or take clients out to dinner. Generally, a simple “thank you" is all you need, however. They'll get the idea. I use post cards to say thanks. It costs less than a dollar for a postcard and postage. Plus, I get a lot of the cards for free, so it doesn't really cost very much at all. I always write some humorous (to me anyway) comment on the card so people remember my effort. I get lots of compliments on my cards from clients. . . who keep coming back.
    One of the best ways to keep your clients thinking of you is to think of them first. If possible, you should visit them in their place of business. If you're making a sales call close by to one of your clients, just pop in and say hello. You don't have to stay long, they're probably busy anyway. Your presence there will be remembered. Ask them how they're doing, listen, shake their hand and then leave. Write down any needs that they might have, regardless of your ability to fill those needs. By knowing the needs and visiting other clients, you just might come up with a solution that would benefit your client.
    Your business could sponsor a special event or community project. It doesn't have to be related to your business, but it should be fun. It could be a bike ride, a beach or street clean-up, a bake-sale to raise funds for the Boy Scouts, or mentoring at the local elementary school. Invite your clients, it'll show them that you're concerned about them and the community. Contact the nearest Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Exchange Club, Jaycees, or other organizations in your town. There are always service projects that need sponsors. Besides doing a good deed that will make you feel good, you could also receive some publicity. Publicity is good.
    If you are a recognized expert or have recognized experts in your company, let your clients know about that expertise. When you or one of your associates wins an award, has an article published or is booked as a public speaker, you should tell your customers about it. Your clients will appreciate the fact that they chose quality people to do business with. They will also appreciate the fact that they have a valuable resource in you and your company.
    Some people are afraid to ask clients about the service they received. They're afraid that the people will say something bad. The reality is that if the client does have something bad to say about your product or service, you had better be the first one to hear about it. If you're not the first, you might be the last and that means that many other people heard about it along the way. That is not a good way to build a business.

    Provide your clients with different ways to feedback information to you. Communication is a two-way street. Ask your clients personally, ask for comments in your newsletter, and ask for input on your Web site. When you receive comments that reflect badly on your service, get to the bottom of the problem quickly and report back to your client. Then ask them again about your service. Make sure they're satisfied with you and your company. Also, when you're asking for feedback on your service, and you get positive results, that's a great time to ask for referrals.

    You should always be thinking about other services you can provide your customers, but you can cut out the middleman by going directly to your clients. When you ask for feedback about your current service, you should always ask about other products or services they might need that are related to your company's business. Ask about their needs and then brain storm ways that you can fill those needs. You'll end up giving customer service that could end up making your company more money.
    You should keep and maintain a database of your customers. With a database you can mail newsletters, information on special events, send out holiday cards, and just plain keep in touch. A database, like the customers themselves, is invaluable.
    Nothing succeeds like a personal connection. There's a Safeway store in Centralia, Washington that is just outstanding. I stopped in there one morning and every employee from stockers and boxers to cash register clerks that I saw, smiled and said hello. I felt welcome. Whether personal contact comes from a face to face greeting to a phone call. Nothing beats personal contact for warmth and welcome. There is one thing you can add to that personal contact and really make it work extra hard is a name.

    Almost everyone likes to be called by name and to be treated like an old friend. After all, you'd go out of your way to make sure that a friend received the best service possible from you company wouldn't you? Treat your customers like friends. Remember friends tell their friends about the service they received both good and bad.

As a business you should always be looking for new customers, perhaps the best way to get new customers is through satisfied current customers. If you don't keep your current customers happy, you'll be constantly fighting a losing battle - looking for new customers while losing the old ones. Good customer service inspires loyalty. It keeps bring back your current customers, and if you do a really nice job of it, your customers will provide you with more customers.

Author Don Doman: Don is a published author of books for small business, corporate video producer, and owner of Ideas and Training (http://www.ideasandtraining.com ), which provides business training products. Don also owns and Human Resources Radio (http://www.humanresourcesradio.com ), which provides business training programs and previews 24-hours a day.


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