Customers are gold to your business! They are your lifeblood. Without customers, we would all be out of business. So if customers are truly the lifeblood of the business, why do most companies fail to promote customer loyalty?
When was the last time, as a customer, you received a phone call from a company asking what you liked about their products or services? When was the last time a company asked for your feedback on what they could do to improve? Have you ever received a gift from a company thanking you for being a loyal customer?
It’s imperative to remember that those who choose to buy products and services from you have probably selected you from countless competitors. They chose to spend their money with you and that’s a compliment. These same customers will tell their friends, family and just about anyone who will listen about your products and services, if they feel your company cares about them.
Most companies have a budget, marketing plan and goals for the year. But does your budget set aside money for customer retention and recognition of loyal customers? What strategies have you added to your marketing plan to strengthen the relationship you have with your customers? What goals do you have to improve the experience your loyal customers receive when they call or visit your business?
It costs six to eight times as much to attract a new customer as to keep an existing one. Most business owners agree that a customer can be worth anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to tens of thousands, or more. Yet most companies fail to incorporate into their budget the basics for a customer recognition and retention plan. Why, then, is it so difficult to invest money to retain your existing customers when they clearly are the lifeblood of any company?
Here are a few ideas that will help you let your customers know that you do care, that you do appreciate their business and to solicit their feedback (remember, they probably have a choice of whether or not they will do business with you) :
Reward loyalty – Airlines provide frequent-flyer miles. Credit card companies offer a variety of discounts or prizes while other companies use the dollar amount or number of visits to reward valued customers. Establish different gift levels to reward your customers’ years, loyalty or volume of purchase.
Don’t forget the simple notes! Enclose a short thank you with an appreciation gift – express your appreciation for their business and their loyalty. I recently received with my latest health newsletter (I am a third-year subscriber) a note thanking me for my renewal and a small booklet with additional tips on how to stay healthy.
Ask for referrals – If your customers are happy with your products or services and if you have fulfilled all the commitments you made to them and you have exceeded their expectations, do you think they would refer you to other people? Of course they would! But how many times a month are you asking those loyal customers for referrals to others who need what you have to offer? Probably not nearly enough.
Keep your name in front of your customers – How quickly we all can forget the names and faces of the people we interact with and purchase from. Can you remember the last time you received a phone call, note or follow-up concerning a product or service you bought? Set up an e-mail, direct mail or newsletter campaign that keeps your name in front of your customers. Keep your customer base informed about sales, new product development or tips and ideas on how they can use your products and services more effectively.
Involve your customers – Survey your customers frequently to ask them what they like or do not like about your products or services and what they like or do not like
about doing business with you. Ask them what other products and services they need to see if you are possibly missing an opportunity. There are a variety of services on the Internet that can make this process easy for both you and your customers. One Web-based survey tool can be found at http://www.zoomerang.com.
Customers are human beings. They are no different than you or me. They want someone to listen to them, to treat them with respect and to show them some appreciation. Most times, it’s the little things a business does that tells the customer they are valued.
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Arizona based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skills training for utilities.