New Service for Old Customers
Most companies allocate substantial resources marketing to new customers and finding prospects. However, the same effort is rarely expended towards existing clients. Most companies get 80 percent of their business from 20 percent of their customer base. So maintaining that base should be a primary objective of every business, but can be overlooked in the rush to bring in new clients. Here are some insights on building client loyalty.
1. Visit with clients often and at their place of business. Schedule a one-on-one conference with every client at least twice a year. Just making the time is often enough for customers to know that you appreciate their business. A visit to a customer is also critical to understanding their culture, their needs, and is crucial to creating a long-term bond with decision makers. During the visit, talk about them, not you. It may be tempting to fill customers in on all the great things your company has been up to and the new products or services that you can bring to them, but to create trusting relationships, the meeting should be about what they are doing and how you can help them do it better. In between meetings, remember to communicate by email or phone, not to get more business but to check in.
2. Stay informed about the customer. This is something we do routinely to prepare for new customer presentations but rarely for existing clientele. Whether you are providing goods or services, a client will always appreciate that you have kept up with their progress and industry. Follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter. Visit their Facebook page. At a minimum, you should know what they have posted on their website and communicated in their most current press releases. Consider setting up a Google Alert or other monitoring tool on your top customers so you hear their news as soon as it goes out.
3. Make connections for your customers. Your customers need customers, vendors, employees, and consultants. If you are doing a good job at #1 and #2 above, you should be aware of who or what they need at any time. Making the right connection at the right moment can be invaluable to creating a long-term relationship.
4. Provide good service. There is no substitute for delivering good service and products on a timely basis. It is of course the best way to keep a client. But mistakes happen and how a company handles a crisis or a complaint is just as critical. Once a customer has selected you, they want to stay with you, so make it easier for them. Remember, a customer who complains is giving you a chance to fix the problem. It’s the customer who doesn’t complain and leaves quietly that is tougher to retain.
5. Make sure employees are trained. Since customers will often be dealing with all levels of staff within an organization, make sure your employees understand how important the customer is to your continued success. Employees should be regularly trained on maintaining customer loyalty. Your staff should connect the success of the company and their compensation with the satisfaction of customers. Consider institutin a program that recognizes and rewards positive customer feedback.
6. Create incentives for loyalty. Provide financial and service incentives for a customer to return to you. Of course, membership levels, credits, rebates, two for ones and other financial motivators are always welcome, but making the process easier for returning customers is just as valuable. If they can bypass an intake form or go directly to an account representative who knows them, that’s a good reason to come back to your company rather than going with a competitor.
7. Keep it personal. We are all more and more dependent on technology to run our businesses, but make sure there is a person available to speak to every customer who wants that interaction. Customers want a live person when there is a problem. Make sure your organization provides that option easily and without delay.
8. Have flexible policies. There is a reason a customer returns to a company they know: they have faith in the service and goods that you can deliver. If there are occasional instances when a change in company policy is needed, consider being flexible. Shipping times, rush requests, requests for returns are common areas where a little flexibility can go a long way in maintaining the relationship.
Companies should spend at least as much time on developing new relationships as they do on maintaining old ones. Company policies and training that emphasize the importance of customer satisfaction and loyalty are critical to creating a sustainable business.
[Business Insights is hosted by the Law Firm of Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee, LLC. Sonjui L. Kumar is a corporate, transactional attorney and a founding partner of KPPB Law.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice.]
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