What’s better than getting a customer? Getting a happy repeat customer of course! Here are some simple yet effective ways you can make sure your customers return to you again and again, because let’s face it, they don’t have to!

 

  1. Encourage feedback at all stages so that you can discover what your customer is really thinking about their experience with you.
  2. Keep in touch. Most customers leave because of ‘perceived indifference’. This means that you didn’t necessarily do a bad job, just  that you didn’t keep in touch enough. You might not have the time to call every customer personally, but you do have time to send out a newsletter or a postcard to customers on at least a bi-monthly basis.
  3. Generously give added value. If you are good at what you do, the chances are that you know things that are useful to your customers. By sharing at least some of that information with your customers you do two things: demonstrate your expertise and appear generous. Newsletters, seminars and websites are all places where you can share knowledge with your customers and potential customers while enhancing your reputation.
  4. Avoid misunderstandings. Clear communication at all stages is very important in keeping customers happy.
  5. Value for money. You may be expensive, but if you represent value in the eyes of the customer, then they will be happy. After all you expect to pay one price for a lunch in a burger chain and quite another in an exclusive restaurant. Both experiences of eating are very different, but both can represent ‘value for money’ as it is the overall eating experience we pay for.
  6. Show your customers you care about them. Take notes about when their birthday is, who their children are and what hobbies and interests they have. This creates a far deeper level of communication and shows that you are interested in them as individuals.
  7. Encourage complaints. Do you know what most people do when they hear a customer complain? They think of a reason why the complaint is not valid.  However, when a customer complains, they are giving you the opportunity to keep their business by sorting it out.
  8. Avoid confusion. If you have a contract, make it simple enough to be explained in a paragraph. If you’re doing work on a customer’s behalf, make sure they understand exactly what you are doing and when. Clarity is key.
  9. Source new suppliers. Does your customer have problems with some of their suppliers? If you know of a good alternative, pass those details on.  Make a habit of collecting details of reliable and good-value suppliers you can refer to customers if the need arises.
  10. Be easy to do business with. Do people have to spend ages chasing you down? Are your opening hours restrictive and your staff elusive? Break down all barriers and make it as easy as possible for people to do business with you. Show your appreciation of the fact that they want to part with their hard earned cash.
  11. Be proactive. If you’re asked about something that you don’t know the answer to, find it out and get back to them when you say you will.  Get known as a person who follows up words with actions and results.
  12. More is more. We all have that favourite restaurant that goes above and beyond with extra touches like an after dinner drink arriving without being requested. In countries like Greece and Italy there is a long and successful tradition of rewarding loyalty with inexpensive yet much-appreciated extras.
  13. Employ good staff. As the old saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Your staff are the face of your customer so you need to ask yourself if you are proud to be represented by them. Nothing short of an excellent attitude where they are always keen to help will do.
  14. Sort mistakes FAST. We all make mistakes but one of the ways  a customer judges your business is how quickly you accept that you have made a mistake and then make an effort to sort it out.  If you have got something wrong, it is down to you to correct it as quickly as possible, minimising its impact on the customer.
  15. Don’t worry, be happy. Do you like your customers? If not, what are you doing talking to them? If you know you are a grumpy, backroom boy by nature, then use the skills you do have elsewhere and put somebody who loves dealing with customers in the front line.
  16.  Be upfront. Honesty is the best policy at all times. If you ever try twisting the truth worse, or telling an outright lie, it will come back to haunt you. If you can do something, tell them, but if you can’t, tell them too while offering an alternative.  Your customers will appreciate your honesty and admire your integrity.
  17. People buy from people. Remember that you don’t really buy from companies. You buy from the people who work for that company.  If a customer goes elsewhere, it is often because the person (account manager, shop worker etc.) just wasn’t giving them the service they required.
  18. Be positive. We’ve all got problems, but if your customer asks you how you are, don’t use that as an excuse to talk about all your stress or badmouth your other customers. I have stopped using companies because (even if I didn’t ask) the owner seemed to use me as an agony aunt for all the wrongs in his world.
  19. Excel at what you do. You have to be good at what you do if you’re going to retain customers in the long term. Every piece of training you and your staff undertake will help to retain customers so don’t short change your customers by skimping on this. Invest in the best systems, equipment and people that you can afford to make sure that when people come you, they are getting the best and can be confident that you will do everything you can to stay the best.
  20. Innovate. Earl Nightingale said that “It’s not good to get into a rut because a rut is nothing more than a grave with the ends kicked out.” If you are not constantly looking for new, faster, cheaper, more exciting ways of doing things, then you’ll be left behind because your competitors will be . If you look at what happens to companies without competitors, you see what unwieldy, slow-moving, bureaucratic organisations they become – until competition comes along and offers a better service for half the price! Always be looking to innovate and give your customer a better deal.
  21. Customer care. Do you have a customer care manager? I know of companies with only three staff who have a customer care manager.  Even if it’s not a full time role, it shows your customers that you take their concerns seriously.
  22. Be different. In today’s crowded marketplace it’s important to stand out from the competition. Make sure your customers remember you for being the company that is always changing, always improving, always coming up with great new ideas.
  23. Exceed expectations. It’s no longer good enough to be OK. If possible, always aim to exceed your customer’s expectations. Promise to deliver by Tuesday, but deliver by Monday lunchtime. Send extra items with no charge.  Drop off personalised gifts such as mugs or calendars.
  24. Introduce a money back guarantee scheme. If you do business by post, you need to offer a 30 day money back guarantee anyway. Smart businesses make the most of this instead of trying to bury it in the small print. If you have faith in your product, offering a transparent money back guarantee shouldn’t be a problem for you.
  25. Exit survey. Why has that customer stopped using you? What did they like, what did they hate?  When most customers leave often, we have no idea why they went.  If you take the time to ask them, there is statistically more chance that they will one day come back (if only to see if you have smartened up your act) and you will gain the knowledge to stop others going the same way. You should already be doing this with staff who move on, so why not find out why customers are too?  You might uncover some uncomfortable information, but it could be key knowledge that could turn around your company.
  26. Keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. It’s always a good idea to be led by the customer; because what you think might be a useful regular update might be time wasting junk as far as your target is concerned.
  27. The golden rule – do unto others as you would have done to you. If you stick by this rule when it comes to customers, you won’t go too far wrong.
  28. Speed stuns. It’s said that in restaurants, the speed and quality of waiter service is rated as more important than the food. That’s quite interesting if you consider why people go to a restaurant!  The speed of your response will make a big difference to the experience and opinions of your customers.  If you can solve problems swiftly, you will win over customers.
  29. Take responsibility. Most of your suppliers and competitors will blame someone else when things go wrong, but if you take responsibility, you will tell the customer what they want to hear namely, “I will take complete responsibility for sorting this out.  Let me look into it, find out exactly what the situation is and I’ll get back to you with an answer by X o’clock”. Even if you don’t know everything you hoped you would by that time, call them back when you said you would with an update.
  30. Encourage referrals. What gets rewarded gets repeated. If you send a thank you letter and voucher when a new client is gained as a result of a referral, do you think your customers will do it again?  By making it clear that you appreciate the effort they have made to refer business to you, you are making it much more likely that you will continue to receive business in this way.  It is not so much the gift; it is more the fact that you have taken the trouble to acknowledge the kind referral from a customer.
  31. The most important people in your company are your customers. Accept this, believe it and make sure everybody else in the company believes it too. In some companies, customers are viewed as an inconvenience that gets in the way of getting the job done.  There would be no job, no wages and no company without them so remember who pays your mortgage, for your holidays and puts food on your table. Thank them and be grateful for them every day.
  32. Get together with customers at social events, restaurants or other places away from the office or factory floor. This change of scenery help you to be seen as more of a friend than a supplier and will  help to foster deeper, more productive long-term relationships.
  33. Avoid silly mistakes. When we rush it is all too easy to make errors. These reduce your credibility in everybody’s eyes.  We all make the odd slip, but concentrate on making a great job of everything you do.  Don’t accept mistakes as inevitable, many of them can be avoided with some thought, preparation and attention to detail.  Remember, in most cases, the quality of the job will be remembered longer than the time it was delivered in.
  34. Aim for consistency. As customers, we like to know where we are. That’s why we like dealing with one person organisations – if that one person is good. But wouldn’t it be great if your customers felt that no matter who they talk to, someone will help them out? There is nothing worse than playing Russian roulette with a company’s call centre.  One day you get a star, the next you get somebody who would clearly rather be elsewhere. Again consistency is key.
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