How to keep customers happy

7 Actions That Will Actually Help Keep Your Customers

I had a service that cleaned the swimming pool on a weekly basis. They did a fine job for more than a year. And when one employee left, the replacement was adequate. I was satisfied.

Satisfied. Not happy. Not delighted. Run-of-the-mill satisfied.

But then another new employee came in. I noticed that he wasn’t getting everything done. The pool didn’t look as sparkling clean as before. I spoke to him about the oversights and he said he would take care of it.

He didn’t. I canceled the service.

Maybe I would’ve been willing to work with the company had it done a little more to make me happy. It didn’t have to be anything big. The little things make a difference. I still remember how one contractor working in the house brought delivered packages inside. The little things.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

~ Maya Angelou

Customers forgive mistakes when companies make it right. It’s all in how they take care of them and interact with them.

Why focus more on retaining clients than on acquisition?

Frederick Reichheld, author of The Loyalty Effect, says that a 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 25 to 100 percent. Small businesses are spending more resources on current clients than on acquiring new ones according to “Achieving Big Customer Loyalty in a Small Business World” from Manta and BIA/Kelsey.

The secret to keeping customers is to make your clients happy. This isn’t the same thing as providing standard products or services. Unhappy clients don’t always express disappointment or frustration with products and services. They maintain status quo. That is, until something better comes along or the work becomes unacceptable.

One customer-focused small business owner does what she can to keep her clients happy. It works. They keep coming back and buying more from her company. In fact, several clients who changed companies brought her in with their new companies.

She does more than provide a service. When she made a mistake, she owned up to it. She’d give the client a discount, for example. She’d send clients articles that mentioned their company or would interest them. She’d email them asking about their families and special events in their lives.

This small business owner knows that it’s cheaper to keep current customers. And they are her best source for referrals.

You can effectively bring in new customers by relying on two things: a strong marketing strategy and knowing your how much your customer is worth. Regardless, it takes time and money to convince prospects to stop by your house when you already have clients in your backyard.

How well are you taking care of your clients?

7 actions to take to keep your clients happy

Since you already have customers hanging out in your backyard, compel them to stay with these seven actions.

1. Listen

Train employees — especially those who work with your customers — on how to be better listeners. Strong listening skills means talking less, listening more, letting the customer lead the conversation and watching your body language.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply,” said Stephen R. Covey, author. Concentrate on hearing what clients say. Repeat it back to them to confirm you heard right.

A person who keeps checking the phone gives the impression he or she would rather be somewhere else or the customer is not worth his or her full attention.

Employees can also listen by monitoring social networks, forums, blogs, and other online conversations. Be ready to respond when you find conversations about your company, your industry, and your competitors. If you find an unhappy customer or hear something negative about your company, acknowledge the customer as soon as possible whether or not you have an answer. They appreciate knowing they’ve been heard and the company is looking into it.

2. Chat with customers

Notice that it’s “chat with customers” not “talk” as it’s more important to hear what they have to say. Yes, listen is No. 1. But the key here is to get your team to be proactive in conversing with customers. It should be a regular part of their job.

This also helps your team dig in to find out what customers may want to see in your products or services. Encourage your employees to open the door by inviting customers to share thoughts as they work with your product or service. It may require some back and forth before discovering a gem. Their answers could lead to something new or an enhancement.

3. Provide an easy way to share feedback

Do you ever wish your favorite gadget could do something? How would you tell the manufacture of the gadget? Maybe go to the website and look for “Contact”? The point is to make it easy for your customers to leave feedback.

Better yet, send a short survey on a set schedule. This could be right after serving the client, every quarter, whatever works. The survey should be short and sweet with one question asking for a rating on a scale of 1 to 5 and the other being an open-ended question that can be answered quickly.

You can also ask for feedback in your blog, email newsletter, social networks, and meetings. Involve your employees by asking for suggestions on how to get feedback.

4. Follow up on feedback

Don’t let valuable feedback fall between the cracks. Empower your employees to figure out how to take action on feedback and thank the customer. If you implement a customer’s suggestion, let him or her know. Again, acknowledge the customer right away.

When you get feedback from customers, it doesn’t mean you must make it happen. It means you’ll take the time to look into it and get back to the customer with an update.

5. Discuss customers and feedback every week

Getting feedback is half the equation. The other half is doing something about it. It’s also an opportunity to find out if there are client concerns. Someone in the field may have observed a problem that upset a client. He or she needs to let a manager know as soon as possible to ensure it doesn’t escalate and to make it right.

You don’t have to set up a separate meeting for discussing customers and their input. This can be part of another status meeting, if appropriate. Another option is to create a report with a status update on your clients. Ask the team to email you their experiences and put it into a single document that highlights the highs and lows. Assign action items.

6. Set clear expectations for customers

Be specific about what you’ll do for a client. Instead of “I’ll get back to you,” try “I’ll send you an email next week and let you know.” We live in a world of instant communications that sometimes people feel let down when they haven’t heard from you within a day or so.

Describe what and when you will deliver. Make it reasonable so you know you will live up to expectations. Better yet, leave a little room so they’ll be pleasantly surprised when something arrives early or with a little extra.

7. Include customer feedback in your business process

Make these activities a part of your business process. If you want to maximize customer happiness, then building and maintaining relationships needs to be a regular part of business.

It’s easy to take customers for granted and switch your focus on bringing in more business. But your clients can do that for you, either by buying more from you or telling others about you.

If you don’t have the working capital to implement their brilliant suggestions, it may be time to consider financing. Business funding like invoice financing doesn’t require a loan and paying it back with interest. Waiting until you have the cash available could put you at risk for losing your clients to your competitors.

Image credit: Glenn Brown

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