How to Treat Customers

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Most people have heard the old expression, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” But, if you’re in business, it will probably mean more to you than anyone else. In fact, it’s a motto that should be posted over your office as a reminder that your existing customers are worth a great deal to you and your company. How you treat customers is of the utmost importance.

Smart business professionals continuously strive to obtain new business. They attend conference sessions and seminars to learn more about getting new customers. They spend a good deal of time and resources planning their new sales and marketing approach. And, they continue to network actively at events where they will have exposure to potential customers to help them uncover the next new lead.

This is all very important, but what you need to remember is that keeping your current customer is as important as gaining a new one. In fact, depending on what type of business you’re in, many experts would state that retaining your customer is your most important activity.

But if I don’t go after new customers, how can I grow my company?

You can’t; that goes without saying. By the same token, you can’t grow a company or organization without keeping your current customers. It’s a little like building a stone wall. Once you strategically place the broadest stones for your base, you will put the wall on solid footing and be able to add new levels. Without your existing customer base firmly locked in, your organization will always be on weak ground.

That means never losing sight of the day-to-day reality of providing your customers with exceptional service. They are the source of your current revenue and are most often the source of your growth. The Pareto Principle –80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your customers may apply; so nurturing the relationship with those profitable customers can often reap huge rewards.

How can I keep my customers happy?

As in any good relationship, there are three simple rules to help keep that relationship on track. In the business arena, it is of course much more one-sided, the ability to maintain a good relationship will rest squarely on your shoulders. But the rules are the same:

1. LISTEN TO THEM.
Are you in tune with your customers? Do you really listen to them? Do you ask them the right questions and then wait for the appropriate feedback, no matter how much it may hurt? Listening is the only way you can really know what is going on in the relationship. And you will have to come up with the questions.

Very often, customers won’t tell you if they are having a problem. One business person once told me, “I’ll know if my customers are unhappy by their fingers and their feet. They will just walk out the door to my competitor. Or, they’ll get on the Internet to find where else to go.” No one can afford to lose a single customer. It is critical to put the mechanisms in place to make sure that your customers don’t go elsewhere to buy.

Try different approaches to learn what you need to know. Depending on your business, formal questionnaires can provide good input. Informal breakfast meetings (where the only agenda item is customer service) often reveal more specific information. Take over occasionally for the sales rep on the account; you’ll learn a lot about what is going on day-to-day. And the simplest technique of all, observe. Watch for reactions (or lack there of) to specific issues. Often a customer will tell you a lot about the relationship by what he/she does rather than what they say.

2. COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY.
You need to tell your customer that you value them. Don’t just assume that they know what you are doing for them. Regular written reports and summaries are easy to provide and extremely effective in keeping the customer informed. Information that may be helpful to them will show customers you care. For example, if you read an article that may be of interest to them, send it with an attached note stating, “Thought this may be of interest to you. John. Let me know if I can be of service to you.”

Find ways to tell your customers more about your company. Keep them informed about new products and services. Send announcements, press clippings, E-mails, newsletters, all with information about what you have accomplished for them and for your other customers. Studies have proven that everyone wants to be with a winner. Some may even feel that your success is also their success. You may even experience that you love receiving positive feedback, and, that they will feel good about where they buy.

We often forget that customers hire or buy because they have a critical need, or, if you have a retail business- a desire to purchase merchandise. Once you have filled that need, their problem is solved and they are happy. You must continue to remind them that you are the one who came through for them. That means continuously staying in touch with them to ensure that they always value you and your service.

But how does one thank a customer? There are the tried and true ways from sending cards and gifts, remembering to include a thank you on invoices and after all transactions or the occasional lunch. These and a simple phone call to say, “Thank you so much for your order. I appreciate it, and hope to do business with you again. If there’s anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to call.” These are examples of words and phrases that have been used over the years to make customers feel special.

Keep this in mind when it comes to gifts: They can get those anywhere. Your customer needs more than gifts from you. First and foremost, you must work hard to develop a strong business relationship with them. Then, everyone in your company must continuously provide outstanding service that exceeds their expectations. There is no better way to show them that you care about them.. In the end, there’s no better way to retain them for years to come.

Below are steps to take to make sure you are providing outstanding customer service.

1. Make sure everyone knows they are “in sales.”
Whether you want to admit it or not, everyone in your organization must recognize they are “in sales.” Your customers are constantly evaluating you, and everyone else in your company or place of business. Therefore, any time they interact with you or your people, it is imperative that you demonstrate care and concern. There is nothing that can turn-off a customer faster than interacting with someone who shows indifference. If the person who answers the phone does not sound ready, willing, and anxious to help customers, they are not portraying a positive image of your company.

Everything you and others say and do has an effect on customer retention. If you don’t say and do the right things you can destroy the reputation of your business as well as your relationship with your customers. Everyone must understand the importance of providing exceptional service, and consistently act as ambassadors who promote good will. They must realize that the customer is the person who creates and sustains their job. Every existing and potential customer should be treated as if they were Stradivarius violins–valuable, and handled with delicacy.

2. Create a written service policy with your staff and adhere to it.
Work together to create “guiding principles” on how you will treat customers. Examples are “We will answer the phone with “XYZ Company, this is Joan, how can I help you?” “We will thank customers each time we end a call.” Whenever we hear the words, “Thank you” we will respond with, “My pleasure. Is there anything more I can do for you?” “If a customer calls with a complaint, we will immediately respond with, “I apologize. Let me fix this immediately.” “We will never keep any customer on hold for more than one minute.”

Create additional words and phrases that display caring and professionalism. Duplicate it, and make sure each person has one on their desk to keep until they are memorized. Keep this in mind–people tend to promote what they help to create. Whether your company has 2 people, 2,000, 20,000 or more, everyone must be involved in providing service excellence. If you involve others, you may find that everyone will tend to promote and adhere to what they have helped to create.

3. Strive to continuously exceed customer expectations.
Write down ways you have exceeded expectations in the past, and new ways you might continue to do so in the future. Often, it simply requires doing just a little extra from you, your people, and your company do so.

4. Set the example for customer service excellence.
Provide service excellence to everyone in your company by treating them with respect. Remember, when a customer calls or walks through your door, your people are a reflection of how they are treated by YOU. Treat each person in your place of business as well and respectful as you would your biggest customer.

5. Develop an obsession for delivering service excellence.
Develop an obsession for delivering your best performance, with every customer, with every interaction, on everyday.

When you adhere to these practices, how you treat customers will make them want to stick with you. For now, the question to ask yourself is, “If I were my customer, would I do business with me?”

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About Christine Corelli

Christine Corelli is a motivational, keynote, business, leadership, sales, and customer service speaker, sales trainer, and author of six business books. As a keynote speaker, she is known for her high energy and interactive speaking style.

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