By Dana Borowka
“If you want to know how to retain customers, you need to step outside your own processes and consider what it is like from the customer’s perspective”, says Deb Brown, author of the upcoming book, Lifelong Loyal Clients.
Brown notes that a mere 5 percent increase in retention will increase profits anywhere from 25 percent to 95 percent, according to a Harvard Business School study (Reichheld and Schefter. “The Economics of E-Loyalty.” HBS Working Knowledge. July 10, 2000).
Clearly customer service has a bigger impact on the bottom line than acquiring new customers. Bain & Company (a leader in global business consulting) reports that repeat customers spend more with a company— up to 67 percent more in months thirty-one to thirty-six than months zero to six.
“Taking care of existing customers is a faster path to cash than pursuing new customers,” says Brown. “Long-term customers spend more and refer more. Knowing this, smart business owners focus on retaining customers.”
Brown runs a company called Touch Your Client’s Heart. She works with business owners who want to build better relationships and never let an important contact slip through the cracks.
In her book she also notes a study done by customer experience consulting firm, Walker, which predicted that by the year 2020, customer experience will be more important than price or product to customers.
“The experience the customer has determines their loyalty and retention,” says Brown. “Customer retention makes a huge impact on your bottom line.”
“Customer service is often seen by customers as the place to go when things go wrong,” says Mike Wittenstein, an international customer service expert. “Designing service as an experience is how you can get things to go right in the first place.”
Wittenstein is the founder of StoryMiners, one of the world’s first customer experience design consultancies. Based in Atlanta, he is an accomplished consultant, designer, and speaker who works globally in four languages.
“Too many companies design their business around their expectations of a perfect customer’s needs,” says Wittenstein. “The problem is that most customers aren’t perfect. Most walk in expecting a business to fit the way they want to work.”
A big opportunity for customer service across most industries is to not only respond to customer requests when they ask—but to anticipate their needs earlier. Sensing what customers will need sooner means you can make them happier—and do it at lower cost to the business and with a lift for the brand.
“If you’re not supporting the customer or supporting those who do, what is the value of your job anyway?” says Wittenstein. “That’s a Home Depot adage. It applies to everyone. Customer service works best when it’s brought into the heart of operations. It is truly everyone’s job.”
Onboarding Customers is Job One
“Often, businesses focus on prospects,” says Brown. “They give attention, nurturing, and lots of touches to bring prospects though the sales process. Sometimes, when they come to the end of the sales process and make the sale, business owners breathe a sigh of relief and then stop paying attention.”
Brown says onboarding is where you can change the way you do business and make a big impact on your customers. Customers, at that time, may be feeling a little bit apprehensive about the investment they just made. They may be feeling excited about starting to work with your business, but if you stop the communication, the excitement wanes and they may be a little unsure about what comes next.
“Having a formal intake process can not only assure you have vital information like contact details and billing information, but also be a great way to start getting to know your customers.,” says Brown.
As you interact with your customers, continue to pay attention to details about them and about their lives. It’s those personal details that help you get to know them better and deepen your relationship with them. What are their hobbies, their families? Do they have kids, grandkids, or a significant other? Are there things going on in their extended families? Do they have parents they are caring for? All of these little details are very important to them, and when you pay attention to those details, you find out what matters most to your customers.
“Touching your customers’ hearts and really wowing them is the best way I know to build loyalty to your business,” says Brown.
According to Brown, there are several things you should know about your customers so that you can wow them in a personal way.
• All Contact Info. We live in a virtual world and sometimes never meet face to face with customers. Other times, customers come to our place of business. It’s easy to think that the only information you need is a phone number and email address. Take the time to also get their mailing address.
• Who Do They Care About Deeply? Most people have someone who is important to them, be it a significant other, children, parents, siblings, pets, or a close group of friends. They probably sacrifice for them and spend most of their free time with them.
• What Are They Passionate About? Are there hobbies, activities, causes or organizations they spend their time with? Knowing what is important to them and what brings them joy helps you know them better as individuals.
• How Do They Indulge Themselves? For some people, a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee is the thing that makes them happy. Others enjoy going to the theater or reading a book. Knowing what your customers would do to treat themselves allows you to customize how you reward them.
We’re Sorry, So Sorry
Sometimes, you make one mistake and you can apologize and move on. Once in a while, however, you may feel the need to do a little more. It may be that you have dropped the ball more than once. If you need to apologize in a bigger way, it might be a good time to send an “I’m sorry” gift.
“It isn’t necessary to send a gift every time you make a mistake,” says Brown. “Often a simple apology in person or over the phone is enough to fix what went wrong. An email or personal note in the mail can add to your sincerity. Don’t overdo it. Once the other party has forgiven you, it is time to move on and let it go.”
An “I’m sorry” gift doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot; it depends on how big the mistake was.
“The act of going the extra mile and sending something out to say you are sincerely sorry can do a lot to repair the trust you have broken,” says Brown. “You are showing your customer that you acknowledge whatever you’ve done to mess up his or her day or to take up his or her time. You understand the value of time and you’re willing to pay for it.”
When you take the time and effort to apologize with a gift, it goes a long way in repairing a situation. You are able to reestablish trust and that person is willing to try again with you. Hopefully you’ve learned your lesson and you won’t make the same mistake again.
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Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.
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