There is a very old adage that says “it is 10 times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to maintain an existing one.” Not only do I believe this to be very true, I believe it to be even more true today. With the condition of our economy, our good customers are exhibiting behavior today that I have rarely seen in the past.
When times are good, most of us will happily continue along with the vendors who we have traditionally done business with and who have generally met our expectations. But times have changed and many folks are now deciding that perhaps a little investigation of the alternatives available may be prudent. Do I really need “best” when “good” or “better” will do? Having worked in construction related industries, I can tell you that right now it seems that everything is on sale. It’s a great time to buy and most people know that.
At our meetings this past week I asked our members to share their best tips for maintaining those valuable existing customers and here are some of the suggestions that they had to make. You’ve probably heard many of these before but when was the last time you used them? I would not be surprised to find that many of us, the business climate having been outstanding until the past few years, have become complacent in these areas….
- Over-communicate – Keep your customer up-to-date on all aspects of your relationship and do so when they least expect it. I personally like to CC clients on all business communications that involve their account.
- Communicate with clients about non-business subjects. This is part of relationship building.
- Break out the expense account. Entertaining good customers is back. This is also part of relationship building and a great way to say thank you!
- Show them that you really care by way of personal hand written notes, little trinkets that you drop by their office, and reminders of how important they are to you and your company.
- Get yourself a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program to help you keep track of important dates relating to your clients which would include both personal and business related milestones.
- Provide more service than you expect in compensation and do that consistently.
- Always tell the truth. It’s not as painful as it appears (smile). Be honest and upfront.
- Put yourself in the customer service mood by compiling and reviewing (often) your own personal gratitude list. Times may be tough but we all have things to be grateful for.
- Always stay two sales ahead of your client. This is to say that you have a path, a strategy, of where you both will be going next in your business relationship and both of you are aware of these plans.
- Under-promise but over-deliver.
- Be in contact with your client when they are not expecting you.
- Conduct customer surveys. Get a gauge of how they perceive your company and the service they have received and seek input from them on how you can service them better.
- Help customers in ways not related to their business. An example of this would be to connect them with another vendor for another need who can provide them with excellent service. You are now part of their trusted team.
- Track account statuses such as lease renewals and opportunities for them to save and be proactive in your communication to them regarding these time lines.
- Educate your client and provide them with options even if these options sometimes do not include your services or may include a reduction of your services.
- Visit each of your good clients monthly. Actually, consider a “ABC” plan where clients are classified as either “A” , “B”. or “C” and each has its own contact schedule according to the specific client’s value to your company. Think of the 80/20 Rule and allocate your resources accordingly.
- Always take care of the little things, AKA .. .the problems.
- Build and maintain trust.
- Make your clients feel important. One of the ways to do this is to let them know that company management/ownership is involved with their account and their projects.
- Treat your employees like you treat your customers. Happy employees are great ambassadors for your company. Disgruntled employees continue to be ambassadors but not with quite the same message.
- Be proactive with your clients in all areas.
- Concentrate on the ways that you can help to remove their pain.
- Be involved with your customer’s pet projects particularly those that are not work related.
- If appropriate, help them to build an accrual account toward future purchases.
I promised you 25 tips and here is the last one. Talking about all of this means nothing if you do not put it into action. And, if you are going to put it into action you must have a plan and a process in place that ensures that your efforts will be duplicated consistently. On March 12, the Boise Chamber of Commerce is hosting a workshop entitled “Teach Your Clients To Sell Your Business & Watch Your Business Grow”. This event is being held from 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM and is being facilitated by Thomas Gay of The Alternative Board who also happens to be a NetWorks! Boise Member. At the workshop, Tom will be discussing what he calls the “22 Touch System”. Click on the event title to reserve your space.
Ultimately, retaining good customers is a function of the continuous building of both trust and your relationship. When a client is feeling neglected, they are going to look for someone else to show them some love. As another old saying goes .. “Why would I look at hamburger when I already have steak at home?” Become ……. their ribeye (smile).
Thanks for visiting!
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