By: John Jantsch
Getting a customer is hard work. Keeping them, or more importantly turning them into repeat and refer customers, requires an equal amount of strategic thinking and tactical action, but it’s where the real business building momentum is generated.
It’s important that you understand what makes a customer logically and emotionally thrilled and then build processes that deliver at every turn.
There are many ways to screw this up and here are five that I’ve witnessed repeatedly.
1) Assume expectations aren’t the most important metric
Setting and then meeting expectations is about 90% of the secret to success. Where business owners get in trouble here is overpromising or improperly conveying realistic expectations.
It’s amazing how deadly making and then breaking a promise can be to a relationship. I remember working with a customer once who said they needed something by Friday. Feeling confident, I said no problem and, in fact, “you’ll have it by Wednesday.” As it happened, it was delayed until Thursday. I thought the customer would be fine because, after all, we still delivered a day earlier than needed. Turned out I was wrong. I set the expectation for early delivery and now I had failed. That was the end of it.
Turn away business you can’t deliver before ruining your reputation and always spell out exactly what’s expected of all parties in any engagement.
2) Assume they will tell you when something’s not right
Some people love to point out mistakes, but most people would rather not. Most unhappy customers will walk away silently if they don’t get the experience they expected or simply don’t understand something about doing business with you.
It’s essential that you create opportunities for feedback and encourage customers to reveal anything they think is a flaw. Making it safe and easy to ask for help is one way to save customer relationships that would have otherwise faded away.
3) Assume they received the value you promised and delivered
You took the order, marched out and installed the shiny new system, got their approval and received the check two weeks later – mission accomplished, right?
Well, maybe not.
Another great way to lose customers is to assume that, even though you did a flawless job with the engagement, they are realizing the full promise of what they purchased.
One way to check this leak is to install some sort of post sale process that forces you to reengage and assess the customer’s satisfaction level. This is a great way to reinforce the value you delivered and find out if they need something extra to make sure all is well.
Of course, this is a perfect time to ask for referrals and testimonial as well.
4) Assume finance and delivery aren’t marketing departments
Every time you or Hank in finance comes into contact with a customer a marketing function is being performed.
No matter what the job function says, everyone is in the marketing department and everyone can win or lose customers in that capacity.
Finance has a job to do, delivery has a job to do, manufacturing has a job to do, and HR has a job to do, but you must at least acknowledge at the highest level how you can make the completion of those tasks representative of the brand promise as a whole.
5) Assume they will call you when they need something else
“Gee, I wonder what ever happened to Fred Smith, he used to call this time of year like clockwork.” – Well, Fred is down at your biggest competitor’s customer appreciation luncheon.
Out of site, out of mind applies to marketing too. If you’re not communicating with your customers, adding value to the relationship in some manner, at least monthly you stand a pretty good chance of losing them to someone who seems to want their business more than you.
It’s not hard to plan monthly communication, even if it’s a phone call or hand written note.
When I first started my business I made a habit of calling past clients on Friday afternoons. I was always amazed at how often they told me they needed something and could I come over next week.
Look, as hard as you work to land a customer, why not help them stick around so you can both enjoy the fruits of your labor.