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10 Customer Service Tips To Build Loyal Customers

Oct 10, 2007
It costs about 3 times more to find a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. But what does that mean? For most businesses, your best investment can and should be in keeping your existing customers happy, rather than always chasing new customers.

Many businesses I work with have functioning client acquisition strategies, but have nothing put in place to keep their existing customers satisfied. Here are 10 tips to build loyal customers (and most cost nothing to put in place).

1. Say thank you. Customers have chosen to invest time and money with you. Being grateful for their investment and saying thank you is one of the simplest and easiest ways to build customer relations. This can range from a simple verbal thank you, to a handwritten note on an invoice or a postcard, through to a bunch of flowers or corporate gift. Whatever you choose to do to say thank you - do it from the heart and think about what you are doing.

2. Learn names. The most magical word a person can hear is their own name. Learn the names of your clients and use them in conversation.

3. Under promise and over deliver. Many businesses get caught in the bind of promising too much to try and attract a customer and then not being able to deliver on their promises. This leaves the customer feeling less than happy with your service. Life gets in the middle of things at times, so it is better to factor this into your business up front. If a job is scheduled to take 3 days, allow for 4 just in case. Give that little bit of extra service.

4. Little things mean a lot. With your customers, little gestures and touches make a difference. If you are delivering a piece of furniture - wipe it over for the customer when you deliver it into their home. When visiting a client and the garbage bin people have just been, wheel the bin in for them. Always leave a property/vehicle cleaner than you found it. If your business has kids as clients, put stickers or colourful stamps on your mail. It is the little touches that make the difference.

5. Keep in touch. If you only contact your customers once a year (and that contact is an invoice), expect little customer loyalty in return. Find ways to keep in touch with your customers. Your "A" clients - the ones you love to work with, pay on time and generate the most income, should hear from you at a minimum every 1-2 months.

Again it doesn't have to be big - an email hoping things are going well for them, a quick phone call, a bag of biscuits dropped in while you were passing or a copy of a newspaper clipping they may be interested in all do the job. All customers should hear from you regularly. Find a way to automate things as much as possible for you - a newsletter or an autoresponder email can make your life easier, while still reminding people that you are thinking of them.

6. Remember significant events. If your client is getting married, having a birthday or other special event, or are celebrating a holiday such as Christmas - all of these are opportunities to drop a line to say "thinking of you".

Some businesses I know have a concertina file for each month of the year. At the start of the year they buy a stack of birthday cards and fill them in, wishing their client a happy birthday. Where the stamp goes they pencil in the date of the birthday. They fill in the name of client, but leave the address blank to check just before it is mailed. At the start of each month they simply pull out all the cards for the month, check the addresses and then post out the cards.

7. Solve problems first time. Complaints are an opportunity to show how can you respond and fix problems. In my experience complaints only ever go bad if the person is ignored, not listened to, not treated with respect or palmed off.

With any complaints, listen carefully without interruptions. Work out whether or not losing a customer is worth you being right if you feel the customer is in the wrong. Solve the problem or review your procedures so the problem does not recur. Tell the customer what you will do/have done and most importantly - apologise (and mean it).

8. Communicate. Lots of problems come from businesses that don't communicate with their customers. If your delivery is delayed - contact your client and tell them. If you are going to be early - contact the client and tell them. Keep your customers informed of progress and any problems that may be occurring.

9. Respond to emails, faxes and calls. If a customer contacts you, aim to respond within 24 hours. Even just a quick email to acknowledge their contact is better than deathly silence.

10. Smile and be friendly. Genuinely caring about your customers and their well being shines through. You can teach skills - you can't teach attitude as easily. Always look for the happy employee who genuinely cares about your customers and their needs. They will become your greatest asset your company has.
About the Author
Ingrid Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter, Business Development and Human Resources Consultant to Small and Medium Businesses. Ingrid has just published Instant HR Policies and Procedures for Small and Medium Businesses www.heartharmony.com.au
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