Our customers are our business’ bloodline. Without them, our product or service, no matter how excellent, will just collect dust in the shelves, our start-up business will never see the light of day, and our business goals will never be met. Customers can be classified into four major types:
- New customers – first time customers who are convinced enough to try out our product or service
- Repeat customers – customers who are happy with their first experience with us, enough for them to want to come back for more
- Potential customers – the ones we believe are right customers for our product or service, the ones we are “courting” or working on to at least try us
- Problem customers – customers who have already tried us out, used our product, possibly more than once, but have issues with the product or service.
Whatever classification our customer belongs to, it is important to keep in mind that they are individuals with different desires and concerns. Only when we are able to successfully satisfy their desires, can we then look at relationships with them as something that we can build and nurture to become lasting.
FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
1. Create an atmosphere of open communication – like any relationship, an open line of communication is important for it to grow and turn into solid ones. With new customers it’s important to know what they’re thinking or how they feel about our service. Ask if they need help with anything, if they have a question, or how they feel about your product. And when they do talk, make sure to listen intently, and let them know that you’ll do something about it. Sometimes, customers tend to keep their comments to themselves because they think nothing will happen out of it anyway. Show them you’re listening and assure them that their comments will reach the right people.
2. Solicit their feedback – Most of the time, it’s hard to get the customers to open up and talk. Either they’re too busy or they think it’s just a waste of time. If your customers have that attitude, be proactive, make it a point to ask! Only a few customers will willingly pick up a customer feedback form and take time to sit down and write their comments. One thing you can do is to personally go around, chat with them, and ask. You’ll be surprised at what they have to say, may it be both pleasant or otherwise. These feedback, either positive or negative, are a wealth of information you can use to improve and better your services.
FOR REPEAT CUSTOMERS
3. Learn more about your customers – Once you have a repeat customer, it’s time to profile them and get to know them more. They are the ones you can build your database on with basic information that you can use to serve them better: birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions. When you chat with them, make a mental file of their likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests. Make sure you record in your customer database so you won’t forget. A classic example would be starbucks service – once the frontliner sees a “regular” come in, he would ask if its “the usual caramel macchiato, grande, hot”. This simple act delights the customer. There is nothing more pleasing to the customer than to know that his server knows what he likes and how he wants it.
4. Appreciate your customers – Say “thank you!” Most of the time, businesses forget these two simple words that make a difference to the customers. You can show appreciation in a lot of ways – an added discount, an additional item on top of what she bought, a promise to inform her of the next scheduled sale or promo. This way, you also bring a message across to the customer that your relationship with her is different from the rest.
5. Give surprise incentives – Nothing delights customers more than an unexpected surprise! This is another way of showing appreciation to them, when they get something without you expecting anything in return, only that they’ll keep coming back to you. Surprise incentives can be in the form of a reduced rate, or accumulated points for her next purchase.
6. Watch your customer, not your bottomline – There are cases when a repeat customer, simply because he thinks he has given you a lot of business already, will try and ask for a special rate or additional discount. Weigh your customer’s importance versus the “loss” that saying yes to his request will result to. If the loss is immaterial to your business’ survival, saying “yes” to the request this time can be a more valuable investment. Giving importance to your customer can lead to more business in the future, and ultimately, nurture your relationship further.
FOR POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS
7. Market to your customer base – Don’t waste time shooting blind. Work on the right targets to begin with. Develop your customer base in a sense that you can classify them and design individual strategies and objectives for them. Once you have classified your customers (high potential, low potential, etc), you can tailor-fit specific tactics (trial, usage, repeat usage, loyalty). This way, you can better plan and develop relationships with them depending on the current relationship level you’re in.
8. Make it easy for your customers – Keep it short and simple! Nothing turns off or discourages a potential customer more than having to go through so many steps just so he can purchase your product or avail of your service. If it’s too complicated, chances are, they’ll go elsewhere. Make purchasing your product be a fast and simple, no-fuss experience for them and you’ll definitely get new ones and repeat purchase as well.
FOR PROBLEMATIC CUSTOMERS
9. Deliver what you’re saying you’re going to do – When faced with an angry or irate customer; try to get to the bottom of the real issue. What is he angry about? What is the complain? What does he want to happen from here? What does he expect you to do? Once you have the answers to these, evaluate if you can reasonable give what he wants. If yes, commit to him and make sure to deliver. Nothing infuriates an angry customer more than being promised a solution and not getting it satisfactorily. Make sure you know his expectations, promise only what you can, and deliver as promised. In many cases, an angry customer who has been satisfied with a resolution becomes a loyal customer.
10. Go beyond the usual – A customer complaint should be viewed as an opportunity to solidify relationship. Why? No matter how angry the customer is, the fact remains that 1) he was convinced enough to use your product, it’s just that there was something about it that made him unhappy, and 2) he wants to use it so much that he went to you to correct it, instead of just throwing it away and buying something else. The key here is to work on the problem and give a satisfactory solution. Even if it means going the distance, bending the line, or personally delivering it yourself. This way, the customer is assured that everything, I can keep going back to these people because in the event of any problem, they’ll fix it to my satisfaction.
FOR ALL KINDS OF CUSTOMERS
11. Expect the best – Look at each customer as someone you can build and nurture a long lasting relationship with. Don’t immediately profile them as one-time buyers or users, always expect them to come back for more. That way, your dealings with them, how you talk to them and how you relate to them will always be a forward-looking attitude that will make them feel “yes, I can definitely keep working with these people”.
12. Make customers want to stick around – Ultimately, it’s the attitude you project that will dictate if your relationship with the customer is one that will be lasting. Always keep your products and services up-to-date, always have something new for them to look forward to. Invigorate your product line, add twists to old services. Like in any relationship, it’s always the something new that spices up the interaction and makes people want to stay.