With February 14 approaching, there is no better time to show a little L.O.V.E. in your most important relationships: your customers and clients. Try the 4-step L.O.V.E.
Show a little L.O.V.E. in your most important relationships: your customers and clients. And, because it costs less to keep a customer happy than to acquire a new one, business from existing customers can actually lower your marketing cost and increase both revenue and profit. Try the 4-step L.O.V.E. System that can turn good customers into great ones and great ones into evangelists:
Learn about them, even when you think you know them.
Obsess about response time, even when they aren’t in a hurry.
Visit (or Virtually Visit) in unexpected ways.
Educate them even when you think they know you.
Learn, Even When You Think You Know Them
The best way to serve your customers is to get to know them. Learn what they’re buying, their frequency of purchase, personal information, and feedback on how you’re doing. Knowledge of your customer can be acquired through a variety of methods.
- Listen. Almost everything a customer says or asks about your product, service or business is helpful, even if it sometimes hurts. They’re making suggestions or asking questions for a reason. Think about what the reason is, and dig deeper. There’s gold in those conversations.
- Ask. Even if customers don’t volunteer, you can get them to express themselves through surveys or informal questions. Everyone likes to be asked their opinion. “What do you think about…” is always a good place to start. A more formal way is through surveys that allow you to ask specific questions, in either in writing or in person. For example, warranty forms that come with products can include a variety of information to activate your warranty. If you provide a service, sending a written “customer satisfaction survey” can provide the way for customers to give you feedback on your service, and qualify themselves for future services. The sales effect of surveys can be quite extraordinary. A recent study conducted jointly at Rice University and New York University confirmed the amazing impact of surveys on customers buying behavior: customers were three times as likely to buy something else and half as likely to defect.
- Document. Learning isn’t just about listening or asking. To act, you need to see the pattern. Memory is fleeting and patterns are hard to discern without keeping records. What are people buying and who’s buying what? What are the most frequently asked questions, comments or complaints. Where else are people shopping? One of the great things about the Internet is the ability to automatically track responses to emails, promotions and blogs. But to learn from data, you need to check those analytics and make changes to reflect the data.
Obsess About Response Time
The single biggest reason for customer dissatisfaction isn’t high prices. It’s not even bad quality. It’s slow response time. The easiest and best way to say you care is to respond promptly. Very promptly. Obsessively. That means returning phone calls immediately, or at least the same day. It means getting quotations to a client a day early. And doing what you say. Fast. There are several reasons why obsessing over turnaround is important:
- Perception of Competence. A lawyer I know has a policy. He tells his clients that when they call, either he or his assistant will return any call within 3 hours. The effect: the focus groups we’ve had with his clients say he’s the best lawyer they’ve ever dealt with. The truth is, he admits, he’s actually not that great a lawyer. He just returns calls fast. When your fast, customer believe in you more.
- More Flexibility. Although you might think that taking your time conveys that you’re doing a great job, beyond a certain point it just artificially raises expectations, which means either you’re more likely to disappoint or just have to work harder to meet the higher expectation. Although it’s never good to deliver goods or services that are substandard, delivering quickly can actually give you more time to iterate, and keeps a project moving forward.
- Role Modeling. In addition to the impression you’re making when you obsess about response time, there’s also the example you’re setting. If you’re slow, it’s more likely that your customer will drag their feet too. Customers are not only appreciative of speed, their own behavior is influenced by it. If you drag your feet, they’ll drag theirs, when it comes time to reorder, pay your bills or recommend you to others.
Visit (Including Virtually), In Unexpected Ways
Customers often don’t complain. They just fade away because they feel neglected. Customers need to be nurtured so visiting, either face-to-face, if possible, or in one of many virtual ways, can keep a channels open. Here are some ways:
- Face-to-face is best, over breakfast, lunch, golf or coffee if you can. But if you’re a retailer where the customer usually comes to you or it’s just impractical to do a house call, there are lots of virtual ways to stay in touch. And virtual doesn’t just mean ‘digital.’ For example:
- Notes. A handwritten note clipped to an article you’ve read, a birthday card, thank you card or congratulations. One of my favorite things is taking a photo with my iphone and then sending a print of the photo with a note. Or, how about a…
- A Phone Call. Interestingly, because it’s hard to get people on the phone, calling has become a quite underutilized Virtual Visit—email has become the communication vehicle of choice. But, don’t let voicemail stop you. Just like visiting a neighbor, it’s OK if they’re not home. If you knock on the door and if your neighbor’s not home—you leave a note. If you call and your customer’s not available, leave a ‘just checking in’ voicemail.
Educate Even When They Know About What You Do
Ongoing communication with clients goes hand-in-hand with real or virtual visits and helps give customers a better sense of your capabilities and knowledge. A newsletter, outbound email, or occasional postcard about an issue or problem that is relevant to your customers needs, can give them a sense, over time, of your knowledge and additional products and services. Here are some other ways to educate:
- Seminars (real or virtual). A more formal way to create an educated customer is through seminars, either live or via webinar. Having regular “updates” or inviting clients to presentations that you might be making at a conference or meeting, lets them know about your expertise and offerings. Even if they don’t attend, you can offer to send them the outline of the presentation and the materials you distributed, or they can download at their convenience.
- In the Know. And, it doesn’t always have to be about your products and services. A friend of mine prides himself on knowing the best restaurants in town. When he finds a good one, he tells others. It’s not just a matter of letting people know about a good place. It’s a matter of “being in the know.” His knowledge of new restaurants helps create the perception that he knows what others do not. People like to be “insiders,” with information that others don’t have. When you can encourage the sense that the customer is part of a “special group” with first-hand experience with a product or service, there is a good chance that you can turn that customer into an evangelist. Customer evangelism is the process of creating customers who proactively refers business either through word of mouth or identification of new prospects. They continue to make their own contribution to revenue, by using your product or service. But, in addition, they exert energy on your behalf to generate new business.
So, try some L.O.V.E. with your customers and have a Happy Valentine’s Day.
For more tailored solutions to help your business grow, call Aaron Metosky 412-913-5315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.