It’s much less expensive to keep your current customers than to pay for marketing to attract new customers. Here are practical tips on how to treat your best customers like VIPs.
Top reasons customers never return to give you repeat business:
- They have a bad experience
- They don’t feel special, important, valued
- They are not encouraged (reminded) to return or buy again
- They bought on a price off deal and don’t see the value of the full price product/service
From our experience: Customers want to be treated differently than “prospects. Your best customers want to be treated the best. At the most fundamental level, that means recognizing someone as a customer and treating them as if they are known (not a prospect) when they come into your store, restaurant, office, business, web site or trade show booth.
Think of this as the Cheers strategy. Remember the theme song to the TV show Cheers: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came”? Ideally, anyone interacting with customers (sales people, front office staff, billing/accounting, web sites and customer service) would recognize and remember every customer’s name and information. Unfortunately, even in the smallest businesses, most people can’t remember that information for all their clients and customers. Here are some recommendations and tools to help you and everyone in your company recognize your customers and treat them like MVPs.
Is it appropriate to ask if they are already a customer?
Know this: There is a risk asking this. A customer may expect to be recognized and known and may feel offended if they’re not. When you go to the local hair salon, restaurant, book store or CPA office you’ve been going to regularly for years, you expect to be recognized and ideally known by name. Realistically though, it can be hard to know customer names. Most people are bad at names (unless they have an association with an appointment or reservation), employee turnover is high and when someone visits your website, you can’t see who they are.
So, what do you do?
- Train anyone at the front desk, answering the phone or at a trade show booth to ask politely, “What’s your name? Are you a customer?” Have them write that information down and share it with the next person the customer deals with. If you’re a small business with important clients, don’t hire the least expensive receptionist you can find. Hire someone who is great at recognizing voices and remembering names. Pay them more than another secretary. You want them to stay with your company for a very long time and do their magic when your best clients call so those people feel very, very important. A receptionist with excellent judgment on when to interrupt you and when not to, is worth paying extra money.
- Follow the airlines’ lead and create card-carrying members. Airlines have members and MVPs (people who fly the most) for present their to gate agents for the best treatment.
- Create a punch card for “buy ten and get one free” for customers to carry in their wallets and present when they come in.
- There are lots of clever ways to get people to identify themselves as customers and to ask politely if they are a customer.
Are you collecting, saving, maintaining and updating profile and contact information for each of your customers?
The names, contact information and purchase history of customers is one of the most valuable assets a business has. But it’s alarming how many small businesses don’t ask for or maintain this important information. These same businesses spend valuable dollars on mass-market advertising and marketing programs but miss this important step. It’s much less expensive and easier to sell more to existing customers than it is to attract new customers.
It’s important to get a customer’s explicit permission that you can contact them by email, by phone, by mail. This is called opt-in. You want to understand and follow best practices for explaining and protecting customer privacy. Guard the customers’ information as the valuable asset it is to both you and them.
Is a customer’s profile information accessible to everyone who works with and talks to customers?
If customer profile information is accessible to everyone, then that information can be used to improve customers service, billing and sales interactions. It can also be used to appropriately recommend relevant product/services that the person may not have purchased before and/or to remind them to repurchase. There are a number of software products and services available designed just for this.
Are you using the customer’s information, purchase history and preferences to benefit them?
Most customers appreciate relevant recommendations. Through knowing their preferences and past purchase history, you can use this information to send them email, direct mail postcards, catalogs or call them with suggestions. Customers call these relevant recommendations; marketers call this cross-selling, solution selling and upselling.
TIP: Wow Effect!
Here is an example of incredible customer contact management: A local veterinarian sent a personalized card to the owners of a yellow lab after their dog Buddy had surgery at the emergency pet hospital. They learned that one of their patients had been seen by the emergency pet hospital and that triggered their office team to pull out the card with a yellow lab on the cover (relevant dog breed) and get everyone in the office to sign the card. And then mail it so it arrived a day later.
That’s what builds positive word of mouth!