Customer Care =
By George Hedley
Every holiday season companies send out hundreds of greetings
cards and small gifts of appreciation to their customers. Last year,
a management company received one bottle of champagne, two baseball
caps, three large fruit and cheese baskets, four wall calendars,
five logo shirts, six boxes of chocolates, seven tins of popcorn,
eight cans of nuts, nine plates of cookies, ten bottles of wine, and
187 greeting cards from their suppliers and contractors. These were
warm, delightful gestures, but was it worth the effort?
Customers want to
know you care!
Chances are, your
company received a similar number of gifts this past holiday season,
but did any of them really matter to you? Were they unique, special,
or personalized? Three weeks later, can you honestly remember who
gave you what? The number one reason customers stop doing business
with a company is an attitude of indifference. They don’t think you
care about them as a valued customer or as a person. They feel like
you treat them the same as every other customer. You market and
sell, get customers to buy your product or service, do quality work,
send an invoice, and then never call again. In a challenging economy
like the current one, this ‘business as usual’ kind of practice can
mean the death of an organization.
What do you do for your customers to show you care and
appreciate their business on an ongoing personalized basis? How do
you stay in touch? What do you do to help their business be
successful on a regular basis? In this competitive marketplace,
you’ve got to set yourself apart and do more than your competition.
Impersonal holiday cards or standardized annual customer gifts are a
waste of time and money if that is all you do to build loyal
Customers want to know you care about them, their business,
their challenges, and them as individuals. Building trusted
relationships, like with friends, takes time and constant contact.
With spouses, friends, or clients, once a year is not enough to keep
things alive. The best way to develop loyal customer relationships
is “face-to-face” time with them. These are relationship-building
sessions. To stay best friends or keep customers loyal, you must
spend quality time together on an ongoing, consistent basis. Most
small service businesses have between 12 to 24 loyal customers who
make up the majority of their profitable sales. As your important
customer list is relatively small, it doesn’t take a lot of time to
keep in touch and build lasting relationships with top customers on
a regular basis.
Take care of your “Top 24”
Make a chart of
your top 24 customers. Keep track of the meetings, contacts and
relationship-building sessions you have with them. In order to
maintain and keep these relationships, make a commitment to have two
customer care meetings every week. This plan will insure you see
each of your “Top 24” at least every three months. These settings
must be face-to-face. They should include breakfast or lunch,
ballgames, dinner meetings at your local industry association,
golfing, fishing, hunting, or just after work refreshments. Get
together in a fun setting where you can really get to know each
other, let your hair down, and have some fun mixing business and
pleasure. And remember, business meetings, negotiating contracts,
arguing over price increases, taking orders, or transactional phone
calls don’t qualify as relationship-building settings.
One-on-one time will allow you to discuss what really matters
to your customers: their likes, dislikes, family, friends, and
future. Find out how you can do more, provide better service, or
improve quality for them. Build trust and confidence. Laugh, learn
and grow closer. Give them advice on how to grow their business,
improve productivity, do a better job, or make more money. The key
is to show them you care about their future success in every way you
Make it a habit to thank clients on a regular and
unexpected basis. Send out one hand-written thank-you note or card
every day to a valued or potential customer. Tell them you
appreciate the opportunity to do business with them or thank them
for letting your company be on their team. Occasionally send out
small gifts of appreciation as well. The key is to do it. It only
takes a minute. These notes, cards and gifts work like "one-a-day"
vitamins. They keep your bottom line healthy. Your notes need only
be one or two lines long as short notes make big statements. Always
handwrite them – including the envelope. Look for top quality,
different, interesting, fun, or motivational cards to send. The more
unique, the better.
Make it Personal:
see a good business article or book on an area your customers are
working on, send them a copy to show you care about their future. If
you know they like golf, get them a picture book on the world’s best
golf courses. If they like to fish, get them the latest lure that
will catch the most fish. If their spouse likes fine wine, get them
a bottle of the best wine you have ever tasted. If their son plays
little league baseball, get him a ball cap from his favorite team.
Get the point? Make it personal.
Time is money.
Meaningful time and constant contact with customers is BIG money.
Remember, doing a good job, quality workmanship, proposals, faxes,
emails, job meetings, correspondence, and phone calls don’t count
compared to having consistent meaningful relationship-building
sessions and constant contact. Make it a priority to invest in your
future by investing time in your customers. Customer care in a
consistent special way will return big cash and create loyal
customers who only want to do business with you.
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