Customers - Your Business Everest
We’ve discussed the importance of romancing employees long after the interview and offer stage. It’s not just about enticing them to join the company but keeping them long term so that they become valuable assets and your best brand ambassadors. Equally important is romancing the customer. In an increasingly competitive world, it’s not enough just to entice the customer, you need to find ways to keep them beyond the initial sign up and ‘special offer’ stage.
I was discussing this with my CEO, Andre Durand recently. Signing up a new client is important, vital for business growth, but then you need to find ways to retain them. Let’s face it, signing up new clients whilst losing existing customers is not good for business. In order to grow and be successful, you need to retain clients whilst romancing new ones.
As much effort needs to go into this as retaining employees and signing up new clients. There is another constant, your clients will always be wooed by your competitors and whilst there can be no guarantee that they will sign up with you again when it comes to renewal, you can give yourselves the best possible chances by realising their importance as part of an ongoing process. So, how can we do that?
Customers are our ‘Everest’
Think of clients as your constant Everest, your constant climb, something you need to strive for constantly. Reaching base camp is not enough, you need to constantly stive to offer more, to surprise and to delight. Think about what happens beyond base camp, face challenges head on, weather the inevitable storms but never lose sight of what is important.
You need to think constantly about client retention, how can you add value, improve your service, are you aware of the problems they may be facing and are you innovating your product, are you looking for solutions that will help them and ultimately create customer and brand loyalty?
You should be thinking about your customers both in the immediate and in the long term. How can you ensure that it is a relationship for life?
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Surprise & Delight
I’ve been with Aviva Life Insurance for sixteen years and to be honest, I hadn’t considered changing. It was a constant, something I didn’t really think about if I’m honest. Then last year I received a letter from them, they had reduced my premium which in itself was a pleasant surprise, but in addition they sent me a rebate to thank me for my continued loyalty. Needless to say, I was delighted. To be honest, I hadn’t considered leaving Aviva prior to that but I definitely won’t now, not only that, but I’ve become a brand ambassador for them, having shared this story with several of my friends and colleagues and now you.
In an ideal business world, you don’t want to have customers complain before they are noticed but realistically this does happen. How then can you best deal with negative customer feedback? Disney are a great example of how to deal with complaints as quickly and efficiently as possible, thereby having the highest possible chance of retaining the customer? How have they done this?
They have empowered their staff at a lower level, so they have the ability to deal with issues and respond and fix issues immediately thereby delighting customers without it disappearing up the chain of command which is so often a lengthy and frustrating process, leading to more negativity and customers not feeling romanced or appreciated and therefore more likely to look elsewhere.
This is a mistake often made in organisations. The people on the ground dealing with the complaints aren’t the people who have the authority to do anything about them. Disney have turned this on its head and it’s working for them. A side product of empowering the employee in this way is that you are also delighting them, giving them heightened job satisfaction and a better working environment, able to delight the customers themselves leading to a positive experience rather than having to walk away from a still disgruntled customer with a promise that ‘someone will get back to them.’
Be Flexible – For Mutual Gain
A web development company a friend deals with recently surveyed a selection of their customers to see what they could do better, asking their potential and existing customers directly. The feedback? A monthly payment option instead of 50% upfront and 50% on delivery, helping their customers, many of which are start-ups with cash flow concerns. They have improved their orders by 30%.
Customers are for Life, Not Just for Christmas
Customer service is a constant, but it can’t remain constant, you need to constantly think about what you can do better, what can you do differently, how you can innovate and what problems you are solving for your client. You shouldn’t wait for people to complain before jumping to attention.
Customer service has to be for life.
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