Dec 10, 2012

Customer acquisition is one thing that eats up the budget of most small businesses. However, many of them do NOT pay close attention to building a loyal customer base. What these business owners do NOT recognize is that repeat customers spend about 33% more than first-time buyers on average. Furthermore, loyal customers become brand evangelists who go about telling everyone who cares to listen about your products or services — Wouldn’t you rather have such a customer base? Here are things you can do to achieve this…

1. Always Give More Than They Expect

Every business is driven by a desire to profit. However, some make it so obvious by cutting every corner that they can legally. You can differentiate your business by pretending you are NOT interested in maximizing profits.

Give your customers much more than they expect. Yes, it might eat a little in your profit margin but it won’t go unnoticed by your customers. Some might NOT tell you, but they’ll tell others and they’ll keep coming back to you for more.

Do you deliver services? Try to give a little more than they expect. Do you sell products? Throw in something extra from time to time. Make sure they get delivery of their orders a little earlier than they expected. Think of something that is much more than your competition would dare to do. Do it for them and you are on the right path to building a loyal customer base (or do I call it fan base?).

2. Turn Lemons To Lemonade

Take advantage of every bad situation. Studies have shown that you have a window of opportunity to turn an unhappy customer to a raving fan. Let us assume you just got a call from one of your customers about how they are having issues with your product…

a. Do your best to resolve the matter without compelling them to make another call. If it is such that can’t be resolved on the first call, tell them when you’ll call back and make sure you do.

b. Even if you were able to resolve the matter at the first call, call them again just to check on them and ensure everything is running smoothly. This will show them that you really care about them and are NOT just interested in their money.

c. Can you offer them something extra just to say “we are sorry” for the inconvenience they’ve had to put up with? Try this and you’ll have a customer who goes about using your business as an object lesson of what customer support should be.

3. Make Them Feel Special

Don’t we all gravitate towards people who make us feel special? Your customers are NOT different in any way. Show them they are special by giving them special privileges. Can you give them a unique coupon that entitles them to a special offer? Can you give them another that extend such privileges to a limited number of people they choose?

Do you know their birthdays? Do you know a few things about their families? If the business you do allows you to get such information about them, then it makes sense to use it to your advantage…

How would you feel if your get a handcrafted birthday card from a company you did business with a year ago? I guess it will awaken the better emotions in you. And believe it or NOT, unless their products are totally useless (and you don’t have any need for them), they’ll be given top consideration. After all, it takes special people to take note of other special people.

4. Make Sure You Keep In touch

Just call to ask how the product they bought three months ago is performing. Just call to find out how their business has grown due to their interaction with your business. Just call to follow up and find out if they are really happy with the services you rendered.

Call immediately after they make a purchase. Let them know you are there for them (And, please, make sure you are really there for them). This will take up some of your resources but it would be well-worth it.

5. Align Your Business To Be Customer Focused

Make sure you set your business up in such as way that anyone that is contacted can offer some form of support to the inquirer. Make sure you empower your employees to take proactive actions. Does a product need replacement? Make sure it is done with minimum fuss. Yes, you may lose a bit, but it is usually far less than the damage you’ll do to your business if you keep the angry customer waiting.

Along these lines, make sure your employees are trained to deal effectively with customer-related issues. There are few things that can repel customers from a business more than having to be sent from pillar to post just to resolve a minor issue.

Lastly, make sure your customers know that they can get to you, the owner, to report any issues. You may need to delegate matters to competent executives as your business grows. However, the point is that they (your customers) must be able to speak with someone who can wipe all their tears away.

6. Could You Just Pay Attention, Please?

You will get to learn a lot about your customers if you only pay close attention to them. You own the business, quite alright, but it’s NOT about you. It’s about them. All you may have to do is get accounts with the different social networks where your customers hang out. Assign an executive to give just a few minutes a day to monitor what the conversation is in your industry.

People are talking and telling businesses what they need and how they can make them loyal customers. However, few businesses are paying attention. How can they when they are too focused on developing the best products and services those customers will never need?

Listen to what they are saying and you’ll be in a better position to give them what they are looking for.

7. Return Calls Promptly

Do everything within your power to ensure every email is replied to as quickly as possible. Make sure you return every call promptly. The quicker your response is; the better for your business. Go to forums and read product reviews and you will find a number of customers who became raving fans simply because of the promptness of response from a product creator.

Nobody likes to be kept waiting. It makes us feel we are NOT that important to the other party. Most of us will opt for a firm that shows us more respect even if they are NOT the very best (But at least they deliver the goods and value your time).

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