Here’s one of the simplest but most overlooked business ‘hacks’ you’ll ever hear:
Keep hold of your current customers.
That’s it! Do that and you’ll save yourself the hard work and heartache involved with complex sales processes, performance monitoring, quoting, meetings – and much more. Why’s it so simple? These people or companies already love (or at least like) what it is you do for them – you may even be taking money from them each month anyway.
So why do they leave? Why do we release them back into the marketplace? And what can we do to make sure we hold onto them?
We’ve put together 9 things you could be doing to make sure you only ever lose customers in exceptional circumstances…
1. Speak their language
It doesnt matter if you’re a small cafe or a local pool company such as willshapools.com there are countless platforms through which you can communicate with your customers. Does your contact prefer email? Skype? Phone calls? WhatsApp? Or any one of the million other possibilities?
Don’t underestimate the importance that people put on communicating with people in the way they wish – and definitely don’t underestimate how useless people can be at communicating if you force them to use a medium they don’t like.
If it comes down to the finer detail you don’t want to lose a great customer simply because your competitor is happy to Skype when you prefer to email.
Ask what they like, review it now and again – and stick to it.
2. Understand what great service means to them
Just like ‘good communication’, ‘good service’ means something different to everyone. Does ‘good’ mean quick? Accurate? Cheap? Great customer support? Or something else?
Unless you ask your customers, you’re just guessing – and when you guess, you’re liable to lose out to someone who’s taken 30 seconds to hear about what’s important.
When you learn – make sure you make a note on your customer lead management system. This information is absolutely priceless when it comes to retaining customers – so it’s important that your whole team knows it.
3. Don’t forget to keep in touch
You might communicate strictly work-related information frequently – but don’t discount the fact that people, generally, like to deal with real people, so talk like humans now and again too.
Keep it business-like and semi-formal until you know where you stand, but don’t forget, even the most high-flying executive still appreciates being acknowledged as a person. You might want to just review where your business relationship is once every now and again – then again, you might want to ask about their recently holiday and less work-related topics.
When you connect as people, you become more than just numbers on a spreadsheet – which is important, as people value real connections, even if a lower price comes along.
4. Say thank you for repeat business
It’s easy to take customers for granted when you see the money coming in and the product going out each month – but take a break from that now and again to acknowledge what they put into your business.
Perhaps it’s something simple like a discount every now and again – or an occasional gift to let them know you appreciate their custom. Again, these human touches set you apart from the companies that trade entirely on price.
5. Take money on their terms
Just like allowing communication on your customer’s terms, you should really aim to accept payment on their terms too
For everyone who likes to pay immediately with a credit card, there’s another person who prefers 30-day terms (and probably plenty who like 90 day terms!). You don’t have to accept their terms if they don’t work for your cashflow – but if you can afford to, letting them call the shots will sometimes be the difference between keeping their business and letting them find someone who can accommodate their needs.
6. Remember the important stuff
Do you want to go above and beyond what other companies are doing? Learn some of your customer’s important dates and send them cards, flowers or gifts when the time comes around.
It’s not for everyone – but sending a Christmas, birthday or other celebration card will set you firmly above most other companies they deal with. If that sounds a little intrusive, then why not send a card that celebrates the anniversary of the first time you did business together?
These are little touches – but backed up by the psychological fact that people feel somewhat loyal to people and companies that give them something above and beyond what they’re expecting.
7. Refer people to your customers
If you’re a business to business operation, then keeping customer details up your sleeve in case of referral opportunities is a really great move.
Instead of remaining as a service provider, you can establish yourself as part of their network – and if you refer customers who might need their service, then you’re suddenly offering a huge amount of more value by simply having a conversation and passing on a number.
8. Make sure they’ll get less elsewhere
Ask yourself – what can you do to add value to the product you provide?
For many people, this means becoming an authority on the service you offer – don’t just offer marketing consultancy, but offer insights into their market that they just won’t get elsewhere.
Always be thinking ‘added value’ – what can you do that offers more than just the base-product?
9. Offer incentives for referring customers to you
People love to talk to other people about what a good deal they’re getting – it’s a fine display of business acumen if you get boast about what a great deal or service you’re getting from a supplier.
So why not encourage people to have those conversations? There’s no need to ask – just tell them that if they do, there’s some kind of reward for them. It might be a bottle of bubbly as an informal thank you – or it could be something more contracted, like a sliding scale offering discounts when people join with referral codes or contact details.
Whatever you decide on, you get the added bonus of someone being less likely to walk away if they’ve sung your praises to someone else – incentivised or otherwise…