Customers come, and customers go. Whether you sell to consumers or to other companies, that's a sad fact of doing business. Sadder yet is the fact that it can cost you between three and 10 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. With that in mind, give some thought to the following 12 proven ways to keep your customers by keeping them happy.
1. Your customers are always right. Always! Yes, you can win a battle with one or two, but doing so repeatedly can cost you the war. Someone's always waiting to sell them what they want, how, when and where they want it.
2. Do not treat your customer like mushrooms by keeping them in the dark and feeding them … Well, you know the saying. Have answers available when they ask about their back-order, delivery or refund.
3. Make it simple to return or exchange merchandise. But it's OK to require them to call in for a RAN (Return Authorization Number). Without such a system returns get out of hand. Oh, and make those numbers easy to track.
4. Give your CSRs the authority needed to discharge their responsibilities. And also require customer service reps to record their actions. Without that authority, responsibility is meaningless, and without a system to track the actions CSRs take, authority can run wild.
5. Set business hours for the convenience of your customers. If you're an east coast company and have west coast customers, have CSRs available 12 hours a day, from 8 am to 8 pm ET.
6. Avoid an automated voice response system for customer calls, at least one that does not provide a live person when the caller punches the zero button on his or her phone.
7. A toll-free phone number is a great customer-pleaser, particularly with customers who live, work or have their business in an area code other than yours.
8. Give customers a name to ask for, your own "Betty Crocker," if you will. It's OK to create a fictional character, a "Maggie Daley," for example. When someone calls for "Maggie," the response by the CSR who answered the call should be, "I'm sorry, Maggie's helping another customer right now. Oh, never ask, "May I help you?" That'll usually get "No" for a answer. Adding "how" eliminates the opportunity to answer "No."
9. Respond fully, in words your customer can understand, whether responding to a customer's letter, email or phone call. Never use company tech speak.
10. Recognize that 20 percent of your customers produce 80 percent of your sales. Make sure your best customers are recognized and treated as VIPs. Sears does great at this. Immediately after I give a Sears CSR my phone number, he or she begins the conversation with, "Thank you for being a Sears Premier customer. Their system recognizes that I've spent a lot of money with Sears.
11. Resolve billing question quickly and fairly. Got a late paying customer? Waive at least the first late charge if he or she calls with a reasonable explanation. To do otherwise can drive that customer away. And to replace him or her will cost you many times that late charge you refused to waive.
12. Make every customer feel he or she is your most important customer – needed, wanted … and, above all, satisfied. That's not to say you have to give away the proverbial store. But within reason, and certainly within guidelines you create, your motto should be, "Whatever it takes."