You have no business without customers.
You already knew that.
Every business leader knows that attracting, maintaining, and growing the customer base is essential to growing the company. So it’s not surprisingly that savvy businesses leaders place heavy emphasis on new customer acquisition.
What is surprising is how often businesses fail to pay enough attention to the customers they already have.
Sure, you need to woo new customers, especially when you’re starting out. But one of your greatest, most overlooked sources of new business is your current customer base. To be clear, I’m not talking about every customer who checks the “satisfied” box.
I’m talking about customers who have experienced the best you have to offer, believe in you, return to you, and rave about you. I’m talking about a fan base.
Those are the people who will keep coming back for more. More valuably, they’ll endorse you on social media and by word-of-mouth, validating your marketing message and driving new prospects your way.
That’s true sales power.
How can you tap into that power and turn happy customers into brand evangelists? Here are 5 Ways:
1. Know Your Customers’ Expectations and How Well You Meet Them
What do your customers say they need and value most from a provider of your product or service? Price? Product quality? Timeliness? Customer Service Experience? Reliability? Consistency? When is the last time you asked this question? Start asking. Ask as many people as you can, beginning with your own team members. What kind of customer feedback are they hearing and observing online about your company? How many followers do you have on social media? What’s getting shared? What’s earning comments? Then use what you learn to devise a simple customer survey or by simply adding to your inbound call center script.
A word of caution: before you do, make sure you’re committed to acting on the feedback you get. Few things can make customers feel important as powerfully as asking their opinion, listening to them, and acting on their responses. But few things can turn a customer off as quickly as ignoring what they say.
2. Reward them and Keep in Touch
Ignored and annoyed customers don’t just quietly walk away. They tell their friends, their peers, a vast online community of strangers… they tell everybody. The more profitable a customer is to you, the more closely you need to stay in contact with them. Deliver superior customer experience. Check in regularly. And periodically reward those customers in ways that are actually rewarding – and motivating – to them. Does that mean special discounts? Does it mean customer appreciation events? Special shout-outs or other recognition on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Special rewards for referring new business? That all depends, on your business, your customers, and the priorities they’ve shared with you. If you’re not enlisting your inbound call center to send these messages to current customers, you’re missing an enormous opportunity.
3. Employee Happiness = Customer Happiness
Your best shot at making every customer feel like they’re treated well is to hire people who are people-centric, empathetic and excited about the job. Then treat them as well as you want them to treat your customers.
It sounds simple. It may even sound corny. But it’s the key. Happy employees who love and respect your company are your best brand ambassadors on the front line with customers. No matter how happy you think your employees are, give yourself a much deserved reality check by hopping onto employee feedback sites like glassdoor.com. If you uncover issues, pull together a plan to address them.
4. Know Your Competition
Even when you’re doing everything else right and enjoying the success that comes with robust sales and a growing customer base, staying competitive is tougher today than it’s ever been. Your “competition” is no longer a defined set of other businesses that you’ve studied in the past. Now, your competition includes newly minted entrepreneurs, disrupters, and existing businesses. How are these competitors encroaching on your turf? What are they offering? How are they offering it? And how does that offering compare with what you deliver? Sticking your head in the sand or resting on last year’s sales laurels only makes you vulnerable to losing your best customers.
5. Create a Turnaround Strategy for Unhappy Customers
Mistakes happen. So do angry customers. (Those are the people who write detailed, scathing reviews on multiple sites.) But a carefully crafted, perfectly executed Customer Save Strategy can turn a disappointed customer into one of your most vocal evangelists – before they start typing.
Doing this all well requires several steps, processes, roles and training. If you haven’t done it before, you may find the idea daunting. Do it anyway. It’s that important. Begin by creating a clearly defined Customer Save role for at least one (highly empathetic, extraordinarily competent, goal-oriented) member of your team. Then train all staff who interact with customers – including all outbound and inbound contact center employees – to document and promptly escalate all complaints to that person. Create a process for rapidly capturing online complaints, researching them, and responding (both online and directly to the complaining customer).
Keep in mind: when a customer expresses their dissatisfaction with you, whether directly or indirectly, they’re leaving the door open for you. They want to engage with you. Most often, they don’t want to leave. They want a good reason to stay. Give it to them.
Bobby L. Matthews, Jr.
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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