Keeping Customers for Life

by | Jan 5, 2015 | Customer Service

“Exceed your customer’s expectations. If you do, they’ll come back over and over. Give them what they want – and a little more”. – Sam Walton

Customers are allowed to be fastidious – they invest in a company with time and money and very often have to put up with not so great service. However, this picky behaviour of customers also means that just one bad experience is enough to draw them away from a brand and walk straight to the awaiting competitor. If we were to look at ourselves as customers, we too would notice that our buying habits and ‘loyalties’ have changed with time. Every business faces the challenge of keeping customers for life or at least for a considerably long period. The fact is that these changes in customer’s preferences happen because they did not receive a great experience at one or multiple touch-points of the company, leading to disillusionment.

So what does keeping customers for life really involve or to say it differently what is customer loyalty all about? Focus! Customers want to be noticed, they expect to be served in the way they deem appropriate. The truth also is that customers understand that companies too, have things that occupy them while running a business. But it is for companies to know and understand that when a customer knocks or starts to ‘speak’ the focus of everyone in the company must be on them. They deserve complete attention and when everyone is actively listening, the level of service that can be provided to them will amaze them and ensure that you are keeping customers for life. Keeping the focus on customers, means that the company is truly attuned to their needs and will build the capability to not only anticipate and meet the needs of the customers but find added ways to make them feel wanted – keeping customers for life.

Its hard work but customer loyalty is extremely crucial in the market now – so many choices, multiple products, new companies and a sea of information at the fingertips of customers makes it easy for them to get what they want from whomever they want. The truth is that when a customer feels special and knows that their needs will be taken care of each time, they would much rather stay with the same company for the long haul and it would take a lot to veer them away. Financially that translates to serious profits for a company – such customers for life – not only do business with a company, they divert other business to the company and other bring along their friends and associates to do business with the company. It becomes a kind of a circle – these ‘new’ customers when satisfied would also become customers for life and recommend your company to those that they know. This is just what companies need and want to succeed in the competitive and ever increasing uncertainty of the market.

“Customers for life” does not just happen – it is an unrelenting and on-going process during which companies must deliver on their promises each time, every time and to each customer. With time customers feel connected to the product or brand and feel one with whatever happens to the particular brand. Companies tend to offer ‘special programs’ to customers that have been with them for long that further cement their customers for life resolve. Such customers get priority service, are known by name and made to feel special every single time. Of course, it starts with first getting the basics of customer service right. The very foundation of what you do for customers must be something that will ‘earn’ customers for life. Adopt an approach that views all customers as potential ‘customers for life’ and display the mind-set that everything you do for your customers is because you are thankful to them for being customers. Customers should not have to ‘work’ to get in to your ‘special programs’ – instead companies must start with the assumption and belief that every customer is there for the long haul and must be treated that way. The cornerstone of good customer service is already that every customer will be treated courteously and with empathy and having such an approach will garner support and build customers for life.

Customers have oft made it clear, that if you expect them to be customers for life then don’t just meet their expectations, exceed them. Do way better than they expect – give them jaw-dropping service which will be exciting enough for them to vociferously talk about the great experience they had and even post comments over the highly visible social media allowing a large number of current and potential customers to see how great your customer service is. To start with companies just have to pay more attention on what customers need and expect and less on profits. When the focus remains on customers, it builds long term creditworthiness and trust in the minds of customers, making them customers for life and as explained earlier, that translates to more business and steady growth and profits. Not doing it alone is also vital – take your customers along with you. Make them part of the process and continually ask them how you can better your offerings and service. Get inspiration from your customers – they are the ones who can best tell you what they want and need and how you can do it. Expert advice for free and they will love you for it!

Having customers for life also means that your internal customers – your employees – are treated exactly the way you expect them to treat your external customers. Build a band of loyal employees, who in turn with keep your customers happy which in turn will sustain a happy, supportive and congenial work environment. Long term employees will know what customers want and expect and will be able to entice customers to staying long term.

In an earlier exposition we had delved on how all customers are not equal – some take more effort to please, others are easily won over and yet others are just not worth the effort. So apart from focusing on how to gain and keep customers for life, it would worthwhile to ascertain how much effort must be exerted on which customer and slowly let go of customers that are probably troublesome or unnecessarily tough. Companies must have a robust strategy in place if it is to be possible for them to know these differentiations and weed out the ‘troublemakers’ as effortlessly and courteously as possible.

Whatever the circumstance or kind of customer, the fact remains that the business environment is highly competitive and to remain successful nothing short of excellence in customer service will suffice. In fact, it has been firmly established that this kind of service is and will remain the key differentiator for any business. A helpful though not exhaustive list should help in gaining and keeping customers for life.

– Saying thank you to customers always works. This must be prompt, relevant and effective. Send them small yet meaningful tokens of your appreciation whenever appropriate.
– Direct business to your customer and provide them with leads that could translate to business for them.
– Shower praise on your customers and congratulate them on achievements
– The products and or services that your customers produce, if useful for your company, should be bought and used. Let others know of them too. This earns the respect and confidence of your customer and keeps them as customers for life.
– Ensure speed of response to customers via any channel they may have contacted you. A simple act of returning phone calls is great for business
– It may be often repeated but over deliver on what was promised. And start with doing exactly what you said would be done and when you said they would be done.
– Reduce customer effort by being accessible and going the extra mile to help them when they need.
– Run your business hours to make it convenient for your customers
– All transactions and operations must be transparent and brimming with integrity
– Don’t ignore your customers but keep in touch with them at a frequency that lets them know that you have not forgotten them but is not intrusive
– Accept that service lapses might happen. Be ready to accept fault and make suitable amends immediately. Apologise genuinely and then take remedial action.

These are probably the most basic customer service tips and yet just as easily forgotten. Build the human connection, smile and display a demeanour of being ready to serve if keeping customers for life is your goal.

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