You can talk to a lot of experts about what the secret to a successful business is, and the truth is, there are a lot of things that can go wrong in business building. For me, getting it right starts with the customers. Everything we do in business - every decision we make, from choosing our product or service lines, our location, our staff, our colours, logo, slogans, promotions, etc., had better be because it makes sense to our customers or potential customers. And once they have crossed our doorstep, whether physically or virtually, the service that they get, had better exceed their expectations.
Although it may seem obvious to some of you, that customer service is what being in business is all about, for many, it's a fact that all too often gets lost in the chaos of running the business and wearing so many different hats. It's important to realize how much time, money and effort go into getting each single customer through our doors, and how much easier it is to turn a single one-time customer into a loyal, repeat customer than it is to constantly be looking for new ones. Loyal customers will bring us new customers and can generate a cash flow that we can count on. There are many ways to build and increase customer service. The following tip illustrates just one way, and was excerpted from an article on Entrepreneur.com's website:
One important tool for generating repeat business is following up. Effective follow-up begins immediately after the sale when you call the customer to say "thank you" and find out if he or she is pleased with your product or service. Beyond this, there are several effective ways to follow up that ensure your business is always in the customer's mind.
Let customers know what you are doing for them. This can be in the form of a newsletter mailed to existing customers, or it can be more informal, such as a phone call. Whatever method you use, the key is to dramatically point out to customers the excellent service you are giving them. If you never mention all the things you are doing for them, customers may not notice. You aren't being cocky when you talk to customers about all the work you have done to please them. Just make a phone call and let them know they don't have to worry because you handled the paperwork, called the attorney or double-checked on the shipment-one less thing they have to do.
Write old customers personal, handwritten notes frequently. "I was just sitting at my desk and your name popped into my head. Are you still having a great time flying all over the country? Let me know if you need another set of luggage. I can stop by with our latest models any time." Or if you run into an old customer at an event, follow up with a note: "It was great seeing you at the CDC Christmas party. I'll call you early in the New Year to schedule a lunch."
Keep it personal. Voice mail and e-mail make it easy to communicate, but the personal touch is often lost. If you're having trouble getting through to someone whose problem requires that personal touch, leave a voice-mail message that you want to talk to the person directly or will stop by his or her office at a designated time.
Remember special occasions. Send regular customers birthday cards, anniversary cards, holiday cards...you name it. Gifts are excellent follow-up tools, too. You don't have to spend a fortune to show you care; use your creativity to come up with interesting gift ideas that tie into your business, the customer's business or his or her recent purchase.
Pass on information. If you read an article, see a new book, or hear about an organization a customer might be interested in, drop a note or make a quick call to let them know.
Consider follow-up calls as business development calls. When you talk to or visit old clients or customers, you'll often find they have referrals to give you, which can lead to new business.
With all your existing customers can do for you, there's simply no reason not to stay in regular contact with them. Use your imagination, and you'll think of plenty of other ideas that can help you develop a lasting relationship.
Terri Plaxton Smith,
Manager and Business Consultant
Greater Barrie Business Enterprise Centre
"Things are finally happening! All I can say is persistance and patience really paid off, and I couldnt have done this without your support along the way. Thank you or everything so far, and I cant wait to continue working with you as this exciting venture continues to grow! I'll be in touch soon!
Our grand opening is on Dec10th. I hope to see you there!!"
Kim Moffitt, The Ruff Haus