Tips on Success-Never Forget that the Customer is King
Carl Sewell says, “Customers are for Life!”
The first article in this series listed more than 25 tactics to increase your business success. I have used all of these tactics in my business career. I started with nothing and didn’t go to college, so I know you can achieve maximum success, regardless of your level of education or circumstances. E-mail me to get the first article (or any of the other articles) in the series. Each one after the first takes a closer look at one of the tactics.
Never forget the value of a customer. Certainly, a time comes in every business when you NEED to fire a customer. Here are some reasons I have had for doing so: they would not pay me; they were threatening an employee; they were unprofessional.
Whenever you have to fire a customer, you always want to consider how parting company might affect you. Will you ever encounter them again? How will they take being fired? Are they so vindictive that they may try to harm your reputation online or with other clients? When you have to fire a customer, do it after having thought it out carefully.
One of my favorite books about the positive side of keeping customers is Carl Sewell’s Customers for Life. Every business owner should read it and make sure every sales and service employee they have reads it.
My girlfriend Linda understands that business is about customer relationships. She has been with State Farm Insurance for more than 20 years and has been a State Farm Agent in Fort Worth for six years. Two times a week, a current client comes to her office and tells her that they intend to move their business to another carrier because of price. She is never defensive, always kind, empathetic, and professional.
Linda listens carefully and is often able to keep those customers because she treats them with kindness and courtesy. By listening and empathizing, Linda is often able to get a client to sit down with her to compare the coverages and learn about the differences that produce the savings. Many appreciate that kind of service and decide to stay with Linda.
When she does lose a customer, Linda always asks for the opportunity to quote when they are up for renewal and some come back to her because she demonstrates that her interest in clients goes far beyond a transaction. Rate is just one of many factors when people choose to do business with her. It’s also about the quality of service they get.
Good service is rarer than it should be. I recently had a disagreement with a service company. The service rep responded to my complaint by telling me that no one else ever complained about their service. The implication was that I was being unreasonable.
Even if I were being unreasonable, what is the upside of responding to a complaint in a way that implies the fault is with the client? They told me that I was 100% wrong (there’s always a second side to every story), then even said I was “spoiled”. Even if I were, what did they gain by making the point, except my anger?
Then, they told me that I couldn’t find anyone with their credentials and quality to do that job at the price I wanted. Ironically, they are a new business in a crowded niche. New or established, never be so pompous or naïve as to think you are the ONLY one who can do the job. Then they wanted to discuss all that they did right on the job, rather than discussing the mistake or problem. Again, that isn’t going to repair the relationship or keep the customer. Imagine your son telling you how he made almost all B’s as a defense when you confront him about a D on his report card.
I fired them very graciously. I promptly hired someone else to do the work. My new vendor is doing a better job for less money. Even though I liked the old vendor, they did not value the relationship with me or did not understand the basics of customer service, and acted on emotion when challenged. Worse still, they did not learn anything that might improve their service from losing my business.
I teach the client service employees at my companies to deal with customers by listening, empathizing, and acting to correct the issue. We spell out the steps that we will take to fix the issue and ensure that it does not happen again. We apologize and we fix it. We’re about solutions that are win-win and strengthen the relationship with that customer.
Don’t get caught up in thinking about one transaction. Keep your eye on the lifetime value of the customer whose issue you need to solve. What is all of his or her future business worth? What are the referrals that he or she could send you worth? Think lifetime value, not single transaction, and you will find it gets easier to keep customers for life.
Remember only you can make business great!
Ron Sturgeon, Mr. Mission Possible, has been a successful business owner for more than 35 years. As a small business consultant, he can deliver wisdom and advice gleaned from an enviable business career that started when he opened a VW repair business as a homeless 17-year-old and culminated in the sale of several businesses he built to Fortune 500 companies. Ron has helped bankers, lawyers, insurance agents, restaurant owners, and body shop owners, as well as countless salvage yard owners to become more successful business people. He is an expert in helping small business owners set the right business strategies, implement pay-for- performance, and find new customers on the web. As a consultant, Ron shares his expertise in strategic planning, capitalization, compensation, growing market share, and more in his signature plainspoken style, providing field-proven, and high-profit best practices well ahead of the business news curve. Ron is the author of nine books, including How to Salvage More Millions from Your Small Business. To inquire about consulting or keynote speaking, contact Ron at 817-834-3625, ext. 232, rons@MrMissionPossible.com, 5940 Eden, Haltom City, TX 76117.