By Rieva Lesonsky
What does business success mean to you? Did you just land a big account? Secure a new line of business credit? Or maybe pass the milestone of one year in business? Is it landing a round of seed capital? These are all great achievements, but if your customer service strategy is lacking, you could see customers walking right out the door. You’ve read all the reports that tell you it costs more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing ones, so here are five ways you can keep customers returning again and again:
- Constant Communication: Communication with customers starts with the first time they call your business or walk into your store. A friendly greeting and offer of assistance is the minimum required. Then, with today’s social marketing avenues, it’s easier than ever to let your customers know you value their business. A quick email thank-you with news about products, special promotions and store events is almost always appreciated (as long as you have their permission first). Also, be sure and ask the customer to contact you with questions, to give feedback or to discuss additional requests. Focus your communications on letting customers know that you can solve their problems and meet their needs.
- Reply and Respond: What is your strategy for responding to customer inquiries or complaints? Your goal should be to resolve issues immediately or, if that’s not possible, within 24 hours. If you or an employee is still gathering information, let the customer know right away that you’re looking into the situation. Then give workers a system of how and where to look for answers. Develop a guide (online or in a binder) with answers to common questions, methods for solving problems and standards for resolving disputes.
- Trust Your Staff: Sometimes, the right customer service strategy is to allow your employees to use their best judgment and bend the rules if the situation calls for it. Make sure you document the situation and outcome so others can learn from it and form their own perspectives on what was the right way to handle the problem.
- Get to Know Your Customers: This is where a CRM (customer relationship management) program can really come in handy and make your job of tracking your customers’ likes and dislikes a lot easier. A Web-hosted program like SalesForce can help you keep customers’ information organized as your business grows, and you can access the information from anywhere. CRM also helps you identify customers who have not frequented your business in a while so you know it’s time to reach out.
- Rewarding Loyalty: Once you have some history with your customers, you can identify your best customers and reward them. Offer a special discount to frequent customers or to those who refer new customers to your business.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.