Business is about connection, relationship, and delivering value to customers. Too often we talk about competitive advantage and market share. While it is important for leaders to know their position in the market place, attract new customers and earn customers’ loyalty play an integral part in keeping a company viable. Here is a proven method to win clients and earn customers’ loyalty.
Connecting with Your Customers
Human beings enjoy the opportunity to connect one with another. Businesses exist because of the needs to solve problems or meet societal demands. Business is about people. We are in business because we offer products and services that people need. It may not be wise to consider every person we connect with as a customer. But it is prudent to treat connections as valuable relationship. Many of us can remember how often we meet someone and the first thing they want to know is what we do. When we fall into the trap of addressing this inquiry, we are quickly hit by the sales pitch hammer. The stranger does not even know who we are and what we really care about. They don’t even want to take time to know and understand our needs. They quickly decide in their mind that we need or should use what they are selling. Have you ever received emails about an offer that has nothing to do with you? It feels like someone just pulls out a shot gun and starts shooting at an array of birds flying in the sky with the hope to hit something. Trying to sell someone something he or she does not need is not a successful way to do business. You may a have transaction here and there, but you will not establish a lasting relationship with that person. Life is not about selling or a need to be sold. It is about connecting with others with the desire to influence their lives for good. One of the greatest joys we can have is to know that our products and services help improve the living conditions of our customers.
Identifying Needs Matching
As we connect with people and the relationship continues to mature, we automatically develop a desire to serve them. We spend time trying to understand how we can best serve them. We continue to visit with them. We establish a trusted and non-threatening environment so they can feel comfortable to express themselves and share their needs. It is wisdom that we let them do most of the talking and do most of the listening. I would suggest that we listen with our minds as well as with our hearts. The older I get, more I understand the principle of listening to understand. This art of listening to understand helps us know where a friend is in his or her life. It does not mean we have to agree with everything the person is saying. At least we can appreciate better their feelings. How does that translate into the business world? It creates an environment for you to identify how you can help your customers. The friend may have a business needs that your company can’t address. But you may know another company (even your competitor) that can address that need. Your ultimate goal is to meet the need of that person because you care about him or her. You want to do that without expecting anything in return. After all you already have the fruits of the friendship and the relationship. You are working hard to cultivate that precious friendship and relationship. If during the process of identifying the needs if you are the best person (or your company has the product or service) to address the need, you should feel comfortable and excited to offer that solution. You are excited not because you are going to make a buck or two off that friend. But because you are able to provide a solution their problem. This excitement needs to be the same even if you had to refer them to your competitor or another business. I find it that it does not matter the culture and society we live in most people tend to remember the people who have been kind to them and are looking out for their best interest. If you are reading this article, I am almost certain that you belong to that group.
Offer Quality Products and services
After we get to know a prospect needs and interest well, it is our duty to offer and deliver a product or service that addresses that need. We also need to establish a process or a system that helps them gain the full benefits of that product and service. The product and the system don’t have to be perfect. But it must contain the highest quality of components and ingredients that we can offer. Our customers deserve the best. After all they are friends. They trust us to take care of their needs. In return, we trust that they will continue to keep us in business as they keep buying from us and being our advocates. The cost of customer acquisition cannot be a negligible investment. Focusing on products that solve their pains and delivering services that help them gain maximum benefits should always be the driving force of every business decision. I recently took my car to my mechanic. After checking the rear wheels, he advised me to consider changing my rear breaks in the next few weeks. Because of our long-time friendship and trust, I asked if he had time to replace them that day. He did. After he was done, he told me that “Illens, I now know that you and other people on the road will be safe because you have breaks that are new and working well”. You see, his primary objective was about me and others being safe. Getting paid for his service became a secondary need. He even suggested that I did it in few weeks. It is Peter Drucker who stated that “I don’t care about money. I care about people.” During his life time, he wrote and sold several books on management and leadership. Hundreds of executives flew from all over the world to consult with him.
Work Hard to Earn Customers’ Loyalty
I am sure that many of us can remember times when receive a can or an email from a provider with the intent to sell us more products as if we were waiting with our cards in hands to buy. Too often businesses get so busy chasing the next new customer and forget to take care of the ones they already have. What could be even worth is they are offering all kind of incentives to new customers and totally neglect the eggs that are already in the baskets. If one of our business objectives (and it needs to be) is to have loyal customers, we must be loyal to them. Relationship is a two-way street. It does have to be that we will meet each other in the middle. But each party must be willing to walk the walk. We can’t take customers for granted and expect them to be loyal to us. We need to treat every customer as he or she is the only egg we have in the basket. In this information-sharing era, customer’s satisfaction is the very minimum goal that we can shoot for. To remain viable, business must focus their energy and deploy resources to give customers memorable experiences. Few years ago, one of my friends asked me to help her find a barber that her son could use. The son had come to Utah for the first time and was apprehensive about finding a barber he could trust. I referred him to a barber I knew well and trusted. After receiving his first hair cut he told his mother that “this was not only a haircut. I just had a great experience.” He described very well the same feeling that customers have every time they use this barber.
Twelve tips you can use to give your customers a memorable experience and earn their loyalty:
- Take time to know your customers. It is not sufficient to know their business needs. You must know them as people. People change jobs. But the relationship we establish with them should not change.
- Offer quality services and products that solve their business needs. They do not have to come from you.
- Speak positive of every customer even (and more so) when they are not present.
- Follow up, follow up, and follow up. Find out how the products and services you sold them (or the referral you gave them) are working for them. Ask this simple question; “Is there anything I can do to help you gain more benefits from the products you already purchased from us?”
- Perform proactive act of kindness. If you know a solution that your customers need, contact them proactively to discuss it with them.
- Develop a method to recognize and show appreciation to your customers.
- Think of your customers in all business aspect and decisions. Ask yourself; what impact will that decision or products have on my customers (current and future)?
- Treat customers’ complaints with extreme care. Customers who are talking to you about problems they are having with your products and services care about you. They are giving you an opportunity to show that you too care about them.
- Take responsibility and ownership for mistakes. Treat customers as friends you cherish and they will reciprocate.
- If you have to let a customer go, do it with care and respect.
- Remember that in relationship and customer’s loyalty there is no such thing as small or big customers. Relationship is not measured by size, amount, or popularity. It is a genuine currency that we exchange to let others know that we value them and care about their success in this life.
- The people who work for you are also your customers. They are the best advocates you have for your business. Do they know that you value them?
As usual I invite you to share some tips you use to attract new customers and increase customers’ loyalty. If you like this article feel free to share it with others in your circle of influence. For the readers in the nonprofit sector, look for my next post where I will talk about how to increase donors and volunteers’ engagement and loyalty.