Statistics show that, on average, U.S. companies lose half of their customers every five years.
It’s true that acquiring new customers will help your business grow. However, your current customers are the lifeblood of your business and keeping them happy should be your highest priority. Here are a few ways to make sure your customers keep coming back.
* Understand lost customers. Many business owners mistakenly believe that customers choose to patronize other companies solely because of better prices. While pricing can be a concern, customers often head to the competition when they don’t feel valued.
A change of lifestyle may have also created a situation where customers no longer need your product. By staying in touch with their needs, you might be able to adjust your offering to continue servicing them.
* Know your customer’s top priority. Maybe it’s reliability or speed or cost. Your company should know your clientele’s No. 1 priority and consistently deliver it. Remember, customers’ desires change frequently, so ask yourself this question every six months.
* Acknowledge the lifetime value of customers. The lifetime value of your customers is the income you would gain if a customer stayed with you as long as they could possibly buy your product or service.
For example, the lifetime value of a customer employing a financial adviser could be several decades and could span several generations. Treat the parents well and you could win the children’s business.
* Create a positive first impression. Good first impressions tend to generate loyal customers, and you get only one chance to make a positive first impression. Appearance is important. The exterior and interior of your business should be neat and clean.
* Listen to the customer. Employees should listen actively to customers. Reassure your customers that you genuinely want to help them. Customers will judge your business based on the politeness, empathy, effort and honesty of your staff.
* Address and resolve complaints quickly and effectively. Inevitably, your employees will encounter unsatisfied customers. Whether they’re returning an item or changing a service, customers expect a fair policy. If you cannot offer a resolution immediately, let the customer know when he or she can expect an answer.
For years, I have tried to answer this one question: What do small businesses that achieve sustained growth do differently from those that do not grow?
As a senior consultant for Inc. magazine, I speak to thousands of business owners each year. I’ve learned that there are no silver bullets or 17-point checklists that will lead to guaranteed growth. There are, however, seven specific areas in which growth companies concentrate their efforts.
1. Strong sense of purpose. Most leaders of companies that have achieved growth discover that it takes more than the promise of increasing financial reward to fuel their aspirations and ambitions. They find a higher calling than simply the pursuit of “more money.”
2. Outstanding market intelligence. This is an organization’s ability to first recognize, then adapt, to fundamental changes in the marketplace. Many times, small-business owners become too myopic, seeing only a limited view of the markets in which they compete. Growth leaders see the bigger picture.
3. Effective growth planning. This is the best predictor of whether or not a business will grow. To be effective, a plan for growth does not need to be overly formal or complicated. However, it does need to be written, well-communicated and regularly updated.
4. Customer-driven processes. These days, every company I talk to believes it is customer-driven, when actually very few really are. Take a look at all of the business processes from a customer’s perspective. Are they in place to make it easier for the company, or to help deliver on the promise of faster, cheaper and better for the customer?
5. The power of technology. Successful leaders don’t let the boom and bust of technology cycles give them the excuse to ignore that we live in an information age. If a company is in business, it is in the technology business.
6. The best and brightest people. Growth leaders recognize that they are only as good as the people with whom they work. The ability to hire, train and retain the best and the brightest people is often the difference between success and failure.
7. Seeing the future. Few organizations take the time to regularly consider the future. Growth leaders learn how to diligently monitor and interpret the macro forces of change affecting the world in which they live.