Have you ever tried to cancel satellite TV or radio? I canceled my satellite TV service recently and I can tell you… it’s a real challenge.
If you try to end your service, you’re in for a long conversation during which you have to alternately defend your position and turn down multiple offers for better monthly prices and/or more channels. Naturally, the better price requires another commitment that — you guessed it — can only be canceled by phone.
I held fast, survived the gauntlet and successfully canceled my service. Success! (Or so I thought.) The next day they called me. The offers began again and this time they threw in a $200 Visa gift card. But the better the offer, the longer the obligation. I passed.
I didn’t enjoy the aggressive approach my service took, but it reminded me how important it is to retain customers and inspired this column. So let’s examine the subject.
How To Retain Customers
Whether you refer to your customers as customers or clients, patients or even (gag) “guests,” keeping them and growing their business has to be a priority.
Some business owners and managers will say it’s simple…”just keep the customer happy.” But it’s a bit more involved than that. The American Management Association (AMA), says the key to keeping customers is superlative customer service.
“It’s about treating people the way they wanted to be treated—giving clients what they want, when they want it and how they want it… good communication and human relations skills equals good customer relations.”
AMA’s website, amanet.org, features an article titled “25 Ways to Keep Customers for Life” — in which you’ll find such cliché advice as:
- Return calls promptly.
- Do what you say you are going to do.
- Under-promise and over-deliver.
- Shower customers with kindness.
- Speak your customer’s language.
- Have a great attitude!
While the AMA has some valid points, I believe customer loyalty goes way deeper. I’ve been in business for 30+ years and have clients who have been with me and my partners at Farris Marketing for almost 20 years. Here is what I recommend.
Real Life Recommendations
Make friends, not customers
I can’t work for someone I don’t like well enough to be friends. I want them to feel okay about calling me at night with an emergency. I want to hear about their kids and share stories about mine. But being friends is not an excuse for being complacent — in fact, it’s the opposite. You should feel more obligated to provide the best advice, products, and services.
Always keep it “new”
New is exciting, current. Presenting something new shows you’re staying on top of what is happening in their industry. You should know the latest industry developments and suggest what to do next.Your work should always be fresh, unique and valuable.
Provide an “oasis”
I rarely meet with clients in their office. I try to give them a break by meeting them for lunch or in my conference room. I have creature comforts like coffee and water, as well as, chocolate and other treats. Your conference room should have strong Wi-Fi, a big screen TV, a whiteboard and at least one computer. Knowing they can conveniently be “away” from their office, yet still be in touch, allows clients to relax, clarify their thinking and focus.
Provide a product, service or advice that’s too valuable to let go
Only you and your customer can define that.
Acquiring new customers is an expensive proposition. So keeping existing customers is critical. The recommendations above should help. If not, maybe you can offer a $200 Visa card.