(The following article first appeared in Corporate Report Wisconsin.)
Sometimes we forget just how important the customer is. And when we do, it costs us. So, ask yourself, what have I done today to make my customers and prospects feel special and valued?
Example # 1: I needed a washer repaired last fall. I called one service company and was told, “We will have someone out your way in about two weeks.” In spite of my protests, the person on the other end of the line didn’t seem to care that I did have enough underwear to wait that long to get my washer repaired.
But then when I called Paul Kinnard at Appliance & Furniture Center in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, he showed up and solved my problem that same day. I felt special and valued. He and his company have earned my loyalty and my future business.
Example # 2: I know I’m not alone in feeling nickeled and dimed to death when I need to return an item to a store. Insulting “reshelving fees” and “no refunds” policies only manage to annoy the customer. That’s why I stared in amazement last summer when, rummaging around the bargain bin of The Shoe Box in Black Earth, Wisconsin, I saw a sign explaining that if I need to return my purchase for any reason, I can do so for a full refund. And this was on shoes in the Clearance Room! Special and valued? You bet! I ended up buying several pairs of shoes rather than just the one I actually needed.
Example # 3: I hate being made to feel like a criminal because I cannot return a product without a sales receipt, as if I spend my days cruising the state trying to return items just for fun. That’s why I have a special fondness for my favorite Algoma, Wisconsin grocery store, Denny’s SuperValu. In October, I returned a three-way light bulb that only worked two ways. (That’s one of my pet peeves.) My money was cheerfully refunded. No receipt. No hassle. Sure, it was only a 99-cent item, but they made me feel special and valued.
Example # 4: I’ve had an insurance agent in Cambridge, Wisconsin, for about ten years. In truth, I do not see him all that often, though Dean Lund, with American Family, is always there when I need service or have a question. Well, in November, my Freestyle Entrepreneur biz blog (www.thefreestyleentrepreneur.com) made it into a Top-100 blog list. So, I sent out an email to perhaps a hundred business owners and support people on my list.
Half a dozen folks sent congratulations by reply email. Four days later, however, I received a handwritten note from Dean congratulating me and telling me how much he enjoys my writing. That’s why, even though Dean Lund is more than 150 miles away, and I could buy car insurance for a few bucks less elsewhere, he will remain my insurance agent. By making me feel special and valued, he continues to stand out in my mind.
What can you do to make your customers feel special and valued…and keep them as loyal customers? Here are a few pointers:
- Return phone calls right away. Not returning calls is an insult. Period. I have one Madison-area client to whom I could be referring thousands of dollars of business. However, they rarely return a phone call, and I can’t recommend an unreliable business.
- Operate on your customers’ time. If they show up at your shop at 5:01, don’t make goofy gestures and mouth, “We’re closed.” Open the door.
- Tell them you appreciate their business. It’s real simple. I always write on my invoices, “Thanks for the business. I appreciate you.”
The bottom line: Your customers and clients are special. Never take them for granted or make them feel that you are doing them a favor. Make sure they understand how much you appreciate them. Do that, and your business will reap the rewards.
So, work hard, make money, have fun.
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