The key to a successful business is a steady customer base.

After all, successful businesses typically see 80 percent of their business come from 20 percent of their customers. Too many businesses neglect this loyal customer base in pursuit of new customers. However, since the cost to attract new customers is significantly more than to maintain your relationship with existing ones, your efforts toward building customer loyalty will certainly payoff. Here are ten ways to build customer loyalty: 1. Communicate. Whether it is an email newsletter, monthly flier, a reminder card for a tune up, or a holiday greeting card, reach out to your steady customers. 2. Customer Service. Go the extra distance and meet customer needs. Train the staff to do the same. Customers remember being treated well. 3. Employee Loyalty. Loyalty works from the top down. If you are loyal to your employees, they will feel positively about their jobs and pass that loyalty along to your customers. 4. Employee Training. Train employees in the manner that you want them to interact with customers. Empower employees to make decisions that benefit the customer. 5. Customer Incentives. Give customers a reason to return to your business. For instance, because children outgrow shoes quickly, the owner of a children¶s shoe store might offer a card that makes the tenth pair of shoes half price. Likewise, a dentist may give a free cleaning to anyone who has seen him regularly for five years. 6. Product Awareness. Know what your steady patrons purchase and keep these items in stock. Add other products and/or services that accompany or compliment the products that your regular customers buy regularly. And make sure that your staff understands everything they can about your products. 7. Reliability. If you say a purchase will arrive on Wednesday, deliver it on Wednesday. Be reliable. If something goes wrong, let customers know immediately and compensate them for their inconvenience. 8. Be Flexible. Try to solve customer problems or complaints to the best of your ability. Excuses ² such as "That's our policy" ² will lose more customers then setting the store on fire. Read our 60-Second Guide to Managing Upset Customers for more information. 9. People over Technology. The harder it is for a customer to speak to a human being when he or she has a problem, the less likely it is that you will see that customer again. 10. Know Their Names. Remember the theme song to the television show Cheers? Get to know the names of regular customers or at least recognize their faces.

5. Customers want immediate resolution. only make promises that you are confident that you and your business can keep. phone. In this way. apologize to the customer and offer some type of compensation. Know your customers. If you hear unhappy rumblings from your customers." and "It¶s been a pleasure helping you" ² to demonstrate not only your commitment to customer satisfaction but your dedication to courtesy. Try to learn everything you can about your customers in order to tailor your service approach to their needs and buying habits. and your colleagues make contact with a customer ² whether it¶s by email. you will probably win their repeat business. Treat people with courtesy and respect. get the quote out in a day or less. Overall. in fact. You know very well that the customer isn¶t always right. services. The majority of customers don¶t like to complain. it is important that you do not focus on the missteps of a particular situation. Focus on making customers ² not on sales. Update and amend your FAQ page frequently. Try to anticipate the types of questions that customers will ask. such as a discount or free delivery." "Thanks for your order.Strong customer service is a business essential. 7. written correspondence. instead. Providing it isn¶t as difficult if you and your employees achieve these 10 basic rules: 1. 3. take their complaints to heart and do your best to appease their dissatisfaction. Research shows that 7 out of 10 customers will do business with a company again if that business resolves a complaint in their favor. Remember that . they¶ll go out of their way ² perhaps all the way to a competitor ² to avoid it. Know your company¶s products. Commit to quality service. Always provide what you promise. you can get to the root of customer dissatisfaction. especially those who get paid on commission." "You¶re welcome. 6. Don¶t leave customers in limbo. Fail to do this and you¶ll lose both credibility and customers. concentrate on how to fix it. and listen to their complaints. If and when you neglect to make good on your promise. it is to your advantage to give them the benefit of the doubt. callbacks. your employees. Convey an articulate and in-depth knowledge of products and services to win customer trust and confidence. Never argue with a customer. and return policies inside and out. Even though it may appear that customers lie to manipulate a situation to their advantage. or a face-to-face meeting ² the interaction leaves an impression with that customer. Everyone in the company needs to be devoted to creating a positive experience for the customer. 8. Always try to go above and beyond customer expectations. 9. Use conciliatory phrases ² "Sorry to keep you waiting. If you guarantee a quote within 24 hours. Talk to customers about their experience with your company. Salespeople. Assume that your customers tell the truth. 2. and if you can give it to them. Repairs. 4. and emails need to be handled with a sense of urgency. Know your products. sometimes focus on the volume instead of on the quality of the sale. Remember that every time that you. Research shows that the instance of repeat business goes up to 95 percent when complaints are resolved on the spot. However.

. Strong customer service is a valuable asset. Poor record keeping. incorrect information. your business might want to invest in CRM software. While any business can make a mistake. Check out Online Customer Service Basics for tips on a positive online customer service experience. I'll have do to it for everyone. If it is difficult to contact the customer service department or speak to a manager. Inaccessibility. How Is CRM Different from ERP?. do not make excuses. 3. try to maintain a distance from their customers. explain how products work. Not training the staff ² and this should include everyone ² is a major mistake made by too many businesses. and do whatever else you can to facilitate transactions. you can be sure that she will not continue to do business with your company. 6." customer service representatives and managers should be able to find ways to bend policies to build customer relationships. especially on the Internet. customers may not return. Moreover. 10. If you keep referring to Mrs. To ensure that you accurately track your customers. 5. on your Web site. While the clerk who is scared that he or she may lose their job can say "That's our policy. 4. Read our overview. It is worth remembering that it takes five times more effort and cost to gain one new customer as it takes to maintain one current customer. if you are aware of common customer service mistakes and avoid them. happy customers are the best and most effective way to find new customers. Customers and clients will not tolerate rudeness. Unfulfilled promises. 2. Eliminate unnecessary paperwork and forms. or apathy on the part of your staff. Therefore. Jackson of Johnson Avenue. If you promise a customer that something would be ready by Thursday.to keep a customer¶s business is more important than to close a sale. especially in today's high-tech-oriented. It does not matter whether you have two or 200 employees. When you cannot make this happen. Therefore. to get a handle on that type of program." backed up by an extra effort to make the customer happy. The phrase "If I do that for you. help people to find what they need. The buying experience in your store. Many businesses." is one of the fastest way to lose customers. to win an argument and lose a steady customer. If you want to see repeat business. Trying to win the argument. you need to be accessible to your customers. Research shows that it costs six times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. you must train everyone in the art of customer service. Untrained staff. you are punishing your business. you may strengthen your position in a competitive market. Johnson of Jackson Avenue as Mrs. or through your catalog should be as easy as possible. Make it easy to buy. Standing by your policy. 1. increasingly impersonal business world. the only words you need to remember are "We're sorry. then it should be there by Thursday. constantly misspelled names and similar foul-ups do not encourage regular customers to return. This rarely works.

You can have every product that your customers could possibly want. Email/online cop outs. Other businesses simply ignore customer complaints hoping that the customer will simply forget the issue. Focus all these communications on letting customers know that you can solve their problems and meet their needs. individual letters. Use newsletters. special promotions. Forgetting the basics. feedback. (Allow customers to sign up for these missives in the store. It is very simple for a customer representative to respond to each inquiry in a timely fashion. many businesses send a form letter or a programmed response that answers 10 common FAQs.) Send a thank-you note after a major purchase. none of which may apply to a particular customer. Neither should they fail to provide a solution to a problem or quote policies that may not accurately address the situation.7. Passing the buck is akin to passing the customer on to your competitor." "thank you. Since email is impersonal. particularly in the art of listening and even taking notes. Customer service representatives routinely do not listen closely to customers. 10. and win big points." and so on are simple phrases that cost nothing. but if you don't treat your customers well. These are email cop outs. take little effort. . such as a standard way of politely greeting people on the phone or asking that sales staff courteously greet anyone who enters the store. 9. Failure to listen. they expect a service representative to be the first or second person to whom they speak. or to discuss additional requests. The last thing you want is for your employees to provide inaccurate information to your customers. People do not like being passed from one person to another or sent from one department to another in a retail location. 8. Strategy #3: Store Collective Wisdom One of the most important customer strategies is to set up a system for responding to customer inquiries or complaints. following a receptionist perhaps. Strategy #2: Make Great Service a Priority Excellent customer service requires training your staff and constantly reinforcing the message that customers come first." "we're sorry about the inconvenience. or e-mails to deliver news about products. inviting the customer to contact you with questions. "Please. Customer relation representatives need to be trained. Numerous studies have shown that it costs more to acquire new customers than it takes to retain existing ones. or excuses for not providing adequate customer service. Start with the little things. and store events. The runaround. and never send an e-mail without their express permission. you can kiss your business goodbye. postcards. Typically they respond with an answer that does not match the problem because they were not paying attention. Use these six service strategies to keep your customers coming back for more: Strategy #1: Stay in Touch Let your customers know you value their business by reaching out to them. When someone calls for customer service.

Ask them to document these special cases. Perhaps you'll offer a special discount to frequent customers or make a follow-up call to those who have needed recent repair work. a searchable text file on a computer. ranging from powerful -. or. staffers need to know exactly where to look for answers. let them enter information into the computer. A small shop could simply prepare an index card for each customer and file them alphabetically. you may want to designate one person per shift as chief problem-solver. review the history. that is. whether from written notes or via a database.and occasionally in cases where the policy needs to be flexed -you need to empower certain people to make decisions. . when that's not possible. Depending on the size of your operation. methods for solving problems. a store of information with answers to common questions. Strategy #4: Empower Your Staff In some cases. and note the latest interaction. you can provide a pad of paper forms. Develop a "knowledge base". make sure employees let customers know that they may need some time to locate the information. As you gain new customers. and standards for resolving disputes. within one business day. or a database. as well as those who may not have frequented your business in a while.and expensive -"enterprise software" products to simple Web-based applications that cost less than $20 a month. Strategy #5: Know Your Customers Instituting a formal way of tracking your customer interactions will help you identify your best customers. use good judgment. you can sort this data or analyze it to uncover useful information. Your knowledge base can be as simple as a notebook where staffers or the store manager jots notes. If the customer returns. Use the information you've gathered about your customers to make customer service a science. While it's natural for new employees to rely on the wisdom of more experienced ones. you enter their contact information and notes about the transaction into the software. and bend the rules. you don't want all that wisdom to walk out the door when someone quits. Later. or simply leave you a voice mail. sales staff can pull the card from the file. and they'll keep coming back for more. Give them a quality experience and complete satisfaction. Strategy #6: Manage Customer Relationships Once you have some history on your customers. Do not leave customers hanging. There are many software applications designed to do this. Whenever necessary. you can identify your best customers and reward them. With that in mind. But you don't have to use a computer to track customers. You can also see if someone has needed repairs or is due for servicing on a product. where there is no policy -.Your goal should be to resolve issues during the initial customer contact.

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