Five Ways to Stay in Touch with Your Customers

Five Ways to Stay in Touch with Your Customers

About thirty-five years ago my father bought insurance from an agent named Roy Rohatinsky. How do I remember that? Because every year until I moved out of my parents home, I received a phone call on my birthday from Roy. “Hi Dave, this Roy Rohatinsky. Just calling to wish you a happy birthday!”

“Uh, thanks.”

“Sure. Good bye.”

“Bye.”

When my parents asked who was on the phone, I replied “Some guy named Roy wishing me a happy birthday.”

“Oh, that is the insurance man!” My mom would say and we’d go back to whatever we were doing before the call came. Thirty-five years later Roy is still my parents insurance agent and I still remember his name. If you need insurance Roy can be reached at 3549 N University Ave. Ste 200 Provo, UT 84604. Roy knew how important it was to stay in touch with his clients.

Another example. My brother bought a house in Mesa, Arizona nearly fifteen years ago from a realtor named Becky. His experience with Becky as his realtor was good. Every year since then he has received a pumpkin on Halloween from Becky along with an invitation to attend a Christmas party. The first eleven years Becky received no payback on those pumpkins. But in the twelfth year I decided to move to Mesa and asked my bother if he knew of any good realtors. “Oh, I just got my pumpkin from Becky. Let me get you her number.”

Becky helped us find a great house for our family. When my wife’s brother got a job transfer to Mesa, we recommended Becky. They used her and had a great experience. I also recommended Becky to a co-worker that bought a home through her and, in turn, recommended her to another co-worker that also bought a home using her services.

Some might say Becky was wasting her pumpkins on my brother—especially after eleven years. Becky knew differently: eleven pumpkins for the commissions on four houses is a very sweet return. By the way, if you are moving to Arizona, look up Becky Coen, the best real estate agent in the state.

Staying in touch is powerful because it focuses on what really matters: the relationship. With modern technology it doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming to stay in touch. Here are five simple ways you can stay in touch with your clients or customers:

  1. Never forget a Birthday. This is a simple one, but it is amazing how few businesses make the effort. Ray made a phone call, but a card or an email can be just as effective. You might consider including a gift such as a coupon or discount. If you do, make sure it has real value. If your customers perceive you are just using it as an excuse to send them advertising you will lose any value you might have created. Use a tool like PromoterZ.com to automate the process.
  2. Pick a holiday and make it yours. Becky delivers pumpkins on Halloween, but depending on your business you could pick any holiday and make it yours. Give pies on the 4th of July or chocolates on Valentines. A card on Christmas is an old standby that still works, but it is easy to get lost in the flood of cards that are sent that time of year. Try something different.
  3. Be grateful. Send each of your clients or customers a thank you card or email after each purchase or just from time to time to thank them for being your customers. Gratitude is always appreciated.
  4. Get involved in a community event. Sponsor a golf tournament or a local road race or a cultural event of some kind in your city or industry. Let your clients know about the event and encourage their participation. They will appreciate the fact that you are giving back to the community.
  5. Publish a newsletter and/or a blog. Take a few minutes each week, month or quarter to tell your customers about your business and/or industry. Don’t be afraid to tell them about your self. Remember, the goal is to build the relationship and just like any other relationship, building a relationship with your customer requires your willingness to share. Tell them your story. No one can compete with that.
Customers who feel that you are listening to them are more likely to recommend you to a friend. How do your customers know that you are listening? Learn more

Referrals: The Holy Grail for small businesses

Referrals: The Holy Grail for small businesses

I was out Christmas shopping with my wife last week. We were at BestBuy looking for video games for our teenage sons. My wife asked the clerk for his opinion on the best game for teenage boys. He ran through several. He did a good job, but none of the descriptions were compelling enough to make me want to pick one up. As he and my wife went on talking, a fellow shopper came up beside me and said, “Hey, if you want a good game for teenagers, get this one.” I was immediately sold. I had never seen him before and probably will never see him again, but he had instant credibility because I knew he had no reason to give me his opinion other than that he really liked that game.

Referrals are powerful even if they come from a person you have never met before. Need more evidence? Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends has just released the results of her recent survey about selling to the small business market.

The survey established that a whopping 83% of vendors attract small business customers through referrals — more than twice the number that report getting customers through cold calling, direct mail and other traditional techniques.

You can see the full results of the survey here.

Business-to-consumer or business-to-business, there is no more powerful way to attract business than referrals. Don’t leave it to chance. Give them some good reasons to talk about you and then put a megaphone in their hand.

Don't ask if you don't want to know

Don't ask if you don't want to know

One of the first things you learn in flight school is that attitude—not speed--determines altitude. Given a basic air speed, if you want to climb you pull back on the yoke to change the attitude, or angle, of the wings. Opening the throttle by itself won’t make you climb. In fact, if you are already in a dive, it could increase the speed of your descent. On the other hand, if your attitude is right, pulling open the throttle will speed your climb—but only if the attitude is right first. In much the same way, the growth of your business depends on your attitude. Using tools like Promoterz™ to get your customers more engaged and speed your growth will only help if you start with the right attitude.

In a nutshell, if you are not willing to learn and improve your business based on the feedback you receive from your customers, don’t bother asking them for the feedback. Not only will it not help you, your customers will see through the ploy and take their business elsewhere. Just like opening the throttle when a plane is in a dive will speed the descent of the plane, asking customers for feedback with no intention of acting on it, will speed the descent of your business.

Socrates, the great philosopher, called the right attitude wisdom. He taught that wisdom is not so much how much you know, but realizing how much you don’t know which leads to always being willing to learn:

I am wiser than this man; for neither of us really knows anything fine and good, but this man thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas I, as I do not know anything, do not think I do either. I, seem, then in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any rate, that what I do not know I do not think I know either. (From The Apology)

Getting your customers more engaged in your business is a powerful concept. With the right attitude you can turn your customers into co-producers. They will help you improve your product and service to better meet their needs and they will pay you handsomely to do it. Then they will become a powerful sales force and go out and tell their friends what a great business you have. In a sense, they will become your partners in achieving success. The cost to you? 1) The effort to go out and get them engaged and 2) The willingness (attitude) to listen to them and make the effort to improve.

PromoterZ™ can help you with number one, but please don’t waste your time and money on PromoterZ™, or any other tool, unless you already have number two in place.

Customers who feel that you are listening to them are more likely to recommend you to a friend. How do your customers know that you are listening? Learn more

The Only Way to Grow a Business

The Only Way to Grow a Business

According to Andy Taylor, CEO of Enterprise Rent-A-Car,

The only way to grow a business is to get customers to come back for more and tell their friends.

He seems to know what he is talking about. A recent Enterprise press release notes that they are the largest car rental company in North America and the fastest growing rental company in the airport segment. They also happen to be number 16 on Forbes list of largest privately held companies.

What is their secret? This is what Taylor says: “Our success in growing our airport business can be attributed directly to the highly personalized brand of customer service that we extend to each renter.” Just words? Apparently not. Over the last four months Enterprise was ranked #1 by Market Metrix for customer satisfaction in the car rental industry and JD Powers ranked them highest in customer satisfaction among airport car rentals.

I hope it is obvious that it is not just a coincidence that Enterprise keeps their customers happy and they have been growing like crazy. Happy customers come back and they tell their friends about their experience. So how happy are your customers and do you know how to find out?

That is the question that Fred Reichheld (author of Loyalty Rules) and his team at Bain Consulting set out to answer. Is there one “customer satisfaction” type question that explains or can predict growth for a company? You can listen to a summary of their findings here.

What they found is that there is one question that has a very high correlation to growth across most industries. The question is:

“How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend?”

Makes sense, doesn’t it? If your customer is willing to put their reputation on the line for you they must have had a pretty good experience. So that should be the goal: give every customer an experience so great that they would be willing to recommend your business to their friends.

Now the question becomes, “how do you measure that?” There are probably lots of ways to do it, my bias is that Promoterz™ is probably the quickest and easiest way to implement a measuring process. The Promoterz™ feedback survey is built around the “recommend us to a friend” question. It also automatically calculates the net promoter score that Reichheld and his team developed to predict company growth.

However you decide to measure and manage customer loyalty, don’t think of it as a “one time” event or a seasonal activity. Andy Taylor, CEO of Enterprise Rent-A-Car can rank order his 5,000+ facilities based on customer scores every week. He also ties the compensation of his employees to those scores. It is an integral part of his organization’s operating metrics. If you are serious about growth, it should be a key part of yours as well.

More happy customers. More repeat sales. More referrals. Learn more

Getting the Customer Feedback Survey Right

Getting the Customer Feedback Survey Right

You can hardly go into a business anymore without being asked to complete a customer satisfaction survey. Home Depot, Chili’s, my local grocery store—check your receipts--the invitations are everywhere. Knowing that I’m interested in such things, my wife called me over to her computer a few days ago and said, “Look, another survey for you to take.” Sure enough, DexOnline.com was asking for 10 minutes of my time to complete a customer survey. I started the survey with good intentions but never made it to the end. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time or the interest; it was that after a while I couldn’t remember enough about my experience to give them a good answer. I felt like I was in the chair at the eye doctor, “Is this better or this?” I couldn’t remember. So, feeling like a failure, I gave up and logged out.

I’ve often wondered what becomes of all this data? Does anyone ever look at it? Does anyone ever do anything with it? Here is one thing I know for sure: they never get back to me to solve my problems. But then, how can they? They don’t ask for my contact info. I know what the theories are. I know that in general we as humans don’t like to disappoint and we are more likely to be honest (especially if the news is bad) behind someone’s back than we are to their face. So anonymous surveys are thought to be more honest than those we “own.” I get that, but if I just had a bad experience at the grocery store and I’m willing to tell them about it, I want them to take care of me. At that moment, as a consumer, I don’t care about making their process better. I care about me. If they make it right for me, then I’ll be loyal. I’ll be back and I’ll tell my friends about it. But if you ask for my feedback and then I never hear from you again--even if you do improve your process--from my perspective you’ve done nothing for me. And that chance to win $10,000? Forget about it. If I wanted to play the lottery, I’d go buy a ticket, where I’m sure somebody actually wins.

So does that mean asking your customers for feedback is a bad idea? No, not at all. It is a great way to better understand your customers and begin a dialog with them. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you develop your strategy:

  1. Remember it is About Them, not You or Your Business. Your customer’s job is not to make your business better. Ask them what they think so that you can understand and please them, not so you can make your business better. It is subtle, but there is a key difference here. The great thing is as you focus on them and pleasing them, your business will get better.
  2. Get Back to Them. If you are going to ask your customers for feedback, make sure you are committed and have the logistics in place to get back to them. At the very least, thank them for their effort and do what you can to make any thing that might be wrong, right.
  3. Keep it Short. I can’t stress this enough. A short survey will increase your response rate and increase the accuracy of the feedback. Remember my experience with Dexonline? About four minutes into it, I was clicking on whatever came up first just to get done.
  4. Remember your Goal. This goes hand-in-hand with number three. The customer feedback survey is not the place to try to get the answers to all of your questions (no matter how critical they may be). Your real goal is to get an indication of customers’ overall perceptions and start a dialog. If you really need answers to other questions, get back in touch with them and ask them if they’d be willing to participate in a more in-depth study. Think of it as one more opportunity to increase customer loyalty.
  5. Use an Automated Tool. There is no reason not to use an automated tool to collect feedback. Your results will be more accurate and timely and it will be easier for you to get back to your customers quickly (see number 2). I’m biased, but I think PromoterZ™ is the best tool for gathering customer feedback and acting on it quickly. When you are ready to do an in-depth market survey, check out www.surveymonkey.com or www.zoomerang.com.
Promoterz is the hands-free, word-of-mouth marketing service that takes care of the details so you can focus on business. Learn more

Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.
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