It is a challenging time for most of today’s business leaders. Leaders demand growth for their business, so marketers continually focus on getting their products and services into the hands of new customers. Unfortunately, this intense focus on attracting new customers has diverted the attention of established or past customers. It is significantly more expensive to attract a new customer than to retain an existing customer. So why are so many companies focusing their efforts and money solely on new customers? It is because every organization is committed to growth and growth is associated with building new businesses. However, to maintain continued profitability, companies must establish and maintain profitable relationships with all of their customers (past, present, and future). Business leaders must do four things to have profitable customer relationships.
1. You must be continually attracting (profitable) new customers in the industry sectors that you have identified in your strategic plan.
2. You must actively retain your current (profitable) customers and reestablish relationships with previous customers.
3. You must customize your product and service offerings to better meet the expectations and needs of your customers.
4. Your employees should receive ongoing training and rewards for providing exceptional customer service.
New Customers: The industry sectors that you have identified for growth in your strategic plan should be implemented throughout your company. Your sales team should have your commission structure designed to reflect (and reward) closed sales in the industries you’ve committed to. When you market and sell in your new market, you need to make sure that the products and services you offer are profitable. In other words, you should conduct a customer profitability analysis at the start of the sale and periodically throughout the sales cycle. Too many companies focus their marketing dollars on their customers, who are the biggest revenue generators. Remember that profits are income minus costs, so you need to make sure that all of your customer relationships are producing the results that you initially projected.
Current and Past Customers – You worked hard to attract new customers to your business and you know that you must continue to work to establish and strengthen the relationship you created. The more you know about your customer’s organization, their buying habits and patterns, their growth plans, and their operations, the more successful you will be in designing your relationship programs to meet their needs. The goal is to become familiar and so essential to your customers that your business is the only one they consider when purchasing products and services.
Many companies offer special prices, package deals, or incentives to attract new customers, while completely ignoring their current customers. If you want to prevent your customers from switching over to your competitors (to take advantage of your “new customer discounts”), you must create loyalty (recognition / appreciation) programs and referral discounts and / or incentives. If you value your customers, reward them for their continued trust in your company’s products and services. You might also consider instituting a “frequent user” program. The more business a customer does with your company, they can receive a discount on future jobs (or purchases) or a free service.
Communicate with your clients on a regular basis to provide useful information such as case studies, success stories, testimonials, and new product / service launches. Invite your customers to give you feedback on their needs / wants. The more inclusive you are with your customers, the more they will value the relationship with your company.
Customize your programs. Technology has offered us a wide variety of communication vehicles to reach our target audience. Technology is a tool to support customer service, not to replace it. Always offer your customers the option to speak to a human being. I know that having trained customer service specialists can add cost to the bottom line, but think about the amount of business you lose by not having someone available to visit with your clients when they need help, have questions, or have a complaint that needs to be resolved. . .
To exceed your customers’ expectations, you must use your technology and marketing expertise to personalize your relationship with each customer. Make sure your CRM (customer relationship manager) programs are integrated with your customer contact programs and that you are working with your customers to understand how and when they want to be contacted. The more you know about your individual customers and can customize your marketing and sales program to meet their needs, the stronger your customer relationships will be.
Social media continues to revolutionize the way we do business. Anyone can quickly research your business to discover your company’s customer satisfaction history. Your business reputation is one of your organization’s most valuable assets, so be sure to do your best to maintain excellent customer relationships and continually build a strong reputation for your business.
Employees: People treat people the way they treat them. To provide exceptional customer service – a must-have for every employee in your organization – you must ensure that your organization’s core values specifically address your commitment to your customers and employees. Customer and employee satisfaction are intertwined, and business leaders must recognize and reward employees for the value they continually add to the organization. When things go wrong, your employees need the training and resources to turn dissatisfied customers into happy, satisfied, and repeat customers. Make sure you have a resolution ladder in place, so dissatisfied customers can immediately connect with someone who has the authority to resolve their issue.
For your business to create and maintain long-term profitability, you must continually develop and improve your relationships with customers. Treat your clients as valuable assets that they are. Regularly conduct a customer profitability analysis and use your technology to customize your products and services to meet the individual needs of your customers and watch your business grow.