7 Cardinal Rules for Keeping Customers

customersWhy is it that businesses spend so much time and money to acquire new customers but, once they have them, do nothing to keep them?

If it costs so much more money to acquire a customer than to keep one, it only makes sense that we should strive to hold onto them. Once customers come, they will stay…until they don’t. And when they leave, will you know why?

Here are 7 Cardinal Rules for Keeping Customers:

1. Make promises and keep them. Whether that’s a promise of delivery time, returning a phone call, responding to an enquiry or after-sales service, whatever you promise…deliver on that promise. deliver

2. Know thy customer. Especially if you’re a locally-based business, serving a community in person, there’s no reason not to get to “know” your customer. Know their name, their preferences. Offer up suggestions that are in keeping with their tastes and likes.

3. Ask. Ask for opinions, feedback, preferences, things that could be done better. A simple question: “What else could I do for you to make your shopping experience better?”

4. Listen. No “yes-but” excuses. When someone is providing feedback, they’re giving you gold. Don’t excuse, justify, rationalize or explain. Just listen. Then act. Act to make those changes that are reasonable and feasible to meet customer expectation.

5. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Why is this so difficult for businesses to do? After all, we are all customers. Why is it that indifference, over-attentiveness, push-selling and SCREAM selling are so prevalent in business, when we, as customers, abhor that behaviour.

6. Smile. In your voice, on your face, in your written communication and in your demeanor. Smiling is contagious. Just observe the difference when someone smiles at you, and your reaction. Smiling relieves stress, boosts endorphins, enhances immunity and lowers blood pressure. Do yourself and your customers a favour and share smiles. smile

7. Keep in touch. Why is it that we get bombarded with messaging during the “courting” phase as customer, but are virtually ignored once we’ve bought? I regularly hear of people who’ve switched their barber, massage therapist, “favourite” restaurant or other service provider or shop, lament the fact that they never hear from those businesses. Their cry of “I guess my business didn’t mean much to them” is well founded. Not every business can measure the comings-and-goings of each and every customer, but when NO attempt is even made, especially with “regulars”, what message does that send?

Do you know when a customer leaves? Do you know why? If not, why not?

What are your Cardinal Rules for Keeping Customers?

  • http://www.slymarketing.com Jens P. Berget

    Hi Kaarina,

    What you’re saying is important, and it seems that not many businesses do have a strategy to keep their current customers. But they have a strategy to get new customers. What I find the most interesting is #7. We need to keep in touch with customers, and not only when we have something on sale. We should combine “sales for our current customers only” with questions, and feedback, and build a strong relationship. 

    Awesome post Kaarina :)

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Thanks @berget:disqus . In my business, which is a service, I find that “keeping in touch” keeps people in my loop most effectively, not only as customers, but as ambassadors, champions, connectors and clients. It doesn’t take much to do that “little something extra” to make someone feel appreciated and valued, but so few businesses do that effectively. We can be the exceptions, right?:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/bdorman264 Bill Dorman

    Ah yes, know it well. In commercial insurance if you take the time to align with the ‘right’ customer you will keep them on average 7-10 yrs. If they leave and tell you it was price, there probably was some other stuff going on, like taking them for granted and not feeling the love anymore. We made it too easy for them to fire us.

    My challenge is, I’m primarily responsible for ‘new’ production; I get to do the wining and dining and the fun stuff. Once I have them in house, I have to turn the over to my ‘team’ so it frees me up to go find new customers. However, I have to be very purposeful in staying in touch w/ ‘my’ customers; especially the top 20% that drives 80% of my income.

    I do have three customers who have essentially been customers for life. They have been with us since they opened their doors and two are 20+ years. Those are the customers you like.

    Good info; common sense but needs to be reinforced because sometimes you are so far down in the weeds handling the day to day stuff, it’s easy to forget about the ‘little’ things. 

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       You’re right @twitter-34985693:disqus : it really is common sense, but common sense isn’t very common these days. You’re obviously doing all the right things, because a customer for life is what we should all strive to have. And that customer might not always be buying from us, but they’re recommending, connecting, championing and/or singing our praises, which in turn keeps the business world turning.

      Hey, can I have your job? The wining and dining part? Cheers! Kaarina

      • http://twitter.com/bdorman264 Bill Dorman

        It’s funny, we had our sales meeting today and had an open forum talking about where the bump in the road was for us in writing new business. About 70% said the biggest hurdle was actually sounding compelling enough to get the appointment. We all felt we do pretty good if we can get knee to knee, but sometimes break down just getting to first base. We all bemoaned how many moving parts there are and how hard it can be.

        Yes, the wining and dining is fun and there are many parts of the process that make it all worthwhile. However, you do have to be a juggler at times to pull it off. Hell, if it was easy every body would be doing it and nobody would be getting paid, right? 

  • http://twitter.com/BetsyKCross Betsy Cross

    I think communication from the start is key to ward off disappointments in not meeting social expectations. If a relationship had been formed, and a client had been “got”, explaining the shift in communication would help a lot. Telling them that they’d receive regular emails, newsletters, or contact via phone from an assigned “agent” would give them a sense of  how the “relationship”  will show up in the future. Explaining the size of the company and the amount of clients as well as the desire to serve them well and HOW you’re going to do that helps, too. But left on their own with only their imagination as to why things have gone south is not smart because you never know who the sensitive ones are who take offense where none was intended. Also giving them a way to communicate (email addresses, phone #’s) makes the responsibility reciprocal. Just some thoughts! Thanks Kaarina!

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       EXCELLENT thoughts @twitter-286790484:disqus . Communicating effectively should be the core skill taught in every school and every business, with “listening” topping the list of skills.

      You are so right. Problems happen when something isn’t clear to the customer, and they are left to draw their own conclusions. They can get frustrated, disappointed or annoyed when a simple communication could have averted the problem. Your comment is an excellent blog post in itself: thanks! Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.transcriptione-services.com Alicia Jay

    Hey Kaarina!
    You are right on with this post! I am currently in the processing of writing a new free report on this very topic. As Betsy mentioned, communicating with the customer from the very beginning is key. You get to know each other’s expectations and make sure that you’re on the same page.

    Another biggie is to acknowledge when a mistake has been made and act quickly to fix it. The majority of customers understand that we’re human and mistakes happen. But, it’s how you handle that mistake that just might make the difference for them to decide to stay or go.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Great addition @AliciaJay:disqus : owning up to mistakes and correcting them to the customer’s satisfaction (as humanly feasible:) creates trust and repeat customers. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.WaxingUnLyrical.com/ Shonali Burke

    I’d say #5 is perhaps the most important. Because if we treat everyone as we’d like to be treated ourselves, we’ll go above and beyond, because WE love it when that happens. It’s the good old Golden Rule at play.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Spot on @Shonali:disqus . I watched a sales clerk today deal with a customer in a snarky, impatient fashion, and I stood there and wondered…is that how you would like to be treated? It never ceases to amaze me that people in service (and aren’t we all) behave so inconsiderately to customers. A clear need for not only staff training, but communicating a culture that values customer service and customer experience. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.late-bloomers.net Barbara Klein

    Ah, Kaarina, great post, thank you. And I love the comments, so much wisdom to be found here.

    My cardinal rules? I treat a customer like a human being, my favourite rule would be your #5. An analogy comes into my mind: would you go for the lover who rushes from one conquest to the other dropping his trophy as soon as … (whatever comes into your mind now!). 

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Quite the analogy @BarbaraKlein:disqus : paints a very clear picture! And yes…#5 seems to be the top of the hit parade, and I totally agree. Such a simple concept and simple act to behave with respect, kindness, compassion to be of service. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/adamtoporek Adam Toporek

    This is a great list Kaarina! I think #7 is the most rarely practiced  of the tips. It can be a challenge for a successful SMBs to  maintain that contact when they are triaging so many things — but it is crucial. There are so many out of the box CRM tools nowadays that make creating the systems  to do this affordable, that it is really easier than ever. What is more difficult to grasp is when struggling SMB’s fail to practice this.

    While 7 is most rare, I think the combo of 3 and 4 is most important — ask… and listen!

    Great #custserv tips Mrs. D!

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Thanks so much @twitter-223833082:disqus . You can take credit for prompting my thoughts into the customer service arena with your brand-spanking new and awesome website. CustomersThatStick…love the logo, the name and of course, the content!

      I agree that #7 is not practiced well. I recently worked with a company that had an amazing customer database that wasn’t being used at all to stay in contact with clients. Something as simple as recognizing customer preferences in terms of brands i.e. getting in touch with customers who’d bought a particular brand and notifying them of new products arriving with a personalized notification…could have been gold…not done at all.

      Ask…listen…solve the person’s problem to the best of one’s ability. Life can be quite simple when we seek to serve. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/rdopping Ralph Dopping

    Kaarina,
    OK. I was reading your post ticking the 7 things off with my fingers thinking; “All right, I have got one for her.” But alas, you nailed them all.

    In my world, like most, without happy clients we would be sunk. The best thing we can do as consultants, no matter how the account goes, is make sure we are there when the job is complete. If we disappear then the client is left with whatever impression they last had and in my business (architecture/interior design) the end of projects are usually a bit stressful. Moves and change, no matter how well the project went, are never smooth as silk.

    Anyway, listening, managing expectations and really hearing your clients is the best medicine for us to lead to a successful project. Giving them the best service you can and helping them understand what they are getting before they commit is critical in my book. 

    Thanks for sharing these. Good reminders. 

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Delighted to have provided some reminders @twitter-229922134:disqus , and we’re on the same page when it comes to “being of service” to our customers/clients. @BarbaraKlein:disqus made a great analogy in her comment below about dropping people like hot potatoes. Business should never be about taking the money and running. If we want to keep customers, we’ve got to cultivate ongoing, meaningful relationships, and that comes from staying in touch, communicating effectively, solving problems, reducing pain points and/or enhancing satisfaction.

      I’m with you on the “best medicine”. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Al

    Excellent post, my friend.  All 7 are great. #5 is the best. Love what Shonali said about the golden rule. I love #4. Listening is the key to really connecting with the customer.  If you completely and totally listen, they will tell you exactly what they want. #7 Keep in touch. This is very important.  Follow up with the personal touch.  A phone call, a hand-written note or maybe even a real life visit (if possible).  Just show them that you CARE.  You know how I feel about this. 

    I could go on and on re. this post and customer service, but I will share one of my favorite quotes;

     ”People don’t CARE how much you know, until they know how much you CARE”

    Thanks Kaarina. 

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       So true @55bda8bf067c222f67632d2dc41af473:disqus  “People don’t CARE how much you know, until they know how much you CARE”.

      It appears that #5 has resonated with most of us. Let us all be ambassadors of change, pay these messages forward and provide stellar customer service and amazing customer experiences. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Joel Carter

    Great advice, the golden rule in business

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Thanks @65919e31d355eedace3b995947813b53:disqus . Welcome to the community! Great to see you here, and hope you’ll drop by often. Would love to have you submit a word that begins with the letter “N” for next week’s Alphabet post. You can see a sample here http://www.kaarinadillabough.com/money-marketing-monkey-business-alphabet-series-continues/

      And here’s a call out to all…bring on the words that begin with the letter “N” and let’s get next week’s party started. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/gingerconsult Jen Olney

    Excellent post, Kaarina. #1 is the most important – if you promise it, keep it and do whatever you must to live up to your words. Trust is such a huge factor for every relationship – especially business. If you cannot live up to your word, be honest with your client. They will appreciate you even more. 

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       @twitter-121085582:disqus , trust is something that can be easily given but, when transgressed, very difficult to regain. We must make promises that we keep, and keep promises that we make. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    Customer service is so bad now that you can distinguish yourself solely by providing “ordinary” service. Such a simple way to help build and secure your business yet so few do it.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Sad but true @TheJackB:disqus . And it’s amazing how few businesses realize that the key to customer satisfaction/retention is treating others well. I should write a series on the observations I make about lousy customer service. Everything from facial expressions of staff, to the things they say in front of customers, to body language, to “stock” stupid company lines (like “can I help you?”…really? especially when said the moment I put one foot across the threshold). OMG I could go on…and on…an on…Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/Soulati Jayme Soulati

    We ought to also invite customers to add thoughts, reviews, positives on social media channels. Get them engaged so we have their pulse; when it’s negative, we need to fix what’s broken. (BTW, is the customer always right, in this day and age?)

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Awesome comment @twitter-22830278:disqus : engagement’s so important, even when the negative’s appear. They just give us the opportunity to right the wrongs. Yes, I would say: the customer’s right, even when they’re wrong:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://hajrakvetches.com Hajra

    I feel treating customers is probably what resonates with them the most. As a customer I feel that when I am treated well and when they are ready to see how I am seeing things; or at least make me feel comfortable in dealing with them; I am more likely to be loyal to them! ;)

  • Andrew

    these tips that you have given are so correct and #5 is very important their is no way anyone can argue about that. thanks for the great post.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Thanks so much @aded3d7414388020fe0f5e1c4b5fa06b:disqus for that lovely feedback. Please feel free to drop by often: the welcome mat’s always out:) Cheers! Kaarina

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