Few companies can get away with poor customer service and still stay in existence. For the rest of us, customer service may be all that differentiates us from our competitors. Tough economic times demand that business owners build relationships with new customers and capitalize on relationships existing relationships. The strategies your business employ depend on a number of factors which can help you tailor your approach. Two key factors are whether you are seeking to expand existing relationships or develop new ones and who those relationships are with.
Existing or new customers?
Existing customers know who you are and what you do. Follow up on past sales to see whether your customer’s needs have changed? Do they need more of your product or service? Do they need an enhanced product? Service or maintenance? Even if the answer to each of these is no, check in and see if they’re satisfied with their product. If so, ask them to keep you in mind for future purchases and share your information with their contacts. If they’re not satisfied with their product, ask them how it could be improved. Having a genuine interest and dialogue about problems they’re having can be a huge boon to your relationship itself. It could also open avenues to trouble-shoot, train or upgrade their equipment.
For new customers, your first hurdle is getting them to take the time to listen to you and listen to your message. Finding customers through existing customers can ease this hurdle. Either way you find potential customers, it’s important to be aware of their time. If you ask for 5 minutes to talk to them, don’t spend 20 minutes. Briefly, explain who you are and what your business does before asking about their needs. This will allow you to tailor your response to their specific needs and avoid wasting your and their time explaining unnecessary services or products. Ask permission to send them more information or schedule a meeting to discuss their needs in more detail.
Boomer or X-ers? The Generation Game: When approaching your customers, whether existing or current, it’s important you understand their experience and customize your approach to their needs and perspective. Generation X and younger not only want, but expect businesses to have a presence on the web. It’s not enough to call them or send them literature, they’ll want to be able to read your material on line, receive information in e-mail and contact you the same way. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are going to be familiar and comfortable with getting information from the internet, though they’re not as likely to feel comfortable giving personal information over the net. The older generation, the Silent generation, may not understand how to access your information if it’s exclusively on the web. When preparing your materials:
- Have both printed and electronic versions of all materials
- Let customers know that alternative formats are available
- Have large print versions available if requested.
- The same information should be available in print as is on your website.
All materials should have full contact information. Include the location of your bricks and mortar store, telephone and TTY contact information, as well as your e-mail, web address and social media information.
For all of your customers, young or old, existing customers or prospects. It’s imperative that your staff convey professionalism through the way the greet the customers in person or on the phone, how they dress and the manner in which you keep your establishment. Etiquette does not cost anything, and can make or break a relationship. Follow up contacts with a letter and some literature, customize to the individual with whom you spoke. This tough economy means taking the extra step to meet the needs of your customers. Little steps can go a long way towards keeping the existing customer and creating a new one.