And as I wrote then, your employees are your foundation:
"Who makes your company's products and services? Who talks to your customers? Whose efforts make them love your company and tolerate your mistakes to their credit cards and bank accounts that ruin their day and waste their time? And, who comes up with the systemic solutions to those problems?
They give it life. And, they get up and do it again, amen, every day."
At the end of that post I listed a number of ways to make that investment in your employees without it costing you a dime.
Once you've invested in your employees you can make an investment with equal returns now investing in your existing customers. The title of this post reflects only the order of investments. It's important to invest first with your employees, THEN your existing customers. If your employees are your foundation, then your existing customers are the walls of your company. What you build with them stands as the shining beacon for the others to come and join -- or serve as a warning buoy to stay away. Your investments make the difference.
Here are 5 ways to invest in your customers, increase your cash-flows and do it all without spending an extra dime:
1. Answer your customers' calls immediately. Delighting customers starts with answering their calls. Taking their calls, promptly, is the easiest way to show they're important. And it's an easy way to instill doubt, erase anxieties, too common in the business world today.
2. Proactively call your customers. As many as possible in your company should take this step. The CEO should lead by example...to further inspire this initiative. Listen to their needs, ask what else can you do for them. In that discussion is the seed for future loyalty, confidence, word-of-mouth advertising and new products to meet your customers' needs.
(Tip: Use a collaborative tool, like a wiki, to share feedback from these calls with everyone in your company. That opens the conversation to everyone with more participation, understanding and solutions.)
3. Thank your customers, meaningfully. By meaningfully, I'm talking about ... in ways that are important to your customers. A bouquet of flowers is an inexpensive, creative, personally meaningful way to say thanks. Who doesn't get a boost when a bouquet of flowers arrives at your desk?
4. Answer their emails promptly. Seems obvious. If not, see point number 1.
5. Redirect your marketing and advertising dollars to your customers. Leverage those funds by investing in retaining or generating more sales from existing customers. It's far cheaper to retain a customer than convert a prospect. This ROI doesn't include the free advertising / word-of-mouth from a loyal customer.
Use those funds to incentivize your employees to create even better customer experiences. Offer incentives for:
- most number of testimonials received
- most number of add-on accounts with existing customers
- fewest number of voice mails at the end of each shift or day
- highest number of accounts handled, etc.
What awards should you offer?
1. Ask your employees what's important to them.
2. Then connect those awards to the results that are meaningful to the company.
3. Then communicate that connection.
You'll notice with these steps that there's no increase in expenses required. In fact, my own experience shows cash-flows will increase both in amount and percentage. And that ROI doesn't include the impact from free advertising as a result of word-of-mouth from our customers.
I hope this helps.
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About the Author: Zane Safrit's passion is small business and the operations' excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. He previously served as CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited. Zane's blog can be found at Zane Safrit.