Getting a new customer is five to 10 times as expensive as retaining somebody you already do business with, according to an article in Inc. Every business suffers a slow attrition as customers move away or change their needs. It's the preventable losses that hurt the most, both financially and personally. Avoid that pain by teaching your team not to do these six things when it comes to your customers ... or you can expect to lose them very quickly.
1. Sell Their Information
Yes, sharing customer information can represent a new income stream for your business. Yes, it seems like everybody's doing it these days. No, it isn't a good idea. When your customers give you their personal data, they're trusting you with it. If you abuse that trust, why would they trust you with anything else?
2. Talk About Politics or Religion
A little small talk is expected in any transaction, even just checking out at the register, but avoid these two conversational time bombs at all costs. There's little to be gained from talking about them with people you agree with, and everything to be lost if you butt heads with a client over these topics. If a client brings the topic up, it's best to be noncommittal while listening politely. In some regions, you should add professional sports to this list as well.
3. Blame Them for Your Broken Promise
Given how ugly that reads, it's surprising how many companies try to do this. If your company—or a company you rely on to provide services or support—breaks a promise, own up to the mistake and do everything you can to make it right. People appreciate a sincere apology more than a laundry list of excuses. This is even true if there's a chance the problem was the customer's fault. The price of replacing a purchase or giving away a few hours of service is nothing compared to the future value of that customer.
4. Suggestively Sell the Wrong Thing
Suggestive sales is part of making your business run, whether it's Amazon hawking what other items customers bought after viewing an item or a 15-year-old asking if you want fries with your burger. Where some businesses go wrong is with one-size-fits-all suggestive sales.
Firing off a set of suggestions without regard for who you're asking shows you don't value the customer as an individual. Compare that to making thoughtful suggestions based on what you know about the customer's needs, even if the only information you're working with is what's already in the shopping cart.
5. Being Rude
This mistake of simple rudeness goes by a variety of aliases, including but not limited to: arrogance, inattention, seeming too busy, name calling, apathy, losing your temper and boredom.
Everybody is entitled to a bad day once in a while, but many front-line customer service people don't seem to understand the basics of courtesy to strangers. Train your employees—and yourself—to leave those behaviors behind when they come to work. Nothing you wouldn't say or do to your favorite grandmother has a place when working with customers.
6. Fail to Recognize Them
Repeat customers will forgive a favorite shop for higher prices, lesser selection and even the occasional service gaffe—if they feel their loyalty and affection is returned. If you can't recognize their value, their history or even their faces, that loyalty will go to somebody who can. This is obviously important in a relationship business like a health club or law office, but even applies in retail with customers you see once or twice a month. A "how did you like that shirt you bought last week?" can go a long way.
Have you ever lost a customer and realized afterward that you could have prevented it?
Read more articles on how to provide stellar customer service.
Jason has contributed over 2,000 blog and magazine articles to publications local, regional and national. He speaks regularly at writing and business conferences.
Photos: Think stock