If you consider yourself to be a sophisticated business owner, then you've most likely heard of the 80/20 rule—that 80 percent of your business is coming from 20 percent of your customers.
Most businesspeople use it as a cutting tool to trim the dead weight on their customer list. The idea that 80 percent of your efforts get eaten up by an unusually demanding 20 percent of your customer base is a great reminder not only to focus your energies on what's important, but that it's OK to fire a client every now and again.
But 80/20 also has a positive side because it also means that 80 percent of your profit comes from 20 percent of your customers. Some of that's because they buy more from you than your other clients, but it also happens because they are advocates for your brand. The better you take care of them, the more profit they'll generate for you.
Put Some Effort Into It
So why not spend some time taking better care of your cream-of-the-crop customers? Apply the 80/20 rule by pulling some effort from customers who frankly aren't worth it and apply it to wowing your best customers. These four tips can get you started:
1. Make real small talk. Most customer service scripts for opening conversations with a customer include a line to the effect of "How are you?" But few scripts include instructions to actively listen to the response to that question, ask follow-up questions and actually engage with the client about what's happening in their lives. This is all part of showing customers that you view them as actual people, which is a disappointingly rare thing when dealing with businesses today. Some of your clients won't want to make small talk—and the same responsive listening will let your people identify them and move straight on to business.
2. Provide an instantaneous response. We live in a world where people get mad when the instantaneously delivered Netflix video takes an extra second or two to load. So why do so many companies still promise a response to a question "within 24 hours" or even "sometime this week"? Use texting, email or even Twitter to have a meaningful interaction within minutes or even seconds of your first contact with a customer. Something as simple as a "Thanks for calling. I'm working on (exact description of the problem) right now. I will get back to you when I find the solution or in one hour with an update, whichever comes first" will truly wow the recipient because of the fast delivery and the specific details that show a human being cares about what happens next.
3. Sweat one tiny thing. This is the flip side of what I call the the "Mission Statement Problem." Corporate mission statements too often promise 100 percent perfection across every imaginable platform and metric for service. That's an impossible mission, and companies that try to excel at everything end up excelling at nothing. Instead, be very good at all your key things, and find one small detail to be perfect at every time. Your bar might have the best tables for watching sports anywhere in town. Your receptionist could have a system that helps her remember the birthdays and grades of every child your clients have. Whatever the detail, make it part of your company's culture and engage around it consistently.
4. Identify what they need ... even when it's not what they ask for. When Jia Jiang, a documentary filmmaker, was doing a piece on how businesses say no to unusual requests, he asked Krispy Kreme to make him a set of Olympic-themed donuts. The store employee not only made him the donuts but frosted them in the correct Olympic colors rather than the wrong ones Jiang had asked for. Taking the extra time to actively listen and check the facts will create the kind of interaction that your customers will talk about and remember.
Do you know who your company's passionate advocates are? In the comments below, share how you won them over, how they bring in more business or how you keep them excited.
Jason Brick has contributed more than 2,000 blog and magazine articles to local, regional and national publications and speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. You can find out more about Jason at www.brickcommajason.com.
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