Everyone loses clients, budgets are cut, companies change directions, and some companies don’t survive. But have you ever lost an account you could’ve and should’ve continued to service? Has a customer ever needed new work you could’ve done, but they didn’t come to you? If you have ever lost an account to a competitor, you understand the pain and self-doubt created. What could I have done differently? What did the competitor offer that I didn’t? Why? Why? Why? Here are a few ideas to help you avoid losing that customer.
1. Make it easy to work with you
A friend of mine became a new manager for a loan company, in a failing branch, under consideration to be closed by the corporate office. In three months, he made it the number one office in the district. Corporate sent auditors certain they would find loans that didn’t qualify by company standards. The auditors not only didn’t find “bad” loans, but to the contrary, the office received the highest grade possible.
The loan company specialized in high-risk loans through auto dealerships. They would offer loans to potential car buyers that auto dealerships couldn’t finance. Most loan officers waited for the auto dealership to call-in applications, then process them. Instead, my friend scheduled visits to every dealership in his area, and told the branch manager not to worry about picking and choosing applications; he simply took all the applications and sorted them. How can you make it easy for your customers to work with you?
2. Send customers to your customer
If you want to thank your customer, send them business! They may return the favor. Call your customer and inform them of the referral. Don’t accept a gift or charge a fee. Let them know having them, as a customer, is more than enough.
3. Make it easy to meet with you
Give your customer your cell phone number; let them know you are available for them any hour, and not just business hours. Tell them they can email you anytime, day or night. Meet them for breakfast or lunch. Take them to dinner, if appropriate. Be creative — why not meet them at an event? Invite them to your business’ facility for a tour; attend a convention or trade show they will attend.
4. Under-promise and over-deliver
Meet or beat your deadlines. Follow through on your commitments and promises. If a deadline is unrealistic, do not agree to it. It’s better to explain why a deadline is not realistic, up-front, than to miss the deadline. Offer the best product and service to meet the customer’s needs — not necessarily the most expensive.
5. Add value
Set up a time to inspect the work. Follow up on a recent job, or determine how an older project is meeting their needs. Ask your customer for their advice and input, then meet with them to complete a survey about your work, their future needs, and referrals. Invite them to a seminar at your office. Offer to conduct free training or seminars at their office. Introduce them to others in your office with expertise, which could help your customer, whether it directly relates to your product and service, or not. For example, at TKO, we regularly offer help with social media, marketing, and leadership development.
6. Keep your name in the customer’s mind
Visit, send thank you cards, get opt-in permission for an email newsletter. My real-estate agent from 2001 continues to send me birthday cards, interesting tidbits—even an occasional ticket to an event, and you know what? I recommend her. She did a great job helping me and her name is front and center.
Share your story with us. How have you cultivated repeat business?