For the small business owner, attracting qualified leads and making sales demand a significant investment of time, energy and money. But to truly grow the business of your dreams, you don’t just need moderately satisfied customers, you need raving fans. With the intense and necessary focus on increasing revenue and growing your client base, it can feel like there is never enough time and energy left over to nurture prospects into the kind of thrilled customers who will remain for life.
Fact: 68% of people who leave a vendor do so because of perceived indifference. This does not mean that vendors don’t care about their customers, rather it means that those customers don’t experience evidence of that care. People who don’t feel cared for will continue to look to the competition and may move on in the course of their search. In today’s increasingly saturated market, it is imperative that your customers feel like you care about them and their experience so much that your competition ceases to exist in their minds.
Great news: it's possible to create customers for life! There is a simple and inexpensive formula that you can follow to create a wow experience for your customers that lasts well beyond the first interaction. Nurturing satisfied prospects into loyal fans and long-term customers will cause them to forget your competition because of their wow experience with you.
Customers for Life: A 4-Step Formula
- Create a culture of wow
- Deliver new customer wow
- Deliver ongoing wow
- Utilize customer surveys.
As a small business owner, you have a distinct competitive advantage over larger and more established corporations: agility. Larger corporations have a complex hierarchy and decision making process, which makes changes and additions to customer service plans difficult and time-intensive. As a small business owner you have the ability to be intentional, agile and decisive, implementing new and even novel solutions quickly and easily. Taking this simple formula and evaluating your current customer practices, you can simply and inexpensively begin creating a culture of wow that spans the entire customer lifecycle.
1. Create a culture of wow
A culture of wow begins before the initial contact with customers. It has its roots in your business’ philosophy and values, in the employees you hire, and the way you train and empower them to serve your customers. A wow culture will not develop organically—it requires dedication and focus.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Are you training, teaching and talking about a culture of WOW?
- Do you only hire people who love to serve?
- Are you willing to let go of employees who show they are not willing to dedicate themselves to your culture of wow?
- Have you created incentives for your employees to wow your customers? Have you implemented a company bonus or awards for exemplary service?
- Have you empowered your employees? Have you created a budget that allows employees to use their own discretion to create wow moments for customers?
2. Deliver new customer wow
Every new customer represents a tremendous opportunity for your business. With mediocre service increasingly becoming the norm and the expectation, the efforts you make to welcome each new customer with a splash will be noticed and rewarded. Beginning to wow from the first interaction sets the tone for a long term relationship. Send a thank you gift to each new customer, or make a small investment in a personalized touch. The path to this initial wow need not be expensive or elaborate, but a simple commitment to personalized attention and care can go a long way in a world where customers are no longer accustomed to such treatment. For example, Chris Brisson of Call Loop took this extra step by outsourcing hand written thank you cards at a very small cost and a huge payoff in terms of customer loyalty.
3. Deliver ongoing wow
As a small business owner, you know that acquiring a new customer is only a small part of growing a thriving business. Customer retention and ongoing satisfaction is integral to success. For this reason, it is important to maintain focus on consistently delivering the same top-notch customer service that began your interaction. Don’t forget about your customers once they have entered your sales funnel, rather, ensure they feel special and important on a continuous basis. Consider sending unexpected follow-ups with a personal touch; a small birthday gift or an acknowledgement of their anniversary with your company. Create a customer appreciation newsletter, or develop a practice of doing shout outs on social media. Customers appreciate simplicity. One of the most overlooked ways to wow your customers is to make it easier for them to connect, engage and purchase from you. Continuously find ways to systematize, automate, improve processes, and make things easier for your customers.
4. Utilize customer surveys
Regardless of how much effort a business puts into customer service, it will always be important to regularly check in with customers to measure the success of their efforts. A periodic customer survey—whether formal or informal—is an important piece of the puzzle. The knowledge that you care about experience and are taking steps to address any deficiencies goes a long way in insuring that your customers remain loyal, even if you may not have gotten everything perfect on the first attempt. This system of constant feedback will not only let your customers know that their experience is important to you, it can provide a vehicle to help you constantly evaluate and improve your business. NPS – The Net Promoter Score is a frequently used system that divides customers into three categories:
- passive (or neutral)
The NPS score is actually only based on one simple question of sentiment: How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague? By implementing this rating system, you can easily measure these groups and gain a clear understanding of your performance through the eyes of your customers. The results of these surveys, including specific comments, should be displayed for all employees in your company. Problems cannot be addressed and solutions discovered unless all involved parties are both aware of the issues and invested finding and implementing solutions. Few business owners would argue the importance of providing the sort of customer service that wows customers and turns them into lifelong fans and promoters of your products and services. By creating a focus on customer service that begins before your first contact with a prospect and continues through the entire customer lifecycle, this simple four-step process can help you create a plan that will result in strong relationships and solid growth.