Small Business

C. Norman Beckert: Personal service, listening are keys to repeat business

C. NORMAN BECKERT, Idaho district director for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired ExecutivesOctober 22, 2013 

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C. Norman Beckert

I recently read an article written by Ron Consolino, a SCORE associate who volunteers in Houston. He offered several sage suggestions to address the question of how to get repeat business, and I’ve added a few of my own.

NEVER LET CLIENTS FORGET WHO YOU ARE

Use every method possible to keep yourself at the front of their minds. Write thank-you notes once a job is done — handwritten notes stand out from the crowd. Make it your business to find out your customers’ special occasions and send a card or flowers to let them know that you remember and value them. Send them news clips that you think might be of interest to them, even if you don’t currently have a contract. The next time they need some work, they might call.

GIVE THEM MORE THAN WHAT THEY PAID FOR

That little extra that they didn’t expect goes a long way to impress the customer. Providing a bit more will help your customers perceive that your product or service has greater value than those offered by your nearest competitor.

It’s not enough to meet your customer’s needs; you have to anticipate them. Look at your business like a customer would. What could you be doing better? Think ahead to what the market is going to be demanding next year, and determine what you can do better a year from now.

PERSONALIZE CUSTOMER SERVICE

The businesses that personalize customer service gain customers who come back. Your competition may have a product or service that is similar to yours, but with personalized customer service, you can distinguish your company. Here are suggestions on how to go about it.

• Make it a regular practice to speak personally with your customers. Ask if they are satisfied with your products and services. Ask if there are any needs or desires you can address.

• Suggest alternative products that can reduce their cost or improve their productivity.

• If it’s a technical or manufacturing product, offer to arrange for the manufacturer’s rep to visit with your customer. Promptly advise the customer of any changes your supplier makes and provide timely notice of price changes.

• When a customer stops doing business with you, consider it unacceptable. Find out why it happened.

Remember to listen.

Too many businesses advertise the next big thing without considering whether their customers want a next big thing.

Deliver what you promise.

Delivering a product or service that disappoints is the fastest way to lose your customers. Quality, quantity and on-time performance are three givens to meet customer expectations.

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tvscore@yahoo.com

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