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Landing a new customer is hard—and it’s expensive. Sprint pays $315 to acquire a customer and many of the big financial firms pay close to $200. Hopefully your costs won’t be that high but once you get the customer, the last thing you want to do is lose them. That’s why you have to watch for the signs of an impending breakup and take steps to mend the relationship early.
Sometimes you hear that a complaining customer is actually a good thing because they’re engaged in your company. While that might be true in academic circles, business owners know that people have better things to do than call you when things aren’t working. They get annoyed if they have to spend part of their day trying to get something working.
If you find that one of your customers is calling more frequently and the problems seem to be relatively small, that could be a sign that they’re unhappy with your business. As with any complaint, fix it fast and give them over-the-top service. Don’t make them wait, and for your larger customers, be personally involved in the resolution process.
RELATED: Turn Customer Complaints into Assets
A complaining customer is bad but a customer that says nothing is even worse. Maybe you sent an e-mail, texted, or called but got no response. That’s a really bad sign and one that should be rectified right away. If calls and e-mails aren’t working, making a trip to the business or job site is the next step. A customer who is ignoring you is likely in negotiations with somebody else.
Of course, you shouldn’t let things get to the point of no response. For larger accounts, communicate with them often and for the smaller customers, find reasons to create touchpoints as well.
The Comparison Game
How often do you hear something like, “The other provider does this but you don’t.” Clearly, your customer is looking at other companies to service them. If that’s the case, it’s time to go back to the sales process and listen to what they want, renegotiate your deal, and make them happy again.
Be warned—this is not a time for defensiveness. Put yourself in the place of your customer. Somebody is probably charging them with finding the best service for the lowest price. Be a partner in that process.
Unsubscribes from E-mail Lists
Marketing e-mails quickly get annoying when a person’s inbox ends up overrun with them but it’s definitely worth looking into if a client unsubscribes from your e-mail communication. First, make sure you’re using a program that allows the person to give a reason why they’re unsubscribing. If they don’t provide a reason, make a call and find out if everything is ok.
RELATED: What You Can Learn from Your Email Opt-Outs
Quotes the Contract
As soon as your customer starts sounding more like an attorney and less like a customer, there’s a problem. If they’re looking at the contract and quoting line items, they’re clearly unhappy. Instead of getting into a discussion about what the contract does or doesn’t say, ask them more personal questions. Are they unhappy? What is the lack in service that is causing them to look at what they’re entitled to?
Once you find the truth, assure them, and remind your employees that you’re a business that surpasses the terms of the contract. They will always get more than the contract states and if there’s a problem, they should bring it up right away rather than figuring out what they’re entitled to.
If your customer’s company is bought by another company or your main contact leaves, there’s no reason to believe that you will lose the account but you should be proactive about introducing yourself and taking the new decision makers through your sales process that stresses your value over your price.
If you wait for them to contact you, it might be too late. Situations like this should also remind you of the importance of keeping strong relationships with your customers. If you don’t know of a change at a company you do business with, by the time you find out, it could be too late.
You've Quit Investing in Them
They say that you should keeping “dating” your spouse even when you’re married. That’s certainly true in business too. You worked hard to get them—and it was expensive, but it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire than to retain. That means that the money you spend to keep a customer is far less, so make the investment. Take them out to lunch, invite them to an event, send them marketing materials, and continually follow up.
The rules of personal relationships often apply to business relationships because all of us are human. We want to be valued, noticed, and respected. We want to know that our opinion matters and that we’re the type of customer who shouldn’t expect any bumps in the road when it comes to customer service.
Customers still value strong service along with a great product but that includes cultivating and maintaining the relationship. By staying on top of the relationship, when problems arise you’ll hear about them before the customer is in the place of making a decision to stay or leave. As the old cliché says, sometimes the best defense is a great offense.
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