When I work with small businesses nearly coast-to-coast one thing we do is collect and review testimonials from customers. What I’ve learned from this exercise is that your customers will become fiercely loyal and gladly recommend you primarily because of YOUR PEOPLE, not your products…
Here’s a quick sample of actual testimonials:
“Our service guy goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
“The girl in the office makes me feel like she knows me.”
“Our rep doesn’t try to sell us stuff we don’t need.”
“Our service man is wonderful – wouldn’t change him ever!“
Or how about, “We love their business because they have such great personalities.”
I didn’t make that last one up! It’s a real testimonial that we received for a small business.
You mean people are choosing their vendors based on the personalities of that vendor? Yes! Believe it or not, people want to do business with other PEOPLE! In case you haven’t noticed, these days in the USA we aren’t real fond of doing business with our government or big corporations.
Now keep in mind, if the product or service you promised to deliver is sub-par, then you have a problem. If the customer enjoyed working with your people, chances are very high they’ll give you the opportunity to fix the problem. If not, good luck.
However, if you deliver just what you told them you would, or a little more, then it’s your people who will turn those regular customers into raving fans. Once they have your product or service there’s virtually nothing else to set you apart from everyone else who provides a product or service for them. You said you would deliver X, you delivered X, and the transaction is over.
Let’s look at a dramatic example…
The banking industry has some of the highest retention rates of any industry bordering on 90% retention of customers. You’re much more likely to get divorced than to change banks once you get married.
But, believe it or not, it’s not the free checking, savings account interest rates, or debit card rebates that get people to stick with a bank…
My mother got married when she was 19 and moved 1500 miles across the country to do so. She was in a new area and didn’t know anyone aside from my father and his family. In those first 6 years of marriage she had 5 children and guess who were often some of the first people to meet her new babies?
The tellers at the bank!
Sounds crazy, right? But in the days before direct deposit, every 2 weeks she’d have to go to the bank to deposit a paycheck and every time she’d see the same ladies. They obviously would chit-chat about her current child or the one on the way and what women don’t love to see cute little babies?
The point is, to this day, nearly 30 years later, she couldn’t tell you a darn thing about the programs or services or interest rates of that bank, but she remembers the tellers AND the bank.
If your business has any sort of regular interaction with your customers (and it should if you have recurring revenue) then the same can be true for you.
- Provide great service to YOUR team members – One of the keys to great employee productivity and retention is if they, “feel like someone at work cares about me as a person.” Call it touchy-feely, but I’m an engineer and if the science didn’t back it up, I wouldn’t point it out.
- Collect testimonials and reward people for doing so. Not only does that show how important happy customers are to you (actions speak louder than words) it’s actually very uplifting and exciting for the people gathering the testimonials. They’re also a great marketing tool.
- Track customer complaints. Review each one of them, immediately resolve the problem, and review with your team what happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. If you care about mistakes being made, they will too.
- Develop a great small-business culture. The advantage to your customer in dealing with a small business is that they get to deal with real, local people and not bureaucracy. The same needs to be true for your team. If they have an issue, question, or suggestion they need to feel comfortable talking to the head-honcho. To do so, each of your team leaders needs to have regular reviews with their team members at least twice a year but ideally every 90 days. Separate those reviews from pay. The goal is to build a relationship between the 2 parties, not to bash someone.
To truly develop a team culture that promotes great service, you need to do a bit more homework. You are welcome to contact me and I’ll show you how to transform your small business culture.
Or read the following books and try to implement the changes on your own:
- First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – by Daniel Pink
- Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment: How to Improve Productivity, Quality, and Employee Satisfaction by William C. Byham
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni
- Instant Team Building by Brad Sugars
To your success fostering loyal customers, Bryan