Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Customer loyalty isn’t about your product – It’s about your PEOPLE…

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.

Here’s how:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

To your success fostering loyal customers, Bryan

How your business should handle Customer Complaints to turn them into Raving Fans

Oh… You don’t have any customer complaints? Right. I don’t either. This is just for other business owners…  Now that we have that out of the way… Let’s go through our 4 step process for converting complaining customers to raving fans.

This may be the quickest and simple business “fix” I’ve ever discussed and yet may have the greatest impact, so be sure to implement this immediately!

  1. Convince your team to get “on-board” – This step is easy. At your weekly Team Meeting present your team with the number of new customers in the last year who had some sort of previous service experience with your business before purchasing. These would be referrals, current customers making another purchase, leads generated by your service department, or if you have a franchise like me, possibly people who have dealt with your franchise somewhere else. In my business, about 60% of our new sales in 2009 came from people who had heard something about our service. What!? You don’t track your lead sources??? For now you’ll have to guesstimate at this number. Then simply ask your team, “Why are customer complaints bad for us and how many people do you think are affected by each customer complaint?” My team’s answers ranged from 3-30 people. Since I like numbers, they expected me to have an exact number for them. I did not. I just pointed out that even if only 3 people hear about each instance of poor customer service, how many potential new customers are we losing each year? They got the point.
  2. Track Customer Complaints – I don’t care if people are upset you gave them a bad haircut, cheated them out of money with outrageous lawyer fees, think your plumber smelled repulsive, or just doesn’t understand your bills. If the customer is complaining, it’s a complaint. Now that we’ve defined what constitutes a complaint, we need to actually track them. In my office, the same software we use for lead-tracking, scheduling, conversations, and billing has an option to track Customer Complaints along with the contact, time, details, and follow-up person. We can then run reports on all of the complaints by department and/or a time frame.
  3. Address and Fix the problem – All customer complaints should immediately be assigned to someone who can fix the problem. Of course, that person should then fix the problem and update the details of the complaint in your software program. The customer should be notified by telephone about your resolution. Moreover, we address every customer complaint at the weekly Team Meeting in order to keep everyone abreast of poor customer service issues and to come up with ways to prevent issues in the future.
  4. Send a “Thank You” letter – Have you ever been upset at a business? After voicing your dissatisfaction, did you have a few of those companies address and fix your problem? Now, of all of the instances where you actually had your complaint corrected to your satisfaction, have you EVER received a letter afterward thanking you for continuing to be a valued customer??? Me neither. My customers, however, have. It’s a weekly responsibility for one of my office administrators to run a report of the customer complaints, print it out for me to review, and then create “Thank You” letter addressed to each customer. Obviously each letter includes coupons to encourage them to patronize us in the future and almost universally those coupons get used. Can you afford to NOT send those letters and risk losing a long-term paying customer at the cost of $.50 per letter??? As Team Leader, I sign each letter.

Now what about those instances where the complaint isn’t justified, wasn’t our fault, or the customer is quite frankly someone we’d rather not have as a customer any longer? Well whoever takes care of Step 3 should have the foresight to determine that and “resolve” the issue accordingly. I’m a firm believer that not all customers are profitable and certainly don’t want to encourage the customers who suck the life out of my team and I to come back. Moreover, when I review the Customer Complaint report in Step 4, if any are “unjustified” I cross them off the list and so don’t send a letter.

I’ll point this out once again, people who are upset enough about something to complain will tell their friends and family about their dissatisfaction. If you don’t address, resolve, and then follow-up with a “Thank You” letter, your business is undoubtedly losing potential new customers and long-term existing customers.

To your “customer-loyalty” success, Bryan