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How to Keep Your Customer Foreverby Phyllis Sheerin Ross
Consultant and Freelance writer
Yes, it's true. You can keep all your current customers, while you continue to grow new business. The "secret" is to form a partnership with your customer. Become such an integral part of his success that he'll never let you go.
There are critical elements that go into the formation of a partnership. The following recommendations have ensured my success with customers during the past twenty years. These are the basics that you need to form that critical partnership, and to keep your customer forever, even if your prices are higher than your competition. Your customer will tell the world that you're worth it!
Ask yourself these questions:
Are you focusing on your customer's success, not
Do you know what your customer needs in order to be considered a success?
Who does the customer have to please?
How is he evaluated/measured, and by whom?
What are some of the tools your customer needs to be successful?
What are your customer's top three goals?
Do you have a strategy to help him reach to his goals?
If you can't provide these answers as you read this, you're too focused on your success, rather than your customer's. When you link arms with the customer to ensure his success, you ensure your own.
Call your customer every day.
Call your customer every morning at the same time. Call to say hello. Call to check in. Ask how things are going. Ask if there's anything you can help him with today. Ask him what's new on his site. Share news from your site. Talk together. It's even okay to laugh together! Remember this is your partner. I made my daily morning phone calls to my customer on the West Coast, as well as to my customer who worked around the corner. I found that the daily phone calls provided the perfect mechanism to head off any potential problems. When you speak to your customer every day, there are no unpleasant surprises awaiting you at the end of the work week.
Share the knowledge.
Once you've done your homework, and have found out what your customer needs in order to be successful, be on the lookout for articles of interest. Read the business section of the newspaper every day with your customer in mind. Learn everything you can about your customers' business. Team with other vendors to do presentations for him. For example, in the technology industry, Year 2000 information is hot, hot, hot! There's lots of information on the Web regarding Year 2000. Dazzle your customer with your knowledge of his industry.
Do only quality stuff.
Everything that you present to your customer needs to be first class. Your customer's first impression of your work starts with your business card and the message on your answering machine. Do these items represent the true quality of your work? I remember walking away from a strategic alliance because my future teaming partner proudly presented me with a document that had typos all over the front page! Your customer should never have to correct your work. As a partner to your customer you need to ensure that your work is always on time, and within budget. And make sure that it's perfect. Your customer will learn very quickly that his "partner" has the same high standards that he does.
Give something away.
One of the most successful business people I know hand-delivers home-baked cookies, beautifully presented, to her customers every Christmas. I've given software to my customers, as well as performed small services that were not written into the contract. Small gestures can grow into significant add-on business! It's not unusual to have contracts extended for an additional five years (at higher rates!) when you demonstrate your generosity. I promise that you will always receive far more than you give away. It's just plain good old business practice.
You can keep your customer forever by focusing on his success, calling him every day, sharing your knowledge, doing quality work, and giving something away. Become your customer's partner by helping him to grow his business, and in turn, he'll help you to grow yours. It always works. Enjoy!
Copyright © 1996 Phyllis S. Ross
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