Andrew Riedel, SEO Gold Coast
In today's ultra-competitive business environment, being profitable requires much more than simply persuading people to buy your product, or use your service. If these customers only buy once and don't come back, your business is unlikely to succeed. This is why, whatever the nature of your business, customer care is of paramount importance.
One of the main reasons for this is that according to research, recruiting every new customer costs a business six times more than retaining an existing one, because of the expense of advertising and sales calls. In fact, the cost of acquiring a new customer often exceeds the value of that customer's purchase. This means that the effort put in to retaining quality customers ultimately pays serious dividends.
These dividends become apparent in a range of different ways, in addition to repeat business, which of course is vital. If you are in a fiercely competitive market, it is a way you can differentiate yourself from the competition. If another company is providing a similar product at a similar price, the provider with the better customer care will win every time. Without this, there might be little to distinguish you from the competition apart from engaging in a price war, which could result in your profit margin being wiped out, or reduced to unsustainable levels.
On the more positive side, customers who have received good service bring tangible benefits far beyond what they actually purchase. In particular, satisfied customers provide a marketing and advertising medium for your business which costs you nothing at all. These customers will recommend your company to their friends, relatives, colleagues and business associates, and these recommendations, being unbiased, will carry far more weight than any ads or marketing efforts that you could put out. A UK bank which prides itself on good customer care found that one in three of its new clients came to the bank as a direct outcome of recommendations from its existing customers.
What is more, the word-of-mouth factor can be even more powerful when complaining customers are dealt with correctly, in a way which turns their anger into satisfaction. Angry customers whose complaint is not dealt with in a satisfactory way will tell on average ten people, as opposed to three people told by a happy customer. On the other hand, complaining customers who consider that you made things right for them will be transformed into exceptionally powerful advocates for your company, because previous experience has led them to expect a negative outcome, and you have exceeded their expectations.
However, even though you may be convinced of the importance of good customer care, you may not be sure how you can know what customers actually want. Maybe you have put in place a good system for dealing with customer complaints, but how do you know what the other customers feel? Not all dissatisfied customers complain — they just don't come back.
There are two ways you can address this question. The first is to be proactive. Don't just react to complaints — although you must respond to them — but put yourself in the customer's shoes, and use your imagination to think what you would want in their place. Then train your staff to do the same. The motto is to go the extra mile. Make every effort to ensure customers feel valued and important. And, of course, take the trouble to find out what frustrates them, such as having to talk to recorded telephone messages, being held in a queue, broken promises or inflexible delivery times.
The other way to ensure you are keeping customers happy is to find ways of listening to loyal customers, not just to complaining ones, who usually have a louder voice. Have suggestion boxes in stores or on websites, or even better, personal service desks in stores, or live chat facilities on websites — and be sure to act on what is suggested, if practicable, or explain the reason, if not. Do everything to ensure loyal customers are made to feel as important and special as they actually are — remember, they are the people who keep your business going.
Obviously, your business cannot exist without customers. If you are a small business, the important thing to remember is that most ways of looking after customers cost very little, so this is one way you can match your big competitors on a level playing field. Whatever your size, give your customers the importance they deserve, and they will reward you many times over.