Joan River’s TV show in the 1980s was titled “Can We Talk?" That’s what small business owners should be saying to their customers on a regular basis, but often don’t. Lack of communication is a major cause of lost business opportunity and disgruntled customers.
Missed business opportunities
Satisfied customers are repeat customers and a referral source. Yet many businesses owners fail to follow up with customers to see if they need any additional services from you or whether they can refer you to other customers.
- Create an anniversary for each customer. This allows you to schedule a follow-up and ask for additional business a year (or even quarterly) from the completion of a sale. For example, if you designed a brochure for a customer, one year later contact the customer to see whether the brochure needs updating or if the customer has a new job for you.
- Ask for referrals. Do this when you finish a job and the customer expresses satisfaction.
It amazes me how many customer relations problems could easily have been avoided if only there had been better communication from the outset.
It’s not up to the customers to track you down, but to businesses servicing them, to explain what’s going on.
Common problems and what to do about them:
- A delivery person is running late. Things happen, such as traffic or a longer appointment earlier in the day. Just call to let the customer know that the promised time of arrival will be missed and what the new arrival time is expected to be.
- A delivery will be late. If you don’t receive items when you expect them, you can’t deliver them to your customers on time. Again, just let the customer know the problem and when you expect to resolve the problem.
- A personal problem arises. This can put you behind the eight ball with respect to meeting customer needs. Everyone understands that things happen, but you have to explain your problem. Maybe it’s minor and temporary; maybe it’s so big that you won’t be able to satisfy your customer no matter how much of an extension you obtain. Once again, talk about it and offer options to satisfy the customer. Maybe you can get someone else to fill in or help you out so that the customer is serviced properly.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would you like to hear? How often would you like to be contacted? How would you like to be contacted (email; phone; in person)? Communicate!