Customers purchase the products we sell. Customers pay for the services our business provides as a product offering. For instance, customers of an independent contractor for a cosmetic direct selling company will purchase products: lipsticks, blush, skin creams and other related items in the product line. In another example, customers of an independent consultant for an insurance direct selling company will purchase both a product (insurance package) and services (ongoing consultation).
Rarely, however, do customers only buy the product or the service. Customers also want:
- personal attention
- ongoing relationship
- customer service
One very important way that any business can grow is by increasing its customer base and one way to do that is by customer referral. A satisfied customer is likely to tell his or her family and friends about:
- a great product or service they’ve purchased
- the positive purchasing experience they enjoyed
- satisfactory follow-up customer service they’ve received
Personal Attention – this is a golden opportunity at the point of sale between the business person and the customer. At this particular point in time, the customer is very important. This customer has the potential of representing many more potential customers [those possible referrals]. During this transaction:
- don’t rush the encounter; if this is a buying situation, take time to make sure the customer has all the information needed to make an informed buying decision: have you made the customer aware of all the color options? Size options? Flavors? Any other information about the product(s) that could influence whether they purchase or not? If this is a service, such as an insurance consultation, try to have the customer feel as though they are a valued contact and not just another “sale.” Take time to get to know your customer: what are their goals and objectives for the consultation? Have you given them enough information for them to receive full benefit from the consultation?
- be gracious and courteous – this person has value to your business and deserves the niceties of please and thank you and is there any other way I may serve you? All too often it is easy to forget that as business people we need our customers, they don’t need us…not specifically us unless we are the only business on the planet offering our products or services and even then they could always do without.
Ongoing Relationship – this concept is especially true of people who are independent contractors with direct selling companies…you rely on repeat business – you need your customers to buy-use-buy again your products and services. This is also true of many professional types of businesses: doctors, lawyers, dentists. As business owner, you want to develop an ongoing relationship with current customers:
- check in with your customers at some time-frame after their purchase: (a) to make sure they don’t have any lingering questions; (b) don’t already need to buy more or upgrade or add to/on; (c) to let them know you appreciated their business.
- if appropriate for your business, send your customer list holiday greeting cards, birthday or anniversary congratulations; also, remind your customers of annual appointments, or tune-ups or upgrades in service.
Loyalty – this is a concept we often think customers ought to have towards our business. I propose that the opposite is true: we should be loyal to our customers.
- alert your current customers to new offerings, improved products or services before anyone else will hear the news…give your customers the opportunity to purchase something new and/or improved first…even offer a discount if appropriate. This will make your customers feel valued.
- alert your customers to important changes in your business: location, times of available service, new ways of contact – maybe you have a website where they can purchase from your business. Make sure your customers always have up-do-date and pertinent information regarding your business so they (a) feel as though you find them of value to your business and (b) they have the information they need to keep coming back as customers. There is nothing worse than finding out that a longtime customer referred your business to a friend only to have the friend not be able to contact you because you neglected to keep the customer informed on a change of phone number, or website address or email address or physical location.
Customer Service – every business of every type and stripe needs excellent customer service protocols. When a customer has an issue with your products or services they need to be able to get these issues resolved satisfactorily. That old saw of the customer’s always right is not correct; however, customers deserve:
- attention to problems with products and services– it’s never fun to have to make an exchange or refund a purchase price, but two things are important to remember: (1) a disgruntled customer will tell others about their dissatisfaction and could lose you both current customers and future customers and (2) your business’ reputation is on the line. If you offer a refund policy then honor it; if you offer 24-hour service, then abide by it.
- attention to shipping and delivery issues – make sure your business has a function built-in to deal with shipping and delivery mishaps. This has to do with good faith. For those businesses whose products are shipped and delivered by outside vendors, realize that the customer has paid for the products and in good faith expects that you will see they are delivered in a timely and safe manner. When something goes wrong, offer a replacement. Not only that, offer the replacement sent 2nd day air. The point is to keep that good faith with your customer. Again, its your business’ reputation on the line.
As business owners, we know that our customers are our life blood…without customers to purchase our goods and services we have no business. Value your customers and see them as part of your family of commerce.