Common mistakes that can lose small business customers for good
If you are like most small business owners, getting new customers and keeping current ones is always on your mind, and worrying about it may even be keeping you up at night. Considering the competitiveness of today’s business climate, when anyone easily can set up shop on the Internet as well on Main Street and start pitching customers – maybe even yours – it’s not surprising that keeping your customers happy and on board is a constant concern.
Among common customer grievances, failing to deliver as promised ranks among the top along with ignoring complaints. Customers also don’t appreciate it when you try to pass off blame onto someone else – maybe one of your team or a business associate. But there may be things that you and your small business team are doing that you’re not aware are driving customers out your door and into your competitor’s.
In “8 Guaranteed Ways to Drive Customers Away,” writer Jeff Haden offers some good food for thought on how to avoid losing long-term, profitable customers. Among them:
Don’t change too many players: As Haden rightly points out, customers don’t buy from companies; they buy from people – your people. Keep that in mind before you consider changing the salespeople, customer service reps or other key contacts in your small business that customers have come to depend on and value.
Focus too heavily on price: Cost counts, but being the low-price leader is a position that’s difficult to maintain. Someone can always find a way to come in below your price. Emphasize value, which encompasses not only price but service, scheduling, maintenance and relationships.
Forget what keeps the lights on: You have a core group of products and services that are what attracted customers to you in the first place. Don’t forget that as you expand your offerings. Make a list of the customers you cannot afford to lose, says Haden, and then list what those customers buy. This is the foundation of your business.
Reward the wrong employee behaviors: Are your commissions higher for new customers than they are for sales to current ones? If so, your salespeople will be more inclined to focus on getting new customers than working to maintain ones you already have. Think about the outcomes you want and match employee incentives and goals accordingly.
How to keep customers coming back
Keeping customers coming back boils down to paying attention to their needs. Treat each customer as if each new purchase or contracting of your services was the first time and then:
- Communicate: Today there’s no shortage of ways to keep in touch whether it’s a call or text on a mobile device, social media messages and posts or email
- Be helpful: Don’t make recommendations that are really thinly veiled sales pitches. When you work with a customer for a long-time, you know their needs. Offer suggestions and point out the latest developments in your market that might be helpful to them even if it doesn’t involve a sale.
- Reward loyalty: Implement a special loyalty or rewards program for repeat customers, if appropriate for your business. If not, consider discounts, promotions or even a periodic gift – a free service call for example – to show customers you appreciate their business.
Getting customers to come back time and time again can take as much time – if not more – than getting them in the first place, but their long-term business is worth it. That’s why you want to do everything you can to keep them part of your small business family.