The importance of happy customers
It is often said that the most important sale as you start out is your second sale as it demonstrates the legitimacy for what you offer. It’s the beginning of a journey to win and keep customers because without them, you have no business.
So, you’d think businesses would treat their customers with the greatest respect, like gold-dust. Unfortunately, history tells us that customers, as people, are soon forgotten, lost amongst all the other business activities, remembered only when they say they are leaving. When it’s too late.
Heaven or Hell
There’s an old joke about the man who goes to heaven and gets St Peter to show him around. It’s all very pleasant but it seems a little dull to this go-getting individual. So, he asks St Peter to show him the alternative – Hell. Down they go and he sees everyone partying and having a great time. The man says this will do me. St Peter leaves him and at the end of the day, the Devil appears and has him chained up in a dark dungeon. “What about all that partying?” the man says. “Yesterday”, the Devil says, “you were a prospect. Today, you’re a customer”.
A lack of personal attention
This neatly explains what every study, going back decades, tells us about how businesses view their customers – bending over backwards to land them but taking them for granted once netted, as fresh prospects become the focus. But customers are people and any lack of attention is felt personally, and that drives deep felt emotions. It’s not what customers signed up for nor what they think they deserve. They don’t leave because of cock-up or a failed delivery. Lack of attention is the single most common reason why they go. What’s worse is that only 4% of departing customers will ever complain to you. The other 96% will just seek more attentive suppliers. If they don’t matter to you, why should you matter to them?
Keeping customers happy
Yes, converting prospects into new customers does bring new revenue streams and new experiences into the company but at a cost of 5X that of retaining existing customers, who are your bed rock. As the business world gets ever more complicated there are tools being developed that allow us to learn more about our customers at a much deeper level, unearthing how to better serve them logically and emotionally. (There will always be some customers who aren’t anyway near what you’d class as ideal, and a decision is required to keep them or deliberately let them go. What value do they bring to the business?).
For those businesses with the resources and a good customer base, there’s plenty of technology available (such as CRM / MA systems) that can keep your organisation in regular contact and manage clients properly. For smaller concerns, without such attributes, periodically taking time out for face-to-face contact with clients is essential in retaining their belief in you and that you still matter to them.
Marketing’s role in retention
A lot of businesses rely on their sales teams to be the contact point but the sales team agenda is usually about keeping the order pipeline rolling, managing the supply chain and handling product or service related difficulties. They don’t dig deeply into the behavioural aspects of customer satisfaction because that’s seen as marketing’s function – who historically, rarely have direct contact with the customer.
Which is why, as brand manager for a Cambridge company, I’d periodically accompany the sales directors visiting major clients, gauging customer “happiness” level with us, something the sales team didn’t monitor. The feedback totally changed our marketing approach as some customers were disgruntled (something sales dismissed as typical moaning) and were very close to switching. This face to face contact exploring their happiness kept them on side because it’s what they really wanted from us – an emotional demonstration that they still mattered.
Happy customers mean a healthy bottom line
Customers are demanding. Customers want to feel special, that you are attentive, even when they’re acting like a Diva. Companies who build a reputation through exemplary customer service (e.g. John Lewis) become a bye-word for customer “happiness”, and you can see it working every time you visit them. For John Lewis, the reward is stronger band loyalty, and a healthier bottom line. Smaller businesses require a more direct human-to-human approach, essential to staying front of mind.
What your customers think about you matters. Keeping them happy on a personal and a logical level is central to retaining their business and bringing you closer. But there’s more to be done and that’s the subject of my next blog.
Gerry Westwood, CambridgeSpace 23 August 2017.
Source of joke: Shep Hyken.
Keywords: Keeping customers, customer expectation, customer happiness, why customers should love you,