Except for the way they are executed, not a lot has changed in small business sales and marketing strategies since I first wrote my 1998 article, It’s the Service After the Sale That Builds Your Small Business: 5 Tips for Improving Customer Service. You still see marketing strategy much more focused on attracting new buyers and selling new products and services than on keeping each current client happy and increasing sales volume with good customer service.
Today, not just books but entire blogs and social media sites as well as numerous training programs and workshops are dedicated to marketing strategies like generating new leads and building your client base as a method to raise sales volume. But what about keeping the customers or clients you have by focusing on outstanding after the sale customer service?
There is a basic truth in business marketing and sales strategy hasn’t changed since 1998 – – especially for home based and small business and particularly in this economy. It ‘s still the customer service after the sale that leads to the repeat business from loyal clients that builds sales volume.
Statistically, it’s much easier to keep a client and upsell, cross-sell and even downsell other products and services to them than it is to focus marketing dollars on marketing strategies that attract new clients. In fact, 20% of your regular clients will generate about 80% of your sales. Moreover, it’s a fact that buyers will travel further and spend more for good customer service. This is true for both online marketing and offline marketing. So, the good customer service marketing strategy should be part of your business model if you want the increased sales volume that leads to small business profitability.
So, how do you keep those clients happy so they not only buy more but attract more business to you with word-of-mouth (or word-of-mouse in online marketing parlance!)? Well, as I said, not much has changed in the methods you use to provide good customer service. So, here are five tips on providing outstanding customer service to continue to generate new and repeat business from current clients. And these customer service strategies work whether you’re a product or service-based business.
- Don’t be a “fly by night, gone by day” small business. Sell product or service that provides your buyers massive value and that you believe in. Too many small business owners are in business strictly to generate quick sales and this is particularly true in online marketing. They sell the products or services that will make them the most money the quickest with little regard for the quality of the product or the value of their customer service to the buyers. But, you should be focused on providing massive value to your clients if you expect a massive return in profits. If you’re not, your customers will know this and that awareness will be reflected in your sales volume.
- Guarantee your customer’s satisfaction and stand by your guarantee. Make your “no questions asked” guarantee twice as long as your industry’s average — and your competitors’. The longer your guarantee on your massive value product or service, the less likely the product will be returned or the buyer will want a refund. On the other hand, don’t guarantee something you can’t deliver! And, if you make a promise or set a deadline that you later find you cannot keep, make sure your client knows IMMEDIATELY. Apologize sincerely, then, offer to compensate them (e.g., gift certificate, discount on that product or service or on a future sale, etc.) for any inconvenience your inability to keep your promise or deadline causes.
- Make it easy for your clients to contact you with questions or concerns. Use all of the ways that are available today to make it easy for your customers to find you. While contact by voicemail, email, cell phone, snail mail and even fax are still common, customer service management is far more sophisticated today than it was in 1998. Now, you must embrace online marketing tools like social media.Savvy small business owners use Twitter and Facebook Pages to engage with the client. Even savvier small businesses have found ways to use YouTube ,LinkedIn and email marketing as well. Why? Because people buy from those they know, like and trust and social media is one marketing strategy that small business owners can use to be competitive with larger business.The bottom line? Don’t make your customers have to wait too long to talk to you or have to hunt you down to talk to you. Don’t let their inability to reach you be the reason why your client becomes your competitor’s.
- Take seriously your customer’s comments, concerns or questions about your product or service. Okay, so you’ve made it easy for a client to contact you. But, what happens when they do? Are you positioned to respond quickly and correctly? Excellent customer service means you must be. Respond to buyers comments on social media and get them answers to their questions or concerns fast! If there’s a problem with your product or service, tell your client you will solve the problem right away and then do it! If you can’t solve the problem right away or to the customer’s satisfaction, offer a replacement or a refund promptly and readily or a discount on future products or services and let the client choose the option they want!
- Solicit your customers’ opinion about your product or service and encourage them to be honest! In addition to having a customer service line or online forms for them to complete to evaluate your product or service or ask th em to connect with you on social media. Elicit their comments using Facebook, Twitter and the Moderator setting on YouTube. If you’re on LinkedIn, use your company page and groups to connect with customers. Make part of your product or service marketing strategy a “best idea” contest and encourage buyers to post their best ideas for improving your product or service on your social media site. It’s an outstanding marketing strategy and customer engagement will skyrocket if done correctly so do your market research first.
Then LISTEN to client input and make changes to your product or service accordingly. Most importantly, send them some token of appreciation for their input (e.g., a gift certificate, coupons, discount, free gift of some sort, etc.). Then, let the client know how you’ve made changes to your product or service based on their suggestions. Your customer will be thrilled!
If your business is a service driven business, it will be apparent throughout the sales and service process with every client. While many small business owners understand that they need to provide massive value with their product or services, they need to remember that customers care just as much about customer service as product or service quality. You must provide both to keep your customers coming back.
© 2011. Dahna M. Chandler and Fourth Estate Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.