By Joe Gracie with Give to Get Marketing
Every business loses customers. That's just a fact of business life.
But if you know the reasons that your particular customers leave, then you have an opportunity to reduce that number as well as reactivate some of those who left in the past.
Why do customers leave?
The Small Business Administration offers the following reasons:
68% were upset with the treatment they've received
14% were dissatisfied with product or service
9% begin doing business with the competition
5% seek alternatives or develop other business relationships
3% move away
There's not much you can do about the last one. And unless you sell via the Internet or Direct Mail there's not much you can do about the fact that some of your customers simply move away.
But you can certainly do something about the remaining four reasons.
1. Follow-up with your customers
Periodically follow up with your recent customers via phone and ask them if they are happy with their experience with your products, services and your company.
Let them know how much you appreciate their business. Ask them if there is anything they would like to see you improve.
One of our clients told us that he couldn't believe how pleased his customers were that he called to ask about their experience. More than one commented that this was the first time any business had cared enough to ask.
It will make a big impression on your customers too.
2. Listen to your unhappy customers
It's tempting to discount unhappy customers as a thorn to be removed as quickly as possible. But don't be so quick to discount their complaints.
Listen to them and try to determine if they have a legitimate concern. Take steps to find out if more of your customers are experiencing the same problem(s).
It's nice to hear compliments, but significant improvements in your business often come from people who tell you where your weaknesses are. Because then you have an opportunity to improve.
If you hear complaints from 2-3 customers, you can bet that there are dozens, maybe even hundreds more who feel the same. Most unhappy customers never say a word to you -- they just disappear forever.
3. Get ongoing feedback from your customers
One of our clients was losing customers like crazy. He didn't have a clue why they were not coming back.
I instituted a simple survey system. His cashiers handed every customer a 5-question survey about their experience at his business.
The customers filled out the surveys and dropped them into a survey box near the exit. This ensured that the surveys were anonymous. You will get much more honest feedback if they are anonymous.
He was shocked at what he learned from those surveys.
Among other problems he learned that his young staff was being perceived as unprofessional and unfriendly. He was hiring just anybody to fill his positions, rather than people with the right aptitudes and attitudes for each job.
He began hiring people who had friendly and professional attitudes for key customer contact positions like cashiers, and that made a world of difference.
Word got around pretty quickly that things had changed for the better and his customer base began to grow once again.
He was so committed to the survey program that he made it a permanent system -- and shared the survey results with his staff on a weekly basis.
4. Take action to improve
Once you have determined what areas of your business your customers would like to see improved, take immediate action to improve them.
Survey your customers again to see if you have succeeded.
This simple process is called 'Continuous Improvement.' Make it a permanent part of your business and you will see a marked improvement in your bottom line.
5. Ask past customers to come back
Just because you have lost customers in the past doesn't mean that they are lost forever.
A simple letter or even a post card to your past customers letting them know that you have missed them and would love to have them as customers once again, can often do wonders.
I would suggest that you include an incentive for them to buy from you again. That incentive could be a simple discount, or even a small, free gift with their next purchase.
To sum it up
While it's true that all businesses will lose customers, it isn't true that you can't do anything about it. Find out why your customers are not coming back and then take action to make things better.
By Joe Gracie with Give to Get Marketing