Last week we talked about living in constant fear of losing your customers, and about having such a flimsy relationship with your customers that one price slash would take them away. Now, while it’s true that customers are fickle at best (especially in the first months of doing business), we also have customers that we’ve built relationships with, and the odds are that we will have them for the long term. Unless, of course, they are bought, merge with someone else, go out of business, or hire new decision makers who have their own long-standing relationship with someone else.
This is all part of doing business. These are the challenges we all face, and we can never foolproof ourselves against every challenge. But we can make sure we that we provide such valuable service that our customers (the ones who stay in business) will never want to leave us.
Our goal should be to become so treasured by our customers that when their new accountant shows up and says your customer is paying too much for your products, your customer is so enamored with your work that they tell the accountant, “Shut up and mind your own business,” and then list all the reasons they will never move away from you.
I can tell you are skeptical. I bet you can’t even imagine having such a tight relationship with your customers that they will fight off anyone who wants them to find another supplier and will readily list all the things you do for them that they cannot live without.
Here are some of the extras—those things that make your customers feel special enough to remain your loyal customers for life.
- When you get the first order from your new customer, the leader of your company should reach out to the leader of your customer’s company, introducing herself, and letting her know how happy she is to have their business. Tell her to call at any time with issues they might have.
- An introductory package should be sent with the first order, welcoming them to the company and giving them a contact list of the key people in the company in case they should need to contact them.
- A dedication card or memo should be sent to the new customer signed by all the key people in your company welcoming them and because you appreciate their business so much, they have all signed this dedication card promising the best service and products they have ever seen.
- When the first product ships, key people in your organization should contact their counterparts at the customer’s facility to make sure the product was perfect and ask what they can do in the future to make their product and services even better.
- After the customer has been established and the first few shipments have been made, the leader of the company should contact the customer’s leadership and ask to set up a Zoom or live meeting so that his team can meet the customer’s team and brainstorm how they can better service them. This one is extremely valuable as it will establish the very foundation on which the future success of the customer-seller relationship will be based.
- Form a bi-company committee that will meet regularly to discuss how the product, the service, and the relationship can be steadily improved over time. This will cement that goal of creating a customer for life.
These are just a few of the things we can do to ensure that we have customers for life, and that that we will be our customers’ truly favored vendor, both today and in the future.
You know what the unfortunate thing about this is? No one wants to do it. I have pitched this exact same plan to client after client and not one of them agreed to do it. Not one client has taken me up on this. It’s not that they think these are bad ideas. In fact, most of them have told me that they are very good ideas, and that they might try them, but in the end they don’t.
I am not sure why exactly, but I have my suspicions, the most obvious being that the plan asks the leader of the company (or the division) to personally call each customer and establish a strong personal relationship. This seems to be where the plan falters because company leaders do not want to “reach out and touch someone.” But, like all good plans, to work properly it must start at the top.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.