Showing your customers that you care and value their business is more important now than ever. But how can you do this credibly, and genuinely? The key is to have a reason to communicate (other than just simple appreciation).
Read on for a few effective ways you can show your customers you care:
An e-mail is good, but a hand-written card makes a much bigger impact. Add a personal touch: Reference a recent contract or project and if possible include a detail showing you know your customer on a professional and a personal basis. A pre-printed card with the message “Thank you for your business” carries little impact; what if you instead wrote:
Thanks for awarding us your database project – we will once again make sure you are absolutely thrilled with our work. Please contact me directly if you have any questions or concerns… and I hope Mark and the kids are doing well!”
Stay simple and to the point, and if you don’t know anything personal about your customer, make finding out a few details a priority. How? Just ask: Most people are delighted to talk about their families and their interests. You don’t have to become best friends… but you can establish a rewarding personal connection that also creates a competitive advantage.
Ask for opinions and feedback.
But do so with a purpose. Don’t send out a generic survey that in effect asks, “How are we doing?” And avoid appearing to be going through the motions; if you do, your customers will go through the motions, too – and that’s if they respond at all.
Many people also use surveys to ask questions like, “What could we have done better on the last project?” The problem with that approach is it automatically calls to mind your failings rather than your successes. Plus, if you truly know your business, you should already know what you could have done better.
Instead, look for specific opinions and feedback that shows your customers you truly value the input they are uniquely able to give. Not only will you continue to build a business relationship, but you will probably get valuable insight into improvements you can make.
Another approach is to ask how you can help your customer provide better service to their customers. For example, your customer’s website visitors may have asked for a particular widget or for client-accessible web tools. The answers you get may create new opportunities for you to service your client.
No matter what you ask, be prepared to make changes based on the feedback you get. When you ask for input you implicitly create the expectation that you will do something with that input.
Walk in your clients’ shoes.
Looking out for your clients’ interests shows you care. But you don’t have to call or write to find out how they’re doing or what’s new with their business; you can periodically check their website or blog (and make comments to their posts), subscribe to their newsletter, or use a tool like Google Alerts to keep up.
Say you’re a web developer and you read an article that has nothing to do with programming but everything to do with a client’s business. Forward the article and simply say, “I came across this and immediately thought of you…”
Not only is it a great way to stay in touch, it gives you a reason to stay in touch… and to show your client you care about their success, and not just in a “What can they do for me?” sort-of way. Or say you receive a Google Alert that your client was quoted on an industry blog – write a quick email and congratulate them.
In short, look at the world from your clients’ perspective, and find useful ways to stay in touch and on their radar. You won’t have to ask for business – they’ll automatically think of you.
Suggest and make helpful changes.
Improvements don’t have to be major; for example, call a client and ask if they would prefer to receive electronic rather than paper invoices. Ask if a different delivery schedule would help. Or ask if more – or less – frequent communication and status checks will help keep a project on track.
But don’t ask questions blindly. Take the time to be sure you understand the possible needs of your customer before you ask.
If you’ve recently implemented a new service, that’s also a great time to make contact. For example, if you’ve set up an online scheduling system, let your customers know! Stressing the benefits to your customers – because, really, they don’t care if the new system helps you better run your business – shows you’re committed to providing the best service you can. While you’re at it, consider running a promotion: Offer a discount to the first fifty people who schedule an appointment online, for example.
Above all, make it personal.
Which makes the bigger impact: The flowers you send your significant other out of the blue, “just because you care,” or the ones you send on an anniversary? Usually an unexpected gesture creates the biggest impact.
Look for openings to learn more about your customers. If a customer says, “I won’t need the project complete for a couple weeks… I’ll be on vacation next week…” use the opportunity to ask about their vacation. Jot down a few details, and next time you talk, ask how the vacation went.
In the end, showing you care takes time and effort – but that effort can pay off in long-term business relationships that survive and even thrive in uncertain economic times.