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Run FORREST (Customer) RUN!

Loving customers sounds great when we’re reading it in a business book. But in the real world, the way we interact with customers can be anything but loving.  Here are some of the bad behaviors that I’ve seen over the years as a business banker and how to fix them.

1. Pushy Salesperson Attitude.

The days of the pushy salesperson are long gone. And if you’re still measuring sales performance on quantity (revenue) instead of quality (profit), then you are bound to get reluctant customers who cost money to integrate into your system and are often lost before they become truly profitable.

Find your ideal customer.

Start by identifying your favorite customers, the ones you get along with, who seem effortless and even a pleasure to work with. They are often a pleasure to work with because their requirements match what your business system delivers. For example, if you consistently deliver within 48 hours and your customers need product in 48 hours, they will be delighted. But if you bring on customers who need 24-hour delivery, you will consistently disappoint. When you’ve identified your ideal customers, dig into the specifics of what it is about your business that works for them.

2. Overpromise and under-deliver. (elementary?)

Studies show that expectations drive satisfaction results. So if you set your customers’ expectations higher than you are able to deliver, they will be MORE dissatisfied than if their expectations were closer to the true experience.

Listen.

For what’s really important to your soon-to-be-customer. Ask them what they expect from your company and then speak to each expectation and detail what a real experience is like. Then ask them how that sounds to them and if that meets their expectations.

3. Tell them what they’d like to hear.

This is another expectation issue. Customers want to know what to expect: when will their product be delivered, when will the service guy show up, etc. People are planning their busy lives around your answer, and when you just tell them what they want to hear but deliver something altogether different, this absolutely sends people through the roof.

Tell the conservative truth.

If you have only been able to deliver overnight 1 percent of the time, don’t say that you can always do it. If you’re not as good at providing a typical service because you just don’t like it, then refer them to the person who is better. This will actually work in your favor.

4. Ignore them after the sale.

Bringing on new customers is important, but loyal customers who refer people to your business do so because of their experience AFTER the sale.

Create a process.

Customers get ignored because there’s not a process to service them after the sale.

Love your customers.

I mean this in the most serious way. Look for ways to offer them special deals and introduce them to new products and services. Have special events just for them where they can learn new things about your product or service. One client I have sent their customer a truckload of balloons, hamburgers, hot dogs, a grill and all the fixings for a picnic to celebrate their anniversary of being a customer for 25 years.

5. Keep the owner (President/CEO) behind the scenes.

Loyal customers feel like they have a relationship with the company. When customers have the feeling that they can reach out and talk to the owner whenever they want to (even though they rarely do it), it gives them a sense of closeness and loyalty.

Interact with customers.

Find opportunities to put yourself in front of your customers.  If you own a retail operation,  be there and answer questions. If you are a manufacturer, take customer service calls now and then. You might think you have more pressing things to do, but they will not yield the powerful customer loyalty that a personal connection does.

6. Make them feel stupid.

Rude and condescending tones can creep out in your communication— especially if you’re stressed. Your customers probably aren’t as smart as you about the product or service that you sell—that’s why they buy from you!

7. Voicemail, and no other way to find you.

It’s getting more difficult to find people at their desk.  And today’s communication tools have increased expectations that when a customer calls, they expect a call back or a response ASAP. Voicemail will NOT cut it anymore.

Leave a cell phone number.

Be sure to include your cell phone number in your voicemail recording so that people can get in touch with you.

8. Not understanding what’s important in their application.

There’s nothing more frustrating to customers than feeling like they are talking into a black hole when they explain how they use your product and service in their application.

Observe your customers in action.

Take the time to actually spend time with your customers watching how they use your product. You might even discover a new product or service in the process.

9. Putting your policies over their satisfaction.

Have you ever created a policy about customer satisfaction? The customer isn’t always right, but is following your rules worth the loss of a customer?

Plan to break the policy.

This might sound odd, but think about when it makes sense to break the policy. Think about when breaking your rules is worth it. This makes it easy to deal with situations quickly and easily without taking too much time to have the customer wallowing in discontent.

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