The Green Sheet Online Edition
May 08, 2017 • Issue 17:05:01
Keep customers happy, improve your bottom line
Competitors may try to copy your business model, products and pricing, but they can't copy you and your unique style of doing business. That's why it makes sense to cultivate your customer relationships. It's well known that it costs more to acquire new customers than to keep existing customers happy. It's also true that customer loyalty is directly tied to customer longevity. Simply put, the longer customers stay with you, the more loyal they become, making it less likely they will leave when your competitors try to lure them away.
When you continuously delight your customers, they will keep coming back. When they are really delighted, they won't think of you as a vendor; they'll think of you as a partner.
Tips to foster longevity
Here are additional ways to foster long-term relationships with customers:
- Respect your customers: Whether your customers are global retailers or mom-and-pops, they deserve an elite experience. Be respectful of their time: react quickly to their calls and give them your full attention in face-to-face meetings. Be proactive, too: check in routinely to ensure everything is working smoothly. It's often the little things that make a big difference in the way your merchants think about you.
- Practice random acts of kindness: Make thoughtfulness a habit and a part of your culture; encourage your staff to perform at least one act of kindness every day. For instance, call one customer each day and thank them for their business, or call your vendors and thank them for their support. These feel-good things don't take much effort, but people remember them.
- Go the extra mile: Delight your customers with unexpected small rewards. Thank them for their business, and remind them you are a small business owner, too. For example, if you've sold a merchant a new POS system, give the merchant a free toner cartridge refill after three months. Include a note saying, "You're probably close to running out, so I'm sending you this first refill with my compliments." These kind gestures don't cost much but can repay many times over in customer loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals.
- Keep your customers informed: No one likes being kept in the dark. It's important to keep merchants informed of shipment delays, changes in interchange pricing, and trends in the ever-changing compliance and regulatory environments. Let them know immediately whenever an expected delivery is delayed, and try to compensate them for any inconvenience by providing an extra product or service. Your efforts to keep merchants up to date will demonstrate that you care about them and value their business.
- Stay in communication: Isn't it nice to be appreciated? Take time to thank your merchants for doing business with you. Get in the habit of saying thank you after every sale. And after the initial sale, it's even more important to stay in touch with your customers. Make a point of checking in, if not every month, at least once a quarter with a phone call to thank them and ask if everything is going OK.
Melissa Christensen, who heads up relationship management at DigiPay Solutions, has a quarterly call plan in place. "Our clients appreciate the call to not only catch up, but also to warn us as to potential problems to fix, or opportunities for cross sales," she said. "We've found that the more products a client has with us, the less likely it is for them to leave us."
- Under promise and over deliver: In our industry, perception is real to your merchant. Let's say your merchant orders a new terminal that usually takes three days to deliver. You quote a three-day delivery, and the goods arrive on time. The merchant gets what's expected – but nothing more. What if you quote a five-day delivery? That way, if the goods arrive in three days, as they normally do, you can arrange for early delivery, and your merchant's perception of your service will go up.
Remember, it's harder to sell a new merchant than to retain one. And your existing merchants are already bringing you residuals – something to always think about.
Mike Ackerman is President of DigiPay Solutions Inc., which specializes in high-risk, high-volume, card-not-present and business-to-business merchant services. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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