Creating a loyal band of customers through good service is a great achievement. But it's no time to be complacent. You've got to keep working at your relationship, says Andrew Miller of the Royal Mail.
Creating a happy, harmonious and on-going relationship with customers is an admirable accomplishment for any business. You know their needs better than anyone and they know they can rely on you to give them what they want. But you mustn't allow yourself to become complacent about the relationship.
Listening to what customers need and accurately responding is the key to success - there's no doubt that the better a company serves its customers, the more success it's going to welcome through the doors. Take the opportunity to learn more about each other - relationships grow through information sharing.
Businesses spend millions trying to attract new customers or win back lapsed ones and yet often neglect to develop their existing customer relationships. How annoying is it for customers to find out that their current mobile phone network provider is offering new customers a deal half the price of their package? And what do they get for years of loyalty to the same company? Absolutely nothing. So at the first opportunity they show them who's really boss, cut their losses, and head off to a company that will give them a better deal.
It happens time and time again and no-one can blame the customer. Businesses lose out because they're just not giving their existing customers the attention they deserve.
So how do you make sure that you're keeping everyone happy?
In a nutshell, you need to know who your customers are and what they want. Successfully managing your relationship with your customers involves digging a little deeper and finding out more about their purchasing habits, their opinions and their preferences. Record this data and create profiles of individual customers - armed with this valuable information, your marketing will become more effective and sales will increase.
You'll need to ask your customers for information and feedback to create a complete picture. Customers sometimes need to be asked more than once, so use multiple stages or complementary media. Dealing with complaints properly can also teach you a lot about the weaknesses in your business. You may also need to rethink your operations to improve customer service and marketing.
It's all about enhancing the customer experience. While implementing methods for customer development may take some time and a significant monetary investment, the rewards will be apparent in no time, and will strengthen your business considerably. How do you go about it? Well it's best to look at the process and break it down into steps.
The first step will be to collect as much data as you possibly can from your existing clients. Capturing this information will mean that you can see exactly who your customers are, their shopping patterns and behaviour. If your business is operating a website then that's an ideal way of collecting data, as the customer is doing half of the work for you by entering their personal information on to the site. Make sure the information gleaned is held on a centralised database so it can be accessed and updated by all relevant people.
The second step involves analysing customer behaviour. If this all sounds a bit Big Brother that's because it is, but it allows for a deeper understanding of how to address customer needs. There are plenty of data tools and software available now to allow you to collect, profile and develop sales strategies from this information.
The third step will take you to a more efficient form of marketing. Once you've gathered the information, you need to make sure that you don't waste it. What many firms find is that although they have a wide and varied database of customers, most of their profit is generated from a small percentage of customers. Find out who these people are and target them by rewarding them as your most loyal customers.
It's a pretty simple concept really: nurture your current customers and your brand and reputation will go from strength to strength.