I once owned a restaurant and bar with a function suite attached. We hosted private functions for customers. Family occasions, business networking events, meetings, private dining events. That kind of thing. Our challenge was not only to work closely with the client in advance of the event, but to deliver the perfect function on the day, providing the very best service no matter what the event. In that respect, we were much like our competitors. But we wanted more. We wanted the customer to come back, or to recommend us to somebody else. So we formulated a plan that would make us stand out from the rest.
After the dust had settled on their event a few days later, we’d send the customer a gift as a thank you. Some flowers, a voucher for a meal in our restaurant, a cd of their favourite artist, a bottle of their favourite wine, whatever. We wanted them to feel appreciated, even after their event had taken place. We wanted them to know that we were grateful for their business. We wanted them to feel valued. It worked pretty much every time. They would return to book another event, or they would send someone else our way, with a recommendation of our good service. It was the simplest thing, but it placed the customer at the very centre of our business. Even now, years later and long after we moved on, we’re still good friends with many of those customers.
Customer service is everything. We all know how difficult it can be to pull customers towards us and into a deal. We spend so much time and energy going out of our way to please them. We answer every enquiry. We work with them closely to come to an arrangement that pleases and works for everybody.
We use every trick in the book. And so do they. So we need to be quick thinking, good negotiators, and skilled listeners. We need to recognise the customer’s needs and help them get what they want out of it all. Its important to leave no gaps, to not let them wait, and to make them feel that they’re getting a good deal, that this deal is right for them.
We all know the pitfalls too. Every business has one thing in common. Competition. There’s always another business waiting in the wings, hoping you fail in your quest so they can jump in and take the deal. So we know only too well how important it is to get it right.
But that’s all just about the process of winning the customer, of getting the deal. What happens after the handshake? Business is good. Return business is even better. Getting the customer is one thing. Keeping them is something quite different.
Obviously, not every customer will become a friend for life, some will drop away, but the point is to maximise how we retain our customers and build their business into the long term goals and objectives of our business.
So from the minute of the first conversation, we need to place the focus on them, the customer. Learning to know them is the best way to learn what they expect from the deal. What makes them tick? They want to feel as they are the only customer we care about, so if we meet their expectations from the very start, they’re far more likely to consider coming back. This is a new relationship we’re engaging in, the beginning of something beautiful and long lasting, we hope. So its crucial the customer has no alarms, no surprises, and we remove all uncertainty. That said, delivering expectations and meeting targets early, weeks or even months in advance will always win favour from a new client. Again, they’ll be far more likely to return.
Customer service is everything to every business, and fundamentally, customer service is about personality and simple human interaction. Keeping all conversations ‘live’, using friendly and open body language in meetings and calls, and leaving no gaps in the service the customer receives will all help foster a more personable relationship. We all want to feel valued, often no more so than when buying a product or service.
So as the revolving door of our business keeps turning, it’s crucial that we’re able to make sure those clients and customers are able to get out on the right side. To bring them back for more, and more and more….