“You want to go where everybody knows your name… da da da… and they’re always glad you came… da da da.” Familiar? Even if you weren’t in the Cheers generation you have probably heard this theme song somewhere along the line. People like to feel valued whether in personal relationships, the bar/restaurant they decide to frequent, or in the service providers they choose to call when they need something. Either way, you will win the loyalty game if you learn a few key principles to turn 1-time customers into lifelong loyal business, and the secret is they are a lot cheaper (it’s 6-7x more costly to market to a brand new customer than a returning one) and way more valuable (10x the profit over a lifetime) for your business growth.
1. Be honest!
I recently worked on a project to help a carpet cleaner in a small town build their visibility online to help drive new business and loyalty. The first thing I noticed when I went to their Facebook page was 3 reviews that started with “This company does not represent themselves accurately online with who they are in person. Don’t hire them to clean your carpets.” Another one said “Stop making up fake reviews from customers! You don’t even do the things you talk about in the reviews you are making up!” Unfortunately the list of bad reviews went on and on. We are living in the day and age of abundant online reviews - you can’t afford bad publicity especially when you are just getting started!
In addition to representing yourself honestly online be honest about your pricing up front and if there is a possibility of an increase (or decrease) in an estimate, be upfront with that too. Try to live a policy of “no surprises” when it comes to what you are offering. When you are transparent you may lose customers before you get started, but in the long run you will gain trust and loyal customers tenfold. Loyal customers are also 10x more likely to refer you to their friends so they can multiply your customer base without you spending a dime! So be like Abe, and be honest.
2. First impressions are everything
Business Insider suggest that you have 7 seconds to make a strong positive impression. So before you ever pick up your first phone call or visit a new or returning customer, think first about how you would like to be treated or the experience you would like to have if they were in your shoes. Dress nicely, have good hygiene, and if you are rushing over from another dirty job, then be genuine, smile and say “today has been so busy I haven’t had time to clean up but I didn’t want to leave you hanging another minute!” If you enter a customer’s home or property leave it cleaner and better than you found it. If an accident does happen don’t pretend it didn’t. The scary truth is that 59% of customers that are left with a negative impression then leave a poor review online. Get ahead of the game and put your best foot forward before it comes back to bite you.
When you leave an appointment your first impression of an exit is just as important as when you first meet a customer. Jay Bean, CEO of FreshLime always says, “Handing over a paper invoice to a customer after a service is like sending them to the loyalty graveyard - you will never hear from them again.” Offer to send their invoice via text or e-mail to save on paper. This not only makes you look environmentally-friendly and tech-savvy, but it will also give you the opportunity to re-engage with your customer after your first service. You can send a thank you - a follow-up to see how everything is working several days afterward and you can let them know about specials and other offers you have going on. If you are active on Facebook let them know about it and send a follow-up e-mail asking them to like your page so they can know the latest and greatest. Be friendly and leave a reason for them to want to engage again. An extra 5 minutes will make 5x the difference in your bottom line growth.
3. Pleasant persistence
The key to good follow-up isn’t always fancy graphically-designed e-mails or intricately-automated marketing campaigns. Sometimes it’s just simple, good old-fashioned timing. Whatever industry you are in, start a document outlining your ideal customer. Include how often they would call your business to come back, and what issues they would likely call for. In a separate column outline your busy season, and any seasonal or holiday trends your business encounters. Then match up the two. Try to communicate at those ideal times and for ideal reasons and don’t communicate without a strategy in mind.
Make sure you inform your customer about your intentions to communicate. If you start sending out e-mails every few days and they didn’t expect to get them, it will annoy them more than endear you to their over-eager strategy. If you don’t hear back right away after texting a customer with a deal that you think is killer, don’t reach out right away and wonder why. They might not always reply to every message, but it takes 6-8 touches with a customer to get them to hire you. Just make sure those 6-8 touches aren’t a cumulation of texts and e-mails all in a few days:).
4. Highest quality every time
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in how to market and communicate with our customers that we forget that the most important thing we need to do is make sure our service is the highest quality, each and every time. Your product and craft will speak for itself and drive online reviews and referrals more than anything else. You can get the best marketing strategy in place but you have to back it up, otherwise it will be considered “false advertising” and you will be looking at the kind of reviews I mentioned above.
The Economist recently published an article about the cost savings associated with outsourcing areas of your business that aren’t core to your offering. Not only does hiring someone else to do your marketing or your financials make you 60% more productive, but it also saves you time and resources that you could be spending on deals that actually bring in the bacon. Consider this - the 2 hours it takes you every week to design a newsletter might bring in a new client or two, but it’s also 2 hours of time you could be out on a job that is 4 to 6 times more profitable. Hire a service to help you out and it’s their core business. You pay a fraction of what your time costs, it’s usually more effective, and everyone wins. Breaking down the not-so-obvious helps you avoid unnecessary decisions and business cost.
5. VIP Insider Club
If you have left a good impression, are communicating at a good pace, and are genuine and honest in your customer dealings, you are setting a great foundation for long-term business growth. So the next step is more of a principle on how to treat each customer, especially those that have come to you more than once. Make them feel like a VIP. Every time you talk to them listen intently and try to provide the best and most cost-effective solution. Care about them and show them the kind of service you would always want to receive. Make them feel like any offer you extend is only for the VIP Club - and they are part of it.
One of the reasons Facebook grew so rapidly when MySpace was already in the game of social networking is that it started out exclusive. You could only join if you were enrolled in certain universities. You had to be part of the elite. It was considered superior just for that reason and people felt special to be part of it. Those on the outside wanted in. This led to a tipping point and once it was open to anyone it originally still felt unique. Provide this same kind of allure and experience and your customers will rave about how well they are treated and how much they love coming back every time. It works like a charm.
The service businesses we surveyed last year reported that they thought 80% of their customers had come back more than once if not a lot more frequent than a one-time deal. When we really looked at their data, however, we found that in reality, only 20% of their customers were coming back. It’s been our mission to change that number, and implementing these principles has made all the difference.