Retaining long term good customers…

Retaining long term good customers…

‘Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.’

Jeffrey Gitomer – internationally renowned expert on sales and customer loyalty

How many sales executives are given sales targets for new customers rather than nurturing and maintaining current long term customers?

Too often in business today, the focus is on finding new clients – often at the expense of existing clients. Generally, there are two types of salespeople with different personalities. They can be best described as either hunters or farmers. In the business sales process, they have different roles. A hunter’s role is a sales role – find new clients. A farmer’s focus is maintaining accounts and developing long-term relationships with existing customers – an account management role.

Attracting new customers is a challenge and, although it can be rewarding, it involves planning and hard work – and it costs money. International consultants Bain & Company found that the cost of attracting new customers was seven to eight times more expensive than retaining existing customers. They also found that an increase of 5% in retaining current customers could increase profits from 20% to 80%.

While acquiring new customers is important, retaining current profitable customers is a far more cost-effective strategy. Listening to current customers and actively seeking their feedback provides an opportunity to improve service, develop new services and provide a new source of referrals.

Remember: over 65% of customers leave due to indifference.

Do you have a system in place to nurture and manage current profitable customers?

I was providing advisory services to a business who were faced with two of their largest customers threatening to leave. There had been a history of poor service and strained relationships. Both client businesses were headed by difficult and often unreasonable personalities. Careful analysis of each business showed that one was not growing and was unprofitable to service, whereas the other was growing and profitable. To the credit of the business’ general manager, and despite pressure from the owner, he took action. While it forced the unprofitable customer to leave, at the same time he developed a strong working relationship with the other customer – which resulted in the signing of a new contract with increased rates. The customer also recommended the business’s services to another company. This is a good example of successfully managing an existing profitable customer.

Are farmers more important than hunters as salespeople?


It depends on the business’s objectives. Both are needed for a business to grow. It is very important to maintain the current profitable customers, as it is cheaper for the business and offers other opportunities to improve and expand both services and products. The emphasis is on ‘profitable’ customers as, according to the Pareto Principle, not all customers are profitable. Making and maintaining sales need not be a difficult task. It requires an understanding of the business and must be aligned with the business’s plan and goals.

Do you know who are your most profitable customers?

Why are they the most profitable?

Which customers are you not making money from?

Customer Service – how much do you care?

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
Damon Richards

Customer service is about showing how much you care – actions speak louder than words. How often have you been annoyed or angry about being shown indifference by people in customer service roles? There are 10 customer service actions – note the words ‘service’ and ‘action’ that I think all people in custom service roles should use. I will use an example that was the subject of and earlier blog.

Many years ago I was managing a vehicle transport company in regional Australia. A transport manifest arrived by fax at 4.00 pm and upon reading it I learnt that there was a car arriving within the next 2 hours that was due in Brisbane that night. Brisbane was 1,200 kms up the road (14 hours drive away). To make matters more complicated the car was needed by the customer in Cairns in 2 days time (a further 1,700 km away or 20 hours drive away). The vehicle was for a customer to use on his tropical beach holiday a further hour’s drive north. There was no way of physically getting the vehicle to Cairns for the customer.

1. Calling back when promised

The customer was called back. After initially alerting him to the problem the customer was called back within the 24 hour period as promised.

2. Explaining what caused the problem………… simple language

I explained that it was our fault and we would have a solution for him not having his car on holidays.

3. Letting customers know who and what numbers to call

He was given my phone number and the Brisbane branch manager’s phone number.

4. Contacting customers promptly when a problem is solved

As soon as the hire car in Cairns had been arranged he was advised.

5. Giving customers full access to speak to management

I stated that if he was not happy with our solution he could contact my General Manager.

6. Telling how long it will take to solve a problem

He was assured that we should be able to solve the problem before he left for Cairns within next 48 hours.

7. Offering useful alternatives if a problem can’t be solved

As we could not physically get his car to Cairns on time, we offered him a hire car at no cost.

8. Treating customers like people, not account numbers

Self explanatory.

9. Advising customers on how to avoid a future problem

It was suggested that he advise the depot next time he required his vehicle to be transported that it was “IMPORTANT” and needed priority.

10. Giving progress reports if a problem cannot be resolved

Whilst we solved his problem by offering him a hire car, he was contacted at every transport leg where the car was delivered to Cairns.

A seemingly impossible situation was solved using these 10 customer service actions. The customer was happy and continued to be a client for many years. As the quote implies, I could have told him it was impossible to get his car to Cairns in the time frame required (“how much you know”) Instead, customer service was demonstrated (“how much you care”) and he was happy.

These 10 actions are so fundamental to good customer service that in our logistics business I had them framed and placed in every office.

Managing Customer Complaints

Managing Customer Complaints

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it”

Peter Drucker

As business owners, managers or supervisors some of the worst moments in your working experience can involve managing customer complaints (note the word ‘manage’ rather than ‘handle’?)

The experience is often stressful, uncomfortable and unpleasant isn’t it?

Customer complaints have serious ramifications for your business and if not managed well can seriously damage the business. Customer complaints do however provide an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive and enable you to retain the business.

Remember it is estimated that less than 10% of customers complain about customer service, they just go elsewhere and we rarely know why. Don’t dread customer complaints, but instead view them as an opportunity to create a long term customer. A complaint gives your business a second chance!

There are 6 steps in managing a customer complaint:

  1. Let the customer vent their anger

Remain calm, try and keep personalities out of the situation and allow the customer to vent their anger and listen attentively.

  1. Make ‘I’ statements and apologise

Build rapport and build empathy by using ‘I’ statements: “I can understand………..I would be angry” show that you are taking sides WITH the customer. The anger is addressed at the problem and not you.

  1. ‘So what you are saying is…’

Try and understand what the problem is by using effective listening techniques – paraphrase what the customer is saying and ask clarifying questions so that you have a clear understanding of the issue.

  1. ‘This is what we can do….’

Take responsibility for solving their problem and let them know what you can do. It is important to use positive language and offer solutions, options or a course of action. Make sure you gain agreement from them.

  1. End positively

Thank the customer and explain what you intend to do, when and how.

  1. Just ‘do it’

Just like the Nike advertisement ‘just do it’ means providing updates, following up within the agreed time frame and communicating with them (personally is best) when that action has been completed.

This is an example from a few years again when I was managing a vehicle transport company. A transport manifest arrived by fax (yes many years ago) at 4.00 pm and upon reading it I learnt that there was a car arriving within the next 2 hours that was due in Brisbane that night. We were in Wagga Wagga in country New South Wales Australia 1,200 kms (14 hours away) from Brisbane. The car then had to be loaded onto a truck north for Cairns (a further 1,700 km away or 20 hours away).The car was needed by the customer in Cairns in 2 days time for him to pick it up from the airport and drive to his tropical beach holiday destination a further hour’s drive north.

This was Mission Impossible!

It was a physical impossibility to have a car in Cairns nearly 3,000 km away in 2 days even if it was driven there.

Flying a car was not an option!

Should I be like Corporal Jones in the BBC TV series “Dad’s Army” and start panicking?

What happened?

I called the customer (with extreme dread) and explained the situation 3 hours before he was due to board a direct flight from Melbourne to Cairns.

His reaction (Step 1) was dismay although not overt anger – how was he going to get to his holiday house?

I apologised (Step 2) and asked him again (Step 3) what his requirements for transport for his holiday were. He needed to have a car to travel to and around his holiday destination.

I then gave him several options, one being that we would provide a hire car at no cost for his holiday or until his car eventually arrived (Step 4).

He agreed, I thanked him for his understanding (Step 5) and said I would arrange this and get back to him.

A hire car was organised, using my personal credit card to be available at the local Cairns airport lounge for his arrival (Step 6). I then phoned him back just before he boarded the plane. He was very happy with the outcome. He continued to be a client for many years.

Even the most difficult situations can be solved using common sense and the 6 Step approach to managing customer complaints……………

Compare this approach that described in one of my earlier blogs.

It is quite a contrast isn’t it?