Small business owners tend to focus on the challenge of bringing in new customers. When working with clients, one of our foremost priorities is developing websites, content, and marketing strategies that will develop new leads. But when doing this, it's easy to overlook the importance of existing clients.
Everyone has likely had the experience of being a faithful patron of a business for years, only to develop the sense that you are being taken for granted. This often happens when a business puts more emphasis on reeling in new customers, rather than maintaining a satisfactory standard of service to all customers.
It’s impossible to please everyone. But sometimes due to oversight, time crunches, or mistakes, businesses fail to live up to their full potential, and leave customers feeling disappointed. Some of the most common reasons that customers end up leaving a business include:
All of these are serious issues. But the first five, all of which are far more common than the last, are problems that can be remedied one way or another.
Good service is all about communication. And good service doesn’t stop once the customer has paid their bill. Following-up is just as important. Getting a customer back (or keeping them in the first place) requires talking to them.
Take a look at your sales records or mailing lists, and compile a list of all of your contacts who haven’t done business with you for a long enough period of time that it’s clear that they are no longer a current customer.
This isn’t going to be a “Hi, how are you?” kind of email. The idea here is that you want to solicit their attention and feedback; you’re creating a call to action. There has to be a reason for why they disappeared, and you want to know why. You want to invite the former customer to either email you, or direct them to a feedback page on your website where they can fill out a survey and submit it.
Keep your email brief and cordial. Don’t test their attention span, especially since you want them to take the time to not only read your email, but also invest additional time in writing a response or filling out a response form. As an example, an email from a cat grooming business could look something like this:
This is Bob Smith at Happy Kitty Groomers. We recently noticed that you haven’t paid us a visit in a while, and we were wondering if there was a specific reason for this. What can we do to improve the quality of our service?
We want every one of our customers (and their feline friends!) to have the best possible experience when they walk through our doors. We would greatly appreciate it if you could visit the survey page on our site here, and take a moment to tell us how we can improve in order to win back your business.
Thank you for your time.
We hope to serve you again in the future,
Happy Kitty Groomers
The example is about 120 words, including the signature line. This could easily be tightened up to less than 100 words with a bit of revising and editing. The customer should be able to get the gist in less than a minute, so that by the time it’s time for them to decide whether or not to respond, they don’t feel like you’ve already exhausted a lot of their time. Remember, you’re trying to get them to do you a favor.
For instance, you could do a random drawing in which one or more winners get a free Amazon gift card, or credit for your own site–which further encourages the past customers in question to come back into the fold.
But be sure to make it worthwhile. If you offer a $5 credit for a $50 service or product, your offer will come off as a disingenuous advertising ploy. Consider how important your customers’ feedback is to you, and then make sure that whatever you offer reflects that importance.
Once you have this information, act on it. Make a point of doing everything you can to fix the problems that have been pointed out. If you don’t follow through, then you will have demonstrated to your customers that you don’t value them, their experience, or what they have to say. While there may be a couple one-offs where a client was simply impossible to satisfy, you’ll probably identify trends indicative of systemic problems with your business. Once you identify these problems, fix them. When you’re confident that you’ve nipped the problem in the bud, then make a point of advertising what you’ve done.
Send out a newsletter to all customers, past and present, talking about the problem that was identified, and what you have done to remedy it. Then use this opportunity to urge all of your customers to contact you if they’re ever dissatisfied, so you have a better chance of holding onto their business, rather than just having them quietly drift off.
Customer satisfaction is something that every business needs to take the time to evaluate. Don’t think that because your sales numbers are good, that you have nothing to worry about. If it turns out that a high percentage of your customers disengage quickly due to poor service, you’ll inevitably see your numbers collapse, with no easy way to recover because you’ve left behind a slew of unhappy customers. Be proactive in speaking to your customer base, so that you can identify and address any potential weaknesses before they start to damage your business’s reputation.