Customer retention is a popular buzzword these days, but real customer loyalty starts with the first contact and is reinforced by progressively proactive communication. To increase your customer retention, start by teaching your own people good business manners. Show them how to relieve your customer’s potential anxiety before they even begin to worry.
First impressions are lasting ones, and are the foundation of the business relationship. When your customer has a good first impression, he is more likely to overlook any minor mishaps that come along later. If he has a poor first impression, the mishaps just reinforce his initial poor opinion of your company. Why not make your customer’s first impression of your company one that is positive, competent, and concerned?
Our recent experience with an outside company with a very responsive agent was a stellar example of good business manners:
Confirmation. When we sent her information, she sent us a confirmation that she received it right away. It made us feel like she cared about us and wanted to relieve any possible anxiety we might have had, or could develop, with a reassuring message that she had in fact received the information she needed to complete her end of the project. She didn’t have to do it, but her concern for our peace of mind really impressed us. It gave us a much more confident view of her company and increased our positive expectations.
Unfortunately, too many companies do the minimum. They want to get the job done in the shortest amount of time, get paid, and get on to the next job. It was so refreshing to be treated like a real human being instead of just a customer. We didn’t have to wonder if she got the information or if it was lost in her in basket, junk mail, or in hyperspace. Because she had informed us, we knew and it put us at ease. We felt we were in good hands with her company.
Comfort Calls. The other thing we liked about the way our responsive agent treated us was she gave us comfort calls and emails to let us know the status of our project, what the next step was, and how and when it would be completed. We didn’t have to ask. There was no anxiety working with her and her company. She was proactive and reached out for us to keep us informed. She didn’t have to do this, and most companies we deal with don’t, but her communication put us at ease.
Early Warnings. At one point she called to tell us that they would need a few more days on a particular segment of the project. She called us several days before the deadline, not after she missed it. Because she was proactive and showed concern for our interests, we were more understanding about the delay. This was yet another example of the kind superior customer relations more companies should employ.
We have future jobs that we could give to her competition and perhaps even save a few bucks, but because she went the extra mile to keep us posted all the way along the project, we will stay put with her company.
Simple courtesies like confirmation, status updates, comfort calls, and early warnings are more powerful in growing and maintaining customer loyalty than all the customer loyalty programs in the world. Customers want to do business with companies that do the maximum, not the minimum. Going the extra mile builds lasting relationships.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders