A Competitive Edge through Customer Experience

David_SolomonDid you ever wonder what makes the superstars of your industry the superstars of your industry? Does it frustrate and mystify you that your competition seems to always remain one step ahead? Do you seem to be on a never-ending quest for a competitive edge in the marketplace? Or even more seriously, do you see your revenue decreasing, your customer base diminishing or your market share evaporating?

If so, it might be time to re-invent yourself. Thankfully it’s a lot simpler than you think!

Today we live in a Google world. Whatever product you sell, or service you provide, can be found online, for less money, in a few seconds.

Solomon03-2015So why would anyone ever do business with you?

The answer is simple… Because they like you; have a relationship with you; trust you.

In today’s fast-paced world we’ve become so automated that many of us believe that a text message is sufficient to say thank you. We communicate through cyberspace. We’ve become desensitized.

It’s time to put the human touch back into your life.


Look at many of the world’s top performing companies and you will see a commitment to “people strategies”. But does the strategic use of recognition generate business results and directly impact the bottom line?

What the Data Tells Us

Unbiased, global research featuring quantitative and qualitative studies proves that frequent and thoughtful recognition of your customers (and staff) will directly and significantly increase their loyalty and their engagement (often at a rate of more than 2 to 1).

This same research found that customers who receive strong recognition are 33% more likely to be proactive in their referrals to your company than those who simply receive the obligatory courtesy following a purchase, generating 2x as many referrals per month.

Similarly, companies that implement recognition programs of any type, keep customers an average of 2 years longer than organizations that don’t and when that recognition is perceived to be sincere, customers will typically continue to do business with that vendor for an additional 2 years, if not more!

How much extra income would that yield you?

Over the past few years, the term “Appreciation Marketing” has been applied to this critical business building approach.

Simply stated, building relationships and customer loyalty by showing how grateful you are for a customer’s business is the foundation of “Appreciation Marketing”.


Why Customers Leave

According to a study of all types of small businesses by the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), when it comes to the question of why businesses lose customers, the perception that members of the staff don’t care ranks as the leading factor.

As a matter of fact, nearly 70% of those polled indicated that the perception of a non-caring staffer led their customers to buy from other businesses, which was by far the strongest response of the 6 factors mentioned.

Interestingly, product / service dissatisfaction ranked 2nd and price ranked 3rd , with only 14% and 9% respectively indicating those factors as being the primary reason for their customers change to another vendor.

In other words, the biggest reason we lose customers is that they don’t feel appreciated!


How to Show Customers You Care

For starters you say “thank you” and “please come back,” but when? How? How often?

That requires thought and commitment and is certainly unique for every type of business and the goals of the owners – but consider this:

Phase 1: Use the power of your relationship and the trust your clients have demonstrated for you and your company, with frequent, personalized, non-solicitous contact, to ensure you get as much repeat business, up-sell and cross-sell income and referral revenue as possible.

Express and whenever possible demonstrate your genuine appreciation and concern for their well-being by recognizing and celebrating important days, occasions and accomplishments in their lives. By offering solemn remarks, encouragement and support at moments of hardship they may be experiencing. By rewarding them for their loyalty and commitment to you and your business, etc. Once those foundational elements are in place and you are enjoying the fruits of that effort, it will be time to think even bigger and consider this:

Phase 2: Today’s buyers are evolving. They’re connected. They’re social. They’re in-the-know. They do their research, and they know exactly what they want by the time they’re ready to make a purchase. But most importantly, today’s buyers are all different from one another — they’re no longer tolerant of a batch-and-blast approach to marketing, sales, or customer service that involves grouping them all together under one umbrella. They’re looking for personalized messaging delivered to them exactly when they need it, and the companies that can’t cater to these changing buyer demands will find themselves losing sale after sale to their competitors.

This is where customer-centric “Appreciation Marketing” comes into play. By listening to, responding to and ultimately anticipating your customers’ needs, you will increase your repeat business, up-sell and cross-sell revenue and referral income and you’ll do it in the most cost-effective, efficient and down-right easy way possible.

In essence, your clients will be more willing to accept your recommendations and terms unconditionally, resulting in better close rates, increased retention rates, lower cost of sales while enabling the reduction in your (underperforming) mass marketing budget.

Of course, providing quality products and services and fulfilling your promises at a fair price is critical to finding and keeping customers, because it demonstrates that your appreciation is sincere, but I think it’s clear that those issues become less important as your relationship with your customers grows. So, what now, you ask?

1. Program Setup:
Create a written plan and allocate a specific budget for “Appreciation Marketing”. Use the guidelines to keep track of when to say thank you, when to send a thank you note, when to offer a discount or maybe even when to send a gift. Train your sales and/or customer service staff to check in personally with customers after the sales process and/or job is finished.

Teach them to seek feedback from customers regarding the sales process, product and service to ensure they had their expectations exceeded (or at least met) and if the product or service fulfilled their objectives. This, of course, gives you a way to correct any problems, prevent future ones from surfacing and provides customers with a chance to buy more.

2. Tools:
Sending “hand-written” thank-you notes, with a personalized message specifically geared to each customer goes a long way toward showing your appreciation. If you sell services, email your client “white-papers” about topics related to what you sell, to broaden their knowledge and help them maximize their prior investments in both your services as well as related products, services and applications. Remember: Do not make any solicitations or offers other than “let me know if I can help” or these efforts will appear disingenuous.

Once that process is in place, consider options including taking your high value clients to lunches, dinners or events; creating rewards programs; offering “Gold Label” products, services or pricing or supporting their businesses and charities.

Regardless of the approach you begin with, I hope you agree that this is the key to business success and the start of a new beginning for your company and you.

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