Good customers can help a small business survive, but great customers can help a small business thrive. These are the buyers who choose a small business not just for its products or services, but for the extra value they receive.
Their choice is not driven solely by price; when great customers like what they’re getting, they’re willing to pay extra for it.
The good news is that your small business may already have good customers who can easily become great customers. It’s up you to provide that all-important "something extra." Ramon Ray, Editor and Technology Evangelist for Smallbiztechnology.com, offers some tips for cultivating great customers:
Always advise what is in the best interest of your customer. "Sometimes it might be tempting to suggest a solution or product that will increase your profit or revenue," Ray says, "but over time your clients will appreciate your saving them money when all possible or suggesting they invest in a more expensive solution, as the need dictates."
Refer business to your customers. You want your customers to refer new clients to you, right? Why not do the same for them? "Even if your customers never say it, they know which of their vendors want a two-way relationship and which ones don’t," Ray says.
Be active in your community. The more your clients see you active in your local community the more they are going to want to work with you and not your competitor. Convey your philosophies to all staff. It’s not enough that you know how to treat customers. It’s equally important that all of your staff are well trained and advised o your methods, philosophies and customer expectations.
Take responsibility for mistakes or problems. "Your customers hate when blame gets passed around," Ray says. "They just want solutions or products delivered, and assurance that problems don’t happen again. So it’s important to know why a problem did occur, solve it and then move on."
By offering more value and customer service, you’ll find that over time the right customers will percolate up to the "top" and they will want to work with you more.
"Wrong customers" or customers who are not a fit for you will leave you and look for other solutions.
"It never feels good to lose a customer," Ray says, "but in the end it’s best for your business."
To learn more about delivering stellar customer service, contact SCORE "Mentors to America’s Small Business." SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 11,000 volunteers who provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. To find SCORE online, visit www.score.org. Locally, contact www.hutchinson.score.org.
David Inskeep is a retired commercial lender and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.