If I asked you the most important part of your business, what would you say? Marketing? PR? Perhaps advertising or sales?
Now what if I said they’re all irrelevant? What if I said you don’t need sales to be successful? You’d probably say (fairly sarcastically), “Why not just hand my business over to my competitors while I’m at it?”.
And you’d be right – if I were serious.
Of course PR, marketing, advertising and sales are relevant, and hugely important parts of your business. But they’re not the most important part.
“But they’re the ones that bring the customers and make money, and money equals profits!”you might say. And again, you’d be right. But take a look at that sentence again.
“Customers… make money and money equals profits.”
That’s both sets of customers, new and existing. So why are so many businesses concentrating on the new and forgetting about the existing? Is the mindset, “Well, they’ve stuck with us so far, they must be happy”? If it is, be prepared for a wake-up call.
Just because a customer has stuck with you doesn’t mean they’re satisfied. They may be tied into a contract or they may feel it’s too much effort at the minute to find a new vendor. But satisfied? Not necessarily.
Have you asked them lately how they’re feeling? Have you asked how you can improve your service (don’t fall into the trap that your service has reached its plateau – nobody’s thatgood)? You do have ways of asking these questions, don’t you? If you’re not sure, ask yourself the following:
- Do you have a customer feedback form on your website?
- Do you have a proactive approach at asking your customers what they’re thinking?
- Do you collect your customer details and use that information to personalize your relationship?
- Do you have some form of customer service performance in place?
If you can’t answer “Yes” to at least one of these questions, you might want to check and see how many of your customers have dropped off the radar in the last 3-6 months.
As important as your sales team is, or your marketing team, or your PR team or your advertising team – as important as all these elements are to your business’s success, they all cost money.
Your customers, on the other hand? A happy customer is your sales, PR, marketing and advertising teams rolled into one. Your most loyal employee. Your most vocal supporter – and they don’t take wages from you. So look after them.
If you collect contact information, use it. Call your customer up and ask how they’re finding their time with you. Ask how you can improve and what you can do to make their lives easier when shopping with you.
Don’t collect information initially? Fine – have a feedback form on your site and have that (or a customer feedback phone number) printed on your receipt. Encourage interaction and communication.
Or, if you have a Twitter account, for example, have “Don’t forget to tweet about us on Twitter” printed on your receipt and then monitor your mentions. And this works both ways – you can salvage a negative impression immediately or emphasize a positive one.
Start a forum on your website where customers can chat with each other about how you’re doing, and how you can improve. Involve your employees throughout the company on the forum, and talk to your customers like human beings instead of just sales figures. Sure, you can advise on what employee can say what, but at least offer the voice to open up to and converse with.
The key thing is, sales and marketing and the rest of the new business team is exactly that – new business. And you absolutely need that. But you also need existing business to build on and let you have the means to go after the new. Your customers – and by association, your customer service – are the real profit makers.
Isn’t it about time you treated them accordingly?
image: Nemo’s great uncle