8 Tips to Retaining Clients and Customers

Basic RGBHow much do you care about your clients,  customers, and friends? Do you know that they are not considered the same person? Consider this analysis from wisegeek (http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-the-difference-between-a-customer-and-a-client.htm):

“In general, the difference between a customer and a client is that a protective, ongoing business relationship is formed with a client, but not necessarily with a customer. For example, a customer might walk into a store one time, choose a few items, and make a purchase before leaving. A client, on the other hand, comes back repeatedly to make additional purchases and establishes a long-term relationship with a company. This difference can be subtle, but it is important since many businesses want to establish these long-term associations.”

Here are eight valuable tips to show new and existing clients and customers how much you care about them.

1.  Keep track of everyone you meet. It does not need to be fancy at first. A simple Excel spreadsheet can be a start. Keep business cards in an alphabetical box and put their contact information on a spreadsheet, which you can sort by categories, including the date and where you met. Also include other helpful information. This is the first step to true networking and showing each person you meet you want to stay in touch.

I can’t tell you how many times I receive compliments on how good I am about remembering when and where I first met someone. It’s in the database, not my brain.

2.  Send an introductory message quickly. Sending a person a follow-up message—either by email or regular mail within 24-48 hours after meeting — shows your interest in building a relationship. Admittedly, I often wait until the weekend to catch up, which is about the longest period to procrastinate. Any longer and that contact will cool.

3.  Respond to all calls and messages. Nothing burns me up more than to not hear back from someone, especially someone to whom I want to give my money and business. In this fast-paced global economy, responding to all requests within 24 to 48 hours is crucial. Waiting longer shows a lack of interest in wanting that business or relationship.

4. Use spelling and grammar checks feature. There is no excuse for emails that have not gone through spell check. Grammatical errors are often bad enough, yet I draw the line on clearly misspelled words and in some instances the spelling of my name. This clearly shows a lack of care. We are all victim of moving too fast. This is one area to slow down, to care enough about how our written words are being received.

What’s the worst for me is when I correct someone on how to spell my name and they still continue to misspell it. What do you think this is saying about this person?

5.  Stay in regular contact. It is said, “Out of sight; out of mind.” Develop a program or campaign to stay in touch with everyone in your greater network on a regular basis throughout the year. Using social media is certainly a great way, yet not the only way.

Post cards are in style again. While more costly than email, it’s become my favorite way to receive the sales information I want. I ask for a special call to action on a promotion and sale, and then my investment pays off.

For example, someone at a local women’s clothing store recently learned I was born in the month of March. I’m an Aries. I had heard great things about this store, yet had never visited it. The postcard stated I could receive a 10% discount off any item in the store, during my birth month only. I kept the postcard in the car to make a point to visit the store. I did visit and I made purchases.

6.  Send a handwritten note. As much as we all want to go green, this is one exception… especially for thank-you notes. A personal handwritten note, sent by regular mail, is still the epitome of showing how much you care about a person, their business, and friendship. Send personal notes often, especially for special occasions such as a birthday, business anniversary, holidays, and of course for business meals and gifts. I recognize this takes time, but it is definitely time worth spending.

7.  Be on time! Especially when in the role of wanting business from someone, it is absolutely unforgivable to be late. And, if you must be late, for gosh sakes… call the person you are meeting with an updated time of arrival and to reconfirm there will still be enough time to meet. To be a no-show without a good explanation is on the top of my list of deal breakers.

8.  Admit mistakes and make up for it. We are all human and mistakes happen. What’s important is to show understanding when things take place and when an apology is in order, to say it and mean it. Be a valued team member by learning from mistakes and making up for them by improving for the future.

I recently held a one-hour corporate presentation where I did not have my PowerPoint slides on a back-up thumb drive. Because my laptop is an older one, still using a VGA port, the only cord the hotel had was an HDMI cord. We couldn’t locate a thumb drive to transfer my presentation to another computer, nor could I get online—for some reason—to email the presentation to the person in charge.

I gave the talk without visuals, which was fine.  However, as soon as I got home, I put a thumb drive in my purse to have at all times. I also purchased a VGA to HDMI adaptor cord to bring to all future presentations. I sent the manager who engaged the training a handwritten note of apology (even though they were equally apologetic about not having an adapter either) and I enclosed a thumb drive as an amusing gift to remember this incident. It was the first time this has ever happened and I trust never to happen again.

The above tips are only the beginning of ways to show our clients and customers we care about them.  These tips also apply to personal friendships.  We must all nurture our personal friendships in these same ways.

I’d love to stimulate more discussion on this topic by hearing all about efforts you make to attract and retain your clients and customers.

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