Cultivate your customers. Delight them with dazzling service so that they keep coming back for more. Give them a little more than they expect: under-promise, over-deliver.

If you want me as your customer, delight me. I want to be wowed by your remarkable service. I want to be dazzled.

Donít for one moment think that weíre still in the era of customer satisfaction. Weíre not. Weíre now in the era of customer delight.

So how can you delight me?

Get to know me on my turf.

Invite me to your premises and introduce me around within seven days of our fist contact. And insist that your personnel visit me at my premises within the first 30 days of our initial interaction.

Donít stop the visits.

Make sure I have face-to-face contact with your team at least once every three months.

Invest time in your customers. Make them feel at home... make them feel special. Work to retain their loyalty.

Become performers. Today there should be no such thing as "Iím not a people person. Iím just a backroom boy". You need people-orientated people. It doesnít matter what position they hold in your company, they must give customers a performance.

A consistent, delightful performance.

Make your work entertaining. Turn your business into a theatre. Your customers and those who work with you will love you for it. Stay loose and laugh a lot.

Cultivate a sense of fun.

Personal recommendations influence 80% of all consumer buying decisions. Existing and former customers can be a gold mine. Keep a comprehensive database of your current and past customers. Create a Customer Contact Programme: a computerised customer data-base in which you store the names of all your customers, their pertinent details and an inventory of their purchases. Update this database every six months. Use the data to communicate with your customers on a regular basis. Keep them in the picture. Send out a mailshot at least four times a year.

Follow up on lost sales. View customer defections as a key measure of your companyís performance. It costs about 15 times more to find new customers than it does to retain existing customers. Work out the value of a loyal customer to your business over the next 10 years.

Determine why defections occur and how they influence profits. When an aircraft crashes, airline investigators search until they find the "black box" so that they can establish the cause of the disaster. When a customer defects, develop a "black box" mentality. Find out why heís abandoning you.

Earn customer loyalty. Create customer value. Itís the core business activity from which sales, profits and long-term success flow. Do something a little extra for your customers. Identify what results your customers expect by doing business with you.

Segment your customers in terms of profitability and audit them in terms of loyalty:

  • How long have your different customers been with you?

  • How much money do they spend with you as opposed with your competitors?

  • What made them leave your competitors to come to you?

  • Update your findings every six months.

Give your customers an interest in your business. Communicate with them constantly in a language they understand. Keep them abreast of all changes in your business. Ask them for input.

Involve your customers. Make them members of your club whatever you sell, invite your customers to seminars every six months. Get in guest speakers, provide transcripts of their addresses for your customers who are unable to attend.

And above all, make the whole buying experience fun.

In a nutshell, offer knowledge.

Because knowledge is power, go out of your way to ensure that you become your customersí fountain of valid information. When you give your customers access to knowledge, their loyalty to you grows.

  • Knowledge is the only instrument of production that is not subject to diminishing returns.

Customer retention rates and employee productivity are directly correlated. The higher the customer retention rate, the higher the level of productivity.

Thatís what customer loyalty can do for you.

Penalise yourself. Penalise yourself or your company every time you donít keep your service promise. Give your customers a pledge such as: "If I donít deliver it within 30 minutes, you get it for free." Be specific.

Consign to the scrap heap phrases like "as soon as possible".

What about this one?

"If you have to stand in a queue for longer than three minutes, weíll pay you R20." Come up with concrete suggestions for penalising yourself if your service doesnít meet expectations. Reject out-of-hand any proposals that include "cheat" numbers like "100%" or "24-hours-a-day." They mean zip. Pretentious statement like "I will provide you with 100% service 24-hours-a-day" donít work.

Customer loyalty isnít dished up on a plate. You have to earn it.

Action points

  1. How can you make your work environment more fun?
  2. How can you make yourself more fun to be around?
  3. Write down the names of 7 customers, and next to each name, list the results that they expect by doing business with you.
  4. Imagine for a moment that you have been made chairman/lady of your business club. Think of 10 innovative ideas that would encourage your customers/members) to feel as if they belong to your club.
  5. List 3 ways of penalising yourself if you donít keep your service promise. Remember, use tangible, specific rewards that your customers will cherish.

1.   Where are you going?
2. How are you going to get there?
3. What will you need to do?
4. What are you lacking?
5. Who is in your way?
6. Who are you aiming at?
7. Who do you need to assist you?
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