Business

Grow your business sustainably

BUSINESS ADVICE | By Cheryl Kane

April 9. To be sustainable you generally need revenue generated from both returning customers and new customers. If revenue growth occurs primarily from new customers rather than from repeat customers, you may not be building a sustainable book of business for the future.

To be clear: Churning customers (having lots of new customers but not fully satisfying existing customers so they fail to return) can generate revenue; but it may not be the way to build lasting revenue sources.  Returning satisfied customers are invaluable—you don’t want to lose them.

It appears in 2021 we are going to get back to a more normal, business-as-usual cycle.  It may be appropriate to revisit your customer service quality before your doors are wide open again.

Many of us have been hobbling along, making do in less-than-ideal circumstances. During the COVID-19 pandemic customers have generally been quite understanding and tolerant of the less-than-ideal circumstances businesses have had to endure.  There has been much empathy for each other, and reasonably so.

But that won’t last forever. When doors are fully open for business, returning customers will expect the same quality of service you offered before.

Don’t let them down. You want both your previous customers and new customers to spend their dollars with you.

When coming out of COVID-reduced business situations, some of your policies, procedures, or business model may have had to be modified. Re-grouping as a team you and your staff may need to re-polish your level of professionalism; just because we work(ed) from home doesn’t mean our professionalism should be on the homey side.

Traditional rules

Remember, the traditional rules are the same today as they were pre-COVID:

• Make sure you are easy to do business with. Be clear, polite, attentive, and responsive.

• Never take customers for granted.

• If you change your policies or processes, communicate them to returning customers, upfront.

• Maintain top-level professionalism at all times. Don’t be overly informal—it can be seen as rude.

• If a customer is dissatisfied, be alert and listen well.

• If an error occurs fix it fast—and right the first time—to restore the relationship.

• Use customer-focused communication, not in-house shoptalk with the customer so they know you are focused on meeting their needs first, not yours.

• Insist on and maintain uniform standards of customer care behaviors from all employees-monitor and measure it.

Loyal customers

Loyal returning customers want to do business with you again. They want to depend on you and your team again. Don’t make them shop your competition as a result of being let down; because they will.

Recently a new employee of a service provider sent me a proposal to approve work I perceived as similar to what I had hired the company to do annually for several years—except it appeared to be 300 percent more expensive. When I called to review it, instead of listening to my concerns first, the person said upfront in part, and impersonally, “I know you may have sticker shock.” If my response was expected there were much better ways to have handled this—before my call about the proposal.

Their priorities perplexed me.

In another situation a company’s rules have changed; office hours and available services are more limited today. The practiced explanation upfront helped me understand, and accept, the changing landscape.

I appreciated the candor and clarity. It made me feel they had customer care as their focus.

Plan now to be fully successful when you re-open for business as usual. Remember, some of us may need reorientation to our values and standards in order to maintain our solid business practices in order to grow sustainably.

Cheryl Kane

Cheryl Kane, MBA, PHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a strategic business consultant, sales trainer, & professional speaker specializing in problem solving and service quality. Cheryl welcomes your communication at email: Cheryl.Kane@alumni.duke.edu

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