When someone says to you, “You have a really happy customer,” you probably immediately think about your customer support staff and how they work to solve the problems that arise for your customers. You think of all of the things you do once someone decides that they like you enough to give you money and start using your services or products.
Unfortunately, this is how most people look at their customer support initiatives. They believe that customer support happens only after the sale. Only after someone has come under your customer umbrella.
Actually, customer support starts before the individual has even heard of you. Let’s examine the cycle of great support and see how what happens in each stage.
In the Beginning…
How likely are you to provide great post-sales support to someone who has never heard of you? Well, that one is easy; you don’t have a snowball’s chance unless you first get the sale. The first step in providing great customer support is having marketing programs that identify your prospects and spread your message to these individuals.
There have been many things written about the personalized marketing efforts that are possible on the Internet, so I won’t bore you with the details, but these efforts are very helpful in acquiring happy customers.
As you identify clients and market to them one-to-one, they begin to feel important to you. They will remember this effort, and it will pave the way for greater customer-company communications, which is the key to any happy relationship.
The Relationship Gets Deeper
Once you do your marketing work and attract prospects to your site or get sales associates talking to them, don’t stop making them feel special. Prospects need to feel like your web site was built just for them.
This can be accomplished in many ways with different technologies, but it is important that prospects locate their information quickly, that they find that information clear and helpful, and if they have specific questions, that they get answers promptly.
Not only will this help you get the sales you need, it will also strengthen a foundation that is building in this person’s mind. Prospects need to think that they will always be first in your mind and that once they buy and become a customer, they will still have that special relationship.
So Now the Prospect Is a Customer…
There’s an old joke that floats around sales forces, and it goes something like this:
A man dies and he goes to Heaven. When he reaches Heaven, St. Peter tells the guy that he has a choice of where to spend eternity, either Heaven or Hell. The man replies that he really can’t decide because he hasn’t experienced either.
So St. Peter allows the man to have one day in Heaven and one day in Hell. His day in Heaven is spent floating on clouds, listening to beautiful music, and resting peacefully. He spends the next day in Hell, and it’s filled with beautiful women, all the food he wants, and big-screen TV with only his favorite programming.
After the two days, he returns to St. Peter and informs him that he is surprised to say that he thinks that Hell is going to be his choice. St. Peter says, “OK,” and the man instantly falls into a pot of boiling oil and is poked with a pitchfork by the Devil.
He yells to St. Peter and asks, “What happened to all of the fun stuff that was here?”
St. Peter replies, “Oh… Well, yesterday you were a prospect, and today you are a customer.”
It is safe to say that many companies’ customers feel that way. They are promised the world and are hand-held through a beautiful sales process, only to be chopped down once they sign on the dotted line. Don’t let this happen to your customers! Make them feel special and valued at every phase.
Everything Begins Again
The reason why it is essential to diligently maintain great customer support all through the relationship is that the customer relationship truly is a cycle. The whole process starts over once someone signs on the dotted line.
At the very minute a prospect becomes a customer, he also becomes a prospect again. There is the immediate possibility that he will buy from you again, and you will need to earn that business.
That’s why there is no marketing dollar that you can attach to what a happy customer is worth. Even if customers don’t immediately buy from you, they can tell other people how happy they are with you. This is as good as money in the bank.
Establishing a happy customer-company relationship is a true process, one that has certain phases, yes, but really has no true beginning or end. You need to make an effort before customers know who you are and continue until the day they buy from you again. This is the true life cycle of a happy customer.