What Have You Done for Your Customers Lately?

What does your company do after the cash register rings? Do you view a sale as the start of the relationship, or the end? Do you exert as much effort to keep customers as you do to acquire them?

Sometimes, the most effective marketing and selling efforts take place after the first transaction.

The customer you just rang up is a walking, talking ad. If she’s pleased, she can have her family and friends on board and ready to buy from you in minutes. If she’s unhappy, she can spread a seed of discontent just as quickly.

She also holds purse strings and is looking for an excuse to buy from you again. Ignore her at your peril.

You Can Spin, But You Can’t Hide

No matter how hard you try to spin or excuse your product or service mishaps, the interconnected world will stop you in a heartbeat. Tomorrow’s businesses must be transparent. Reality can no longer be altered.

Even a cult brand like Apple isn’t immune to this reality. The iPod nano and the word “scratch” are now synonymous. Check out this thread on a Mac-friendly Web site.

Our senior conversion analyst, Howie Kaplan, shared an online chat he had with HP support:

Howie: I just popped the CD tray out of my r3200 to burn some files, and the tray is now stuck. It only closes 80% of the way with or without a CD in it.

Shirley: Oh! Have you tried rebooting the computer and check if it works?

Howie: The tray will not close physically

Shirley: I see.

Howie: Trust me, it won’t work.

Shirley: Can I have the serial number of the computer?

Howie: Yes. I trust you. [Serial number.]

Shirley: Thanks.

Howie: This is the second time I’ve contacted you about the ridiculously flimsy construction of the case.

Shirley: I see. I understand the gravity of the situation, Howie.

Shirley: Am I right, it’s Compaq Presario R3410US notebook computer?

Howie: Yes.

Shirley: Thanks for confirmation.

Shirley: As the notebook is under warranty and this issue needs immediate attention… At this point I recommend you mail-in service.

Howie: You guys are unbelievable! Absolutely not.

Shirley: I recommend you directly contacting the Customer Care Department at 1-800-OK-COMPAQ (1-800-652-6672) and they will arrange for mail-in. This process is immediate.

Howie: The process is NOT immediate. Anything but. Immediate = you come to me, and fix the laptop.

After more heated chat and no resolution, it wrapped up:

Shirley: I am certainly glad to have received an opportunity to assist you. Anything else I can be of service to you today?

Howie Kaplan: Yet you have no ability to fix the issue, nor will you re-engineer the product so future people can avoid this.

You simply cannot ignore the experience a customer has after the sale. Bad service and bad products cancel out all current and future persuasive efforts.

Maximize Opportunities

Most marketing efforts zero in on first-time acquisitions to grow top-line growth numbers. Yet the most cost-effective way to grow is to apply more effort and more budget to customer retention.

Here are four ways to ensure you’re maximizing post-transaction customer retention opportunities:

  • Closely examine problem tickets. Ensure customers don’t just get resolution, but are wowed. When things go wrong, you have an opportunity to rescue the customer and become a hero of sorts. Empower customer service to go above and beyond. Think beyond protecting your assets. Consider any reasonable incurred expenses (replacements, shipping, free repair) as part of the marketing budget or as an investment in customer retention. Will it cost more to lose this customer than to incur this expense? Retention costs can be more accurately monitored than acquisition costs.
  • Examine your packaging. What’s the customer’s first impression of your company when the package arrives? We’ve encouraged clients on tight budgets to buy shipping tape customized with their logos; it’s much more affordable than custom boxes. Pay attention to what’s inside the box as well, including samples and related materials.
  • Seek opportunities to get personal. Handwritten thank-you notes and follow-up phone calls from someone high on the food chain can cement relationships. If you create custom products or if it’s logistically feasible, why not send thank-you notes with signatures from everyone on the production team? In a world of computer-generated forms, anything with a genuine personal touch has high impact.
  • Give customers a voice, then listen. When measuring customer satisfaction, many companies do so with a lame multiple-choice survey. Instead, ask questions with open-ended answers. Find out specifically what motivated customers to buy from you, what they liked about the process, and what they didn’t like. You’ll uncover potential holes in your selling and post-conversion processes that a multiple-choice questionnaire never could.

What have you done for your customers lately?

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