What is a client worth to you? I mean “really” worth. If you have the mindset that you are only going to service your client once, then likely you will fail. I don’t mean to be harsh, it is just a fact. Not only does it cost an astronomical amount to gain a new client vs keeping an existing client, but you have to factor in the lifetime value of a client. So lets take a few lessons that I learned about client loyalty, from my work in a small town diner.
I started my career in customer service at the age of fifteen. I didn’t realize at the time the that what I was learning about at the time would eventually be considered customer success. Needless to say it didn’t take me long to learn that even in a small town diner that being in the business of pleasing people, and ensuring their happiness was going to lead to my success and therefore be profitable. I quickly learned that if my customer, sitting in a booth with their family was greeted with a smile, engaged in a little conversation, and walked out with a smile on their face, then in turn there was more money in my pocket. After awhile I learned that they trusted me and they relied on me to make their experience exceptional. When their experience was exceptional I would not only be rewarded immediately with cash in my pocket, but also with the power of positive feedback. These folks in turn became brand evangelicals for both the diner as well as myself, an ambassador of the diner. And, these customers would come back again and again.
I used these same strategies later in life when working as a bartender, but I took it one step further. I developed a client base that was truly my own. Now I know that sounds a little egotistical, but what I really mean is that I got rewarded for having a great place and a great environment to work in, and I used it to my advantage by creating my own clientele that came for a little bit of everything including my style of hospitality. These folks were always my favorites, and to this day I will attest to the power of loyalty. It is what makes a good business idea, a great business model.
Using these strategies in the professional arena is really no different. It might be a little more complex, and often more personal than food and drink.
Creating Client Loyalty:
Be the best, always. A great customer experience goes a long way, even if you are selling horse shit. Know the client: being on a first name basis is key. Face to face you must be able to identify the customer at first sight, and meet them with eye contact as well as positive body language to be sure that you are expressing that you know just who they are. Over the phone caller ID really helps, as does voice recognition, and tonal patterns.
We had a client that was on the recurring schedule and then slipped into a call-in basis, but we never lost track of him. When he calls in in the whole team knows “Dale” and what to expect. He has several different requests that he likes to make, but we always ask about the two most common, and move on quickly to “anything else” because we know that he is a busy man. I learned these strategies from once again working in a small town diner. I had a family that would come and stay at a cabin during the summer, and the first time they came with just a few people. I fumbled with their order, but still got it right. The next time I saw them I recognized them immediately. I was super busy, but made the effort to make eye contact, and before I even went to the table I grabbed a huge pot of coffee, 2 cups and a bowl of creamers. In doing this I used my time efficiently. I did not pass by the table to see what they wanted, because I knew already. It is not rocket science, but the same goes for any client. Know your client. Be efficient, and create an exceptional customer experience.
The Loyal Client is Your Best Friend:
The persona of a loyal client is one that you know well enough that whether you interact with them once a week or once a year you know what they want and can anticipate their needs. Perhaps you have a system in place that can help you with this. I have a freakish memory for interactions whether the conversation has been in person or over the phone, but for the life of me I can’t remember song titles, or quotes from movies. Regardless, I always take notes so that anyone on my team can access a client’s information and therefore give them the top notch service they expect and deserve.
This client will be with you for the life of your business so long as you treat them well. We have clients that have been with us since we started and we know them because we are with them every week. We have other clients that are with us that we only see once every 6 months…regardless they are loyal, and they don’t cost us a cent to bring back on board each time we service them. Not only that, but they are a form of absolutely free advertising. When someone asks them for advice they become our brand ambassadors, boasting about how great we are.
So just to recap….
Be awesome each and every time you interact with a client. Treat them better than you do your best friend, because in the end we all know that here and there we mistreat our best friends, simply because we can. Don’t take your clients for granted, you wouldn’t be in business without them. So whether they have been with you for 2 days or a year, treat them with the respect that they deserve. Remember, being awesome and keeping client loyalty could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in the lifetime cycle.