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Partnering with Customers Works Better than Prospecting

Everyone knows that prospecting is a tough row to hoe: You want to avoid “cold-calling” at almost any cost, but the search for treasure trove lists of warm and hot leads almost always seem to turn tepid at best.

Isn’t it obvious that your hottest prospects are the very people who know and love you best?

Consider your retail experience with Nordstrom’s or Amazon – any of the leaders in customer service and retention. (How can you not appreciate Zappos’ proffer of free shipping, free 365-day returns, 24/7 customer service, and $25 back on first purchase?) If that’s not designed to make a life partner out of a first-time customer, nothing is! Pretty much any customer-service giant is hard-wired to give its customers the solution to a problem BEFORE the customer perceives there’s a problem to be solved.

If you choose to follow in the footsteps of these giants, common sense, experience and statistics are on your side. The Customer Service Institute says it costs five times more to attract a new customer than satisfy an existing one. A study by Marketing Metrics found the typical company will make repeat sales 2 out of 3 times but have only a 1-in-4 shot at lapsed customers and will likely have a 1-in-10 batting average with uncaptured prospects.

Worse than that, studies published in the Customer Service Manager eZine show that 91% of unhappy customers will never buy again from a company that has displeased them and will voice their dissatisfaction to at least seven other people. That gets expensive!

How do you make fast friends out of casual customers? Here are some thoughts:

  • Treat your customers as partners; find out what it is that they want from you. Their answers may surprise you – and they may not be as difficult or expensive as you might imagine.
  • Be proactive. Customers really like special or preferred pricing, upgrades, suggestions for complementary purchases, or gift ideas … and they WILL expect a refund or other acts of contrition when you don’t get it right. So grab the initiative by getting out in front of such expectations, and you’ll win the customer’s devotion almost every time.
  • Be available, be knowledgeable, and pay attention to the details. You may not be able to offer 24/7 service. However, you can still project the image of availability and responsiveness IF you and your employees answer the telephone, email, and internet queries quickly, accurately, and honestly.

Be a partner. Be a pal. Be profitable.

Sallie Burnett
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