Eight Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business  11/8/2016

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down to coffee with Richard Shapiro, author of The Endangered Customer, 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business, who I had met a month prior one of many conferences held by the Luxury Marketing Council

In addition to being an author, Richard is also Founder and President of The Center for Client Retention, a firm that helps companies and brands to build loyalty and drive repeat customers. It was a serendipitous meeting, as, having recently furnished a new apartment from scratch, I had spent a lot of time at retail locations engaging with salespeople and customer service reps, and had been exposed to an array of customer service experiences, both good and bad. Unfortunately, most of these experiences, while not terrible, were also not outstanding. And that’s a problem, because it means that next time I have a similar need, they have just as much of a chance of getting my business as anyone else. They missed the opportunity to win a customer for life.

Yet in today’s sales environment – both business-to-consumer and business-to-business -- customer service is the one place in which companies can truly different themselves, yet it’s often seen as an afterthought. Retail front-line employees are not experts, and many businesses think that automating customer-facing activities is good service. And with competitive options easily found with a few taps on a cell phone browser, one option is becoming just as good as another. The true differentiator for most companies, are their people, and in an increasingly digital world, the human touch is more important than ever.

Which is why I think that the work Richard is doing is extremely valuable today – not only for frontline retail employees, but for anybody who is customer facing in business to business relationships as well. In his new book, he outlines eight steps for creating a truly outstanding customer experience, one that will help connect with customers along each part of the shopper journey and get them coming back to you over and over again.

Following are the eight steps and a brief summary of each.

1. Make me feel welcome
Greet your customers as you would greet a friend entering your home. Take a personal interest in them that is genuine, and let them know you are there to address their needs, not sell them a product or service. The key is to "invite them into a relationship" with you. Personalize the experience as best as you can, and make a great first impression.

2, Give me your full attention.
Dale Carnegie wrote that the biggest human need is the desire to feel important, and nothing makes a person feel important more than your undivided attention, and an eagerness to understand how you can help them. Remember, people can get basic information about your products and services online. By engaging in meaningful dialogue and actively listening, you'll get a better understanding of how you can help them that will truly differentiate your business. This can take place not just in face-to-face interactions, but via text, email and social media as well.

3. Answer more than my question

Make your customers feel comfortable asking questions, and through an engaged dialogue with them, anticipate their need for additional information. When you do this, "you become a source of direction and focus that will help the customer solve a tricky problem or fulfill the wish that brought them to you in the first place,” writes Shapiro. Remember, customer-facing employees ARE your brand in the customer’s eyes.

4. Know your stuff
Consumers today armed with access to more information than ever before, and it's likely they've done their research before engaging with you. If they know more about your offerings than you do, chances are you won't see them again. You truly must be an expert and focus on how you can help them solve their challenges and meet their needs. Take the time to learn those things about your brand that your customers and prospects don't already know, and learn your brand history and story.

5. Don't tell me “No.”
Enough said. There is always a way to get to "yes."
6. Invite me to return:
The end of every transaction should be the beginning (or the continuation) of the relationship. Make sure to express your desire to do business with customers again, thank them for their business (whether in person, email, text, etc.) and make it easy for them to find connect with you in the future.

7. Show me I matter
In today's world of social media, the post-sale experience is just as important as the experience leading up to the sale. Develop ongoing ways to let them know they still matter – without expectations. Turn them into advocates of your brand so that they want to spread the word about you and “sell” on your behalf. Soliciting feedback from them and acting on that feedback makes them feel they have a say in what you do, and goes a long way in building loyalty.

8. Surprise me in good ways

Come up with creative and interesting ways to continually surprise your customers. I’ll never forget the time years ago when I visited Dorothy Lane supermarket in Ohio and was told about how Norman Mayne, the company’s CEO, personally delivered a bouquet of flowers to the grocer’s best customer. “The top shopper spends more than $40,000 a year in the store,” an employee told me. “Would a discount or gift card really matter to them?” But this personal gesture must have had an impact – it certainly impressed me, as I remember it all these years later. The grocer’s managers also write handwritten thank you notes to their top customers. Never underestimate the power of a simple, handwritten note, especially when we rarely receive them anymore. There are plenty of other ways to surprise and delight your customers, and if you follow the steps above, figuring out what wil have the biggest impact should be a piece of cake – or a Killer Brownie, in the case of Dorothy Lane.

To contact Richard Shaprio, email rshapiro@tcfcr.com

Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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