Customers are the primary reason for being in business. They are the lifeline of any business, and it is important to keep patrons by avoiding or minimizing customer dissatisfaction.
How much is a good customer worth? If good customers are worth having, they are worth your effort to keep them coming back. A certain amount of customer turnover is inevitable. Some business people think they can afford to lose some customers because they can replace them with new ones. However, attracting and retaining new customers is expensive. Marketing data indicate that it costs five times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing one.
Do you keep customer turnover to a minimum? Are you sure you suffer only natural and unavoidable losses? Use the self-evaluation form on the next page to give yourself an indication of how well you are doing with your business.
Building a successful, positive image with your customers enhances credibility. Living up to that image creates valuable word-of-mouth publicity.
Are the physical facilities of your business clean and safe? Organize equipment and supplies neatly. When expanding or remodeling a business, make it as attractive in appearance as possible. Anything less gives a shoddy, unprofessional image.
Work with your employees on customer relations whether they are dealing with people in person, over the telephone or by mail. Be sure that all employees know their responsibilities.
Always have an adequate inventory on hand. Running out of supplies or not having advertised inventory results in negative publicity.
Develop a procedure for handling customer complaints. Your responsiveness has the potential to build excellent customer relations. Consider customer complaints to be a form of constructive criticism, which you can use to make improvements.
Develop empathy or show concern for the customer. Personalize your response. Ask questions to identify and analyze the problem. Obtain the customer's ideas concerning possible alternative solutions.
Resolve the complaint according to policy. Decide in a fair manner what you are responsible for and initiate some positive action to remedy the situation. Follow through with the proposed resolution. When it cannot be immediately resolved, keep the customer informed of progress and notify him or her promptly when a settlement has been reached. Keep a notebook of promised action.
Keep a record of complaints and proposed action for resolution. For most small firms, this can be accomplished simply by requiring salespeople to write on an index card each complaint handled that day. These cards should be given to the manager daily. Complaints should be studied, followed up and tabulated periodically to determine trends.
Check the "yes" and "no" blanks that apply and total the number of "yes" responses at the bottom.
Total "Yes" Answers
To determine your rating, add together all of the "yes" answers. Compare your rating to the scale below. If your score is:
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Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.
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