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Creating Customers for Life

Unfortunately, in today’s workplace the attitude is often “win at any cost.” Many organizations train their people to go for the quick kill, the fast buck and the “closed deal.” However, if you’ve ever received the short end of the stick, you know that empty feeling inside when you realize you’ve just been taken. Yes, they got your money today, but you’ll never do business with them again.

Truly great organizational leaders understand that it is far less costly to keep loyal customers than to find new ones. Their goal is to help their salespeople maintain a level of customer service that will ensure that their customers want to continue doing business with them. Their goal is to create “customers for life.” But how do you achieve this win/win situation?

Here are 10 tips that you can use to provide your customers with the kind of service that will keep them coming back.

1. Create a leadership mission of service through collaboration and cooperation. Never disparage your competition. Instead, create an organizational climate that strives to build strategic partnerships and relationships. Perhaps your organization won’t get rich quickly and easily, but long-term, lasting gains can make a big difference in the overall bottom line.

2. Think process and people. World-class organizations recognize that efficiency and productivity come from the successful blend of brilliance in process as well as genius in people. This combination does not happen by accident. World champion sports teams create their strategies, tactics and playbooks with care and precision while at the same time teaching their players how to execute them. Great organizations seeking long-term client relations should do the same.

3. Look at the little and big picture. Create a problem-solving corporate culture that critically analyzes both the forest and the trees. Running a business is like flying a plane—you need to keep an eye on the instrument panel, but you’re doomed if you don’t look up often enough to notice that you’re about to crash into the side of a mountain. When you’re faced with a problem, invite input from people at all levels of the organization; examine the situation from all sides.

4. Recruit and select potential champions who can take the heat. Hiring the best and the brightest is only half of the challenge. These high performers must also be willing and able to be coached and to take constructive criticism. World-class athletes stay at the top of their game by seeking out ongoing improvement opportunities. Make sure that your team’s shining stars are team players who are willing to take direction and to grow.

5. Train for teamwork and contingencies. Once organizations have selected their best players, they must provide consistent and useful training opportunities for learning and growth. Training should be applicable to real-world responsibilities and delivered in a cost-effective, practical format by dynamic and knowledgeable instructors. Although training is typically the first item to be go during rough financial times, it is a valuable component of both short- and long-term growth.

6. Retain and reward high performers. Organizations that value their people do their best to create a “dream job” climate. Above average salaries, bonuses, incentives, flex time and a “room to breathe” management style should be administrative priorities. If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of you—and your clients.

7. Promote your people privately and publicly. Catch people doing things right and let them know how much you appreciate them. Organizational leadership experts have long acknowledged the value of “others-promotion.” The spin-off effect is that staff members become motivated to go the extra mile for customers and co-workers.

8. Praise your competition. Many successful organizational empires have been created by a collaborative approach to achievement. Stepping on an opponent only encourages the same behavior when the shoe is on someone else’s foot.

9. Find the growth opportunity in every stumbling block. It took 10,000 tries for Edison to perfect the light bulb and 1,000 rejections for Sly Stallone to he get Hollywood approval for his script of Rocky. Don’t dwell on the failure of a decision or waste time playing the blame game. Take a “myth buster” approach to solving the problem. Remember that even complete and utter failure will at least show the organization what is NOT a desirable outcome and offer a learning opportunity for the future.

10. Treat every client and every contact as a V.I.P. Choose your words and actions very carefully in every interaction with customers. Remember that today’s unknown account might become tomorrow’s Oprah. Everyone and every organization deserves to be treated with unconditional respect.

Exceptional customer service isn’t rocket science, but it does require constant, ongoing commitment. And the payoff—keeping a customer for life—is priceless.