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First impression lasts

The simple things you must do to make your customers your lifetime partners.
By Jennifer Yap Caspe |

It’s not enough to keep your customers. Your goal should be to create satisfied clients who keep coming back, buying more, and telling friends about you, according to customer service specialist Ron Kaufman. His tips for making that one-time customer into a life-long partner:

 

• Be aware of perception points

Even before a customer enters your store to make that first purchase, he has already formed an opinion about your company. Favorable or not, this opinion is what Kaufman calls a perception point—and it can make or break a sale.

 

What are the critical points affecting the way your customers perceive your company? Are your ads okay? Does the store’s interior look inviting? Are the toilets clean? Are the waiters attentive? Is the food presentation in your restaurant okay? To appeal to your target customers, every one of those perception points should be beyond reproach. “Whatever the customer thinks about you at the moment he had an experience with your company is the truth,” says Kaufman, who serves Fortune 500 companies worldwide.

 

• Make sure you are reliable, dependable, and consistent

Once the customer is in, do everything in your power to make him return. This can only be done the old-fashioned way—by being a company your customer can count on time and time again. “Filipinos are the happiest, friendliest, kindest, warmhearted people around,” says Kaufman. “You can leverage that in terms of customer service. The challenge for the Philippines is to become more precise in some of the other areas of business. Consistency is really key.”

 

In short, deliver what you promise when you promise it, and quality will keep the customers coming back. And it’s not enough to keep giving the same quality of service over time: to be competitive, you have to know where your customer’s level of expectations is. “Over time, [your customers’] expectations will change; it’s like a moving target,” says Kaufman. “Stay in close touch with your customers by interviewing them regularly and asking them what they like, what they don’t like, what they’d like you to change, and what else they would like you to introduce.”

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• Talk to the ones you’ve lost

“Your best customers are already your best customers, so go talk to the ones you lost to get a lot of insights,” suggests Kaufman. Ask them: Why did you leave, and what can we change in the way we do business that would make you consider coming back?


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