One of the most important plans you'll create for your business is the one you use to attract and keep customers

Pay attention to that last part especially. 

I see business owners spend millions of dollars in marketing to attract customers, but then waste it all by not respecting the rules for keeping them. You can't have a successful long-term business without customers that stick around. It's that simple.

The rules aren't hard, but they're also non-negotiable. This is one of the biggest lessons I share in my book, All In. Nobody is going to stay loyal to your product or service if you only give them the bare minimum. That said, here's how you can create a loyal customer base for your business. 

1. Customer service isn't a department--it's a culture. 

Look at Apple. Once people buy their first Mac or iPhone, they're hooked, right? You rarely see people go back to PCs, even though Macs have their flaws. Why?

Because those Macs and iPhones aren't just products to customers--they are a lifestyle choice. Even now, at the end of the Jobs era, Apple's customers still love the company in an almost irrational way. They don't just want their products--they need them.

That's the kind of fervent loyalty you want to inspire in your customers. Make them so crazy for you and your business that they can't live without you.

But you can't do this if your customer service begins and ends at the register. Every single member of your team--from sales reps, to executives, to the floor staff in charge of moving the product--needs to be trained in excellent customer service. 

If your training permeates your staff this way, then no matter who your customer engages with, they will always receive the best treatment and know they can always come back. 

2. You need more than just a positive attitude. 

Customers will love talking to someone who is cheery and engaging, but that joy will dissolve if the staff member doesn't know what they're talking about and isn't listening to the customer's problem. 

Never assume you know the answer--to anything. Gather evidence that proves it, so you're making less assumptions and more educated observations. I'm not talking about sending out a few customer surveys or focus-testing your new product on a small group of customers. I'm talking about collecting a large sample size of unbiased, quantifiable data.

And you can't just do this once. You have to keep doing it. The modern customer is always evolving, especially now that technology is such a huge part of our lives. Nothing remains static anymore, so your value proposition and customer experience have to evolve. Otherwise, you're going to end up like Blockbuster Video right before the Netflix truck came to town.

While you're getting this data, you have to listen. I mean really, truly, shut up and listen. I see corporate executives do customer outreach where they spend more time talking than the customer does. How are you going to get any real feedback if you're constantly using every buzzword you hear as an opportunity to talk? 

Finally, be a problem solver. Good customers will tell you what's wrong because they care. Validate that feedback and do something about it. A customer may be mad in the moment but they won't remember that later. They'll remember that the rest of their incorrect order showed up on their doorstep an hour later, or that the person on the phone knew exactly how to fix their problem. Customers will remember how you helped them and that will keep them coming back. 

3. Keep customers around by going above and beyond.

When I was CEO of Wilmar, my customers were all handymen and maintenance staff. In order to best understand their world, I went undercover. I got a night job as a maintenance worker at a local hotel--because I wanted to know what their challenges looked like, through their eyes.

I'm not always the best when it comes to fixing things, but I learned a lot that year. I learned about what my customers at Wilmar lived and breathed and most importantly, what they truly needed from my company. I got firsthand knowledge by living their everyday experience, so you better believe when they came into my store I knew better than anyone what it was they wanted. And that kept them coming back. 

What it all comes down to is this: deflate those big heads, and stay humble. Get your hands dirty. Ask questions. And then listen. 

You are always at the service of your customers, no matter how big you get. Don't just take it from me. Look at guys like Bill Gates, Sam Walton, or Charles Schwab--they're billionaires who never got too big to attribute all their success to the people who deserve it. And if they are always willing to tip their hat, then you should too. 

Published on: Jul 17, 2018
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