Customer relations

2 More Ways to Ruin a Customer Relationship

Vince DiCecco is a dynamic and sought-after seminar speaker and author, with particular interest in business management/development and marketing subjects. With over 20 years experience in sales, marketing and training, he is presently an independent consultant to businesses looking to sharpen their competitive edge. Vince addresses a wide range of topics focused on nurturing customer loyalty while improving profitability. He may be reached via email at vince@ypbt.com.

No business owner deliberately sets out to alienate, upset or offend a customer or prospect. But sometimes things happen to torpedo the client-vendor relationship so fast, we aren’t even aware there’s a problem—let alone get a chance to mend it. Be aware of two more ways you are likely to kill client relations and tips to a better business:

2. Take longtime customers for granted:

When you’ve been working with a client for an extended period, it’s tempting to believe that you can put them on “auto-pilot.” It’s too easy to mistake an account’s regular ordering pattern or apparent satisfaction with “the usual” for customer loyalty.

A cousin to this phenomenon is when your business makes lucrative, irresistible offers to new clients only in hopes of buying rather than earning the business while charging faithful, long-term customers full price or not offering them a comparable deal. Understand that when you essentially give away your product or service to first-time buyers, such as in the case of online discount vouchers, it’s unlikely they will place a second order unless the price or deal is as good or better.

If this sounds familiar or is going on in your shop, you may want to consider any of these options:

  • Conduct a business review annually with the top 20 percent of your customers—ranked by sales dollars. It’s a great time to see what you’ve been able to accomplish in the past year and set goals for the next one. During the review, make it a distinct point to thank the client for their business and, perhaps, extend a heartfelt token of appreciation. It doesn’t have to be lavish. Just acknowledge them as a treasured customer.
  • When you do run a campaign to attract new customers, design and offer your current clientele an equally-as-special, yet different deal just for them. If it’s a time when a price increase is needed, tell your best customers that their prices are “locked in” for another year in recognition of their loyal patronage.

1. Have un-empowered employees serve customers:

Think of any time when you, coupon in hand, brought items to a register only to have the cashier call over a supervisor or manager to authorize the purchase. When that’s happened to me, I get the impression that the vendor thinks I’m pulling a fast one, ripping them off, or not worthy of the discount.

Or, how about the time you called customer service to question a bill error or challenge a fee on a statement, and the customer service rep (CSR) told you they are not authorized to waive or change the charge. Most times, callers have to ask for that person’s boss, get placed on hold for an eternity while they connect to a supervisor, and then have to re-state the case from the beginning.

Want to set yourself apart as a leader in this industry? Try these tips:

  • Train any person that routinely interacts with customers that they have some latitude in correcting administrative mistakes or granting the reasonable requests of a buyer who has been wronged or mistreated. The customer service training session should be interactive and example-filled (not just a straight lecture of do’s and don’ts), simulate typical situations, and describe limitations of what a CSR can and can’t authorize.
  • Refrain from training the CSR to say, “What will it take for you to be satisfied?” If the customer has to come up with resolution and it’s readily accepted, it may lead them to think they could have gotten more; or if it’s a costly demand, the CSR has to decline it and then the customer-vendor gap becomes wider. Instead, have them suggest a remedy within the bounds to which you’ve authorized. Often, the solution is something that is low-cost to you, but of high-value to the client.

—Vince DiCecco, Your Personal Business Trainer