Customer Appreciation and Gratitude why saying Thank You is so important

18 09 2007

Earlier tonight I was having a conversation with small business owners that was very enlightening to me. We had a round table discussion about why somebody else that owned another business and why he should have been really busy on a Satuday night but he wasn’t. As I was listening in somebody said “boy when he first bought this place he used to have a ton of repeat customers but they all just stopped coming in.” Of course I asked “Does anybody know why?” The answers all came at me at once —comes in to work on the business (inventory, bookeeping) while the business is open and doesn’t say hi to employees or customers, doesn’t care if people come back, doesn’t ask customer if they are enjoying their time there, let’s his emotions show. Now this isn’t a bitch session and he is a friend of all of ours and we all are patrons of his business. To the everyday person he runs a great business who is extremely social on most days with customers. However since we have know each other over a long period of time we all understand the ebbs and flows of each others business and we all help each other to be successful.

So now I ask what do you do to keep customers coming back to your business? These are the responses I hear “I serve a good product”, “If I have a customer who is unhappy I give them something free”,”I make sure all the employees are running a top notch business”, “I alway smile and say thank you to all my customers”. Now they are all good replys but none of them answered my question. They are all things that help to give a good experience but they don’t get customers to directly to come back. That’s where the light bulb went off for me these business owners don’t understand the difference between good customer service and showing customers gratitude and appreciation.Being humble enough to share how their patronage allows to be¬† the business successful creates an enviroment where they really want to come back again. Taking the extra steps to show your customers that you care and they really mean everything to the well being of your business. Because without them there is nothing.

So I started telling them about the different ideas each of them could do with their specific business some of which I have share about in the other posts in this blog on customer appreciation. I related how they could implement each one why it would be so successful for each of them. They were blown away how extremely easy it was to do and how inexpensive also. They asked me how I knew this and I simply said how much experience I had helping other businesses across alot of industries implement these programs and watching them blossom because of it.

Just remember customer appreciation and gratitude is part of who you are as a person and as a business owner, IT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU DO WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH AND BUSINESS IS SLOW. The attitude behind customer value and appreciation is the reason i’m writing this. Honestly none of the customer appreciation ideas in the world will work if you aren’t truely grateful for every single one of your customers.

Here is the absolute key to all of the customer appreciation ideas that you will learn about here— What can I do right now to make this person feel better about themselves than they did before they walked into my business? Sometimes it is a just a smile or a complement. But the universal answer to my question about customers coming back is this. A customers feels something postive about you or your business that they can’t get if they went to another business. Simply when the have that experience they want to come back because people want to feel good as much as possible. Just look at the place you’ve been that you would recommend to a friend. It’s not because you didn’t like it something occured that was memorable enough to you that it suck out enough to tell you friend about it. I compare it to the idea of all the cars you see everyday on the road but its not until you get a new car that THEN you happen to notice all of ones like your make and model car. Your commitment to YOUR car caused you to notice the other cars without really ever thinking about it. Have you ever noticed how good you feel when that happens? Showing customers how important they are to you and making them feel good is by far they best thing you can do. THEN you will be that business that they are telling everybody they know about.

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To win the customer –offer more VALUE instead of CUTTING PRICES to beat the competition

14 09 2007

If I told you I could give you a great price now but later I would have to make a shortcut on servicing your needs would that be okay? I would hope you say no. Isn’t that what seems to happen if somebody gives you a unbelievable price to get your attention? Let me give you a few examples to what I mean.In Walmart how hard is it to get somebody to help you understand say a digital camera? In my experience Price maybe what sometimes gets the customers attention however offering the consistent value is what keeps the customer coming back time after time.

Offering more value in a business transaction is the way to go because value can grow and expand over time. Value can be so may different things but the overall question it answers is —how does this improve the customer’s experience with my product? For example it can be something as simple a really easy to understand instructions that make the setup time quick and frustration free. Or maybe its a hassle and hold free customer service experience that helps the customer do more with their day because they are not sitting on hold waiting and waiting for somebody to talk to. The further you can think out of the box with the question of– how can I improve the quality of my customers life? the more successful you will be.

Cutting prices on the other hand has diminishing returns because for starters it my get the customer in the door but it won’t keep them coming back unless you continue to do more of the same– lower prices. Its like a pie that your slicing up in pieces and every time the take a slice out the pieces get bigger. At which point is the pie gone? You already know that the primary challenge with lowering prices is that your cost unless your an economic genius either stays the same or goes up. You need to be looking at the long term of your business survival instead of the short term of the price concerns of this specific customer. Start finding ways to make bigger pies so everybody goes home full before it is finished.

One of my rules of thumb is that if you feel pressured by a customer to lower your prices then you are NOT offering enough value in your proposition. If you can’t deliver more value to this customer either one of two things is true –a) the customer doesn’t care about long term value they just want short term price in which case you might want to consider not taking that customer because it will be a money losing scenario long term or b)you not looking at what the customer values you are looking at what you find to be valuable and those are worlds apart. So there is a way to offer more value you just have to find it. Oddly to sometimes offer more value can’t help you lower costs because your customers are happier owning your product. But I must save that lesson for later.





Apple CEO Steve Jobs–showing your most loyal customers how important they are

13 09 2007

The new IPOD Touch / IPHONE has been not only a hot release this past week but also hot bed of what to do when you let you most loyal fans down. I love companies that have loyal fans sometimes considered crazy because they show that a company is usually doing something that is so groundbreaking people want to believe in them. There are several but this week there was one of the best saves by a company I have ever seen by Apple. CEO Steve Jobs released great new products on Wednesday but for the first time I can remember one of them was clearly cutting into present marketshare. The Ipod Touch while it is amazing product out of the innovation factory of Apple also cut into the IPHONE market of just 3 months ago. For all those people like myself that wanted an Iphone but weren’t willing to switch to ATT now when can have the features we want without the commitment of the phone contract.

However fans got upset and rightfully so If they would have know about this maybe they wouldn’t have gotten the IPHONE. Now introducing new products the next week that eliminate other products has ALWAYS been the true cost of the ownership of technology. Thousand of companies do this all the time and if you don’t cannibalize your product yourself competition definitely will. However very few if any of the others have a fanbase as rapid as Apple. Now regardless of any of the reasoning of Apple or Steve Jobs that has been flying around the internet there is one very powerful truth that all business owners should heed. When your customers aren’t happy stand in their shoes look at the world from how they see it not how you see it.

The reason i’m posting is that Steve Jobs actually did something about this because he cares about his most loyal and passionate customers. He realizes that once you lose them it is almost impossible to get them back. After reading thousands of emails personally I’d bet that at he remembered how it feel to be completely neglected and used and told that you don’t matter. After all he did build Apple once and then his own board of directors threw him out after everything he had given. He realized more than others the very last people I want to deny is the people that help me rebuild Apple.

You can have a great product that changes the world but if nobody buys it –what good is it?

So when your most dedicated customers or employees have a complaint start listening to how they feel instead of what the complaint is. These people are so much more important than any fiscal document could ever show. These people create market share for you just look at how Starbucks launched a new city when they started.

For all the criticism of Steve Jobs I have seen I must say at least he did something about it where as many others wouldn’t. So for yourself whenever any of your customers are disappointed in something you do start talking to them. Asking them what they feel and why. Many times they will show you points that you probably haven’t considered and that can help you to make better decisions in the future.





How to turn customer complaints into $$$?

10 09 2007

Your probrably asking yourself if that is really possible? I have to tell you some of the greatest fortunes ever created in business were because of this very concept. I marvel when reading of business successes that were either mistakes or came from places that the owner would have never expected. I love to see how you really never know when you go into business what the final result is going to be.

Now the first thing you need to do is to understand why this works so well then i’ll explain how amazingly simple it it to do (and its absolutely FREE). The reasons why are limitless as you will find. Lets start with this many business owner got into business because they wanted to solve a problem. When they got into business they found at many time like they where surrounded by many new problems (aahhh the struggles of the start up business). For somebody else those challenges you had will be somebody else’s business story. One of the challenges that every single business person is bound to run into is customer complaints.It how you handle these complaints or don’t that will determine the outcome of business.

Here is why simply what people are saying about you business to others is much more powerful than any marketing or advertising you may be doing. Now as painful as it may be at times you really do want to do everything in your power that if people don’t like your business or anything related to it (employees, products, or call wait times you know that this list is endless) You want to be the very first person they talk to. If they talk to a friend first you may have just lost a customer you never realize you had. So rule #1 is to do absolutely everything is your power to create open communication from your customers for any reason. Heck design a call hotline that when then call about their experiences you give them a code for free stuff( most fast food places do this look on the back of the reciepts to find out how)

BUSINESS TRUTH– people who complain care about you and your business if they didn’t they would just go somewhere else and you would never know.

1.Change your mindset from problems to presents (when you unwrap them you can make the business stronger better faster and more profitable)

2.Creating an inviting enviroment for the customer to let you know how they have been letdown by your by your products or services

3. Following up with the customer post sale to find out if they are happy or not(if you find a problem early before the customer can complain you can help the situation if you wait for the customer to say something alot of times its too late)

4 Writing down all customer complaints, ideas and reasons for returns.

5.On a montly basis go over all of them ask yourself two questions —how can I alleviate this concern for future customers? and Is there a way that I can create a solution that brings me extra income?

6. Share with others for feedback and do step 5 as often as possible (you’ll be surprised at things that you havent been able to solve suddenly have an incredible solution –repetition is the mother of all learning.

Often times a couple of customers that have the same challenges that aren’t simple fixes lead to a great new profit road.

Here is an example of how a fortune 500 company used this. IBM used to be primarily a hardware company –mainframes, servers, desktops and then some pretty complex software but they never provided adequate training for how to use it all. After losing their tails in the information age they righted the ship by LISTENING to the primary reason why customers left them. Now they are one of the largest consultants to fortune 500 companies and their revenue is being created by thier knowledge instead of tied up in all those systems. Not only did that save the company but it also brought them back to profitablity. ALL FROM FOCUSING ON WHAT THEY WHERE DOING WRONG AND TURNING IT INTO SOLUTIONS.

So take your ego out of the question and when you get a complaint or return don’t just that’s part of doing business REALLY look at the reasons why your customers are bringing this to your attention. Ask them one very powerful question “What could I do that would make this situation right for you?” You may get just give me a refund or they may end up telling you something you never realized.May there is a competitor you don’t realize is in town yet that is undercutting your price or may thay can’t stand how long they wait on hold. you’ll never know unless you ask. Remember customers want to help you to become more successful.

All you have to do is ask them— What is it going to make them happy ?





Employee Appreciation–Showing the ones most important to you your gratitude

8 09 2007

The most important thing that all small business owners ask me about is making their employees enjoy coming to work without giving them a raise. In many companies large and small if you were to ask employees if they enjoy coming to work probably a few would say no. Surprisingly though if you ask them why it is NOT what you’d expect to hear as a business owner. It rarely has anything to do with employees feeling that they don’t make enough. It is more about how employees don’t feel that they are appreciated or valued for the job that they do.

The more personal touch you can use for employees the better.Most employees are so wrapped up in their work every day they don’t stop to see the contribution they are making to the big picture. How does what they are doing help to make the company more successful or profitable? Sometimes its because they don’t have the ability to see what other people are doing they are so focused on their task. Take time out to show them how they make a difference as an individual. Celebrate the individual more and the work they do.The unbelievable part is the the business owner much more to lose than the employee because of all the time and the money that have invested in the person. The employees gets to take all that knowledge to their next job.
Whoever came up with that line about employees don’t care about the company was somebody that was to scared to share how successful they where in fear that somebody was going to come and take it from them. Share as much as you can with your employees they will appreciate your openness. Being open with those who work for you have great dividends. One the best is the employees feel more responsible for contributing to the bottom line and give more to the company. When you can show them how they make a difference they will want to make more of a difference.

So there are obvious ways to show employees your gratitude

  • Find out what hobbies you employees have support them
  • Attend their children’s sports games
  • Get together for team gathering outside of work to do things like blow off steam or work on team building trust skills
  • Take those most important to them out for a night on the town
  • When suppliers give promotions or gifts make sure that employees get them as small thank yous
  • Sponsor school sports programs of employees children when looking for local promotional opportunities
  • Get all employees the “Entertainment Book” as s gift-it will cost about $30 yet it has coupons they can use totaling $1000’s

Lesson — If you don’t start show your employees how extremely grateful in your actions every day you run the risk of them leaving you and taking all their great abilities with them.





Knowing when your customers will buy!!!

7 09 2007

There is a way to easily tell when you customer is going to purchase your product. Then after they purchase it’s really easy to tell when they will purchase again. Every product or service has a life cycle . Most small business owners know when that life cycle is for their customer but rarely do they ever do anything about it. They simple wait for the customer to decide when they need the product then they hope that they marketing they have in place when the customer does feel they are ready is successful. Then hopefully they will get the opportunity to try and sell the customer. I don’t like the sit back and wait approach to getting the customer. My goal would be to be the first one in line when I know the customer is ready to make that decision.

Now going back to the basics I was talking about a life cycle. It can be a usability cycle meaning how long your product will last till they have to replace it. For example if you buy a tank of gas for your car how long will that tank last before they need to purchase another one? It depends on how much they purchase and what is their average speed and how many miles per gallon do they get. If you owned a gas station and started asking your customers these questions you might be able to use it to have them make their next purchase(s) from you. Give them coupon for soda or an oil change they could use they next time they make a gas purchase. The problem is most business owners think that they don’t influence the decision so they don’t try. When customers are crying out for these simple transactions to be made more valuable though either time savings or cost savings.

The next life cycle is not based on use but rather on trends When a customer FEELS they need to replace the product that is when a new sale is made. These are a lot harder to detect when they are going to happen but if you can find out the specific values and buying pattern of that individual you can have a good start. A great example of this is cellphones many people will not wait for a cellphone to die but rather when a new feature comes out that they desire then they get a new cellphone. Finding out how these individual people tick is the key to finding out when they will buy again. Maybe it is something as easy as they have to be a early adopter—somebody that has the desire to be the first to own new technologies. All those people that went out the very first weekend the Apple IPHONE was available and had to own it. However usually it is more involved as to why people want the new product.

Using your knowledge of what is influencing your customers decision can greatly help you out at this point. You should be finding out your customers purchasing motivation during the sales process. The question of what is most important to you when buying a ____________? This will help you to determine value about a feature or benefit of a product or service. There are several more questions surrounding this one that you can ask to determine how people make decisions that I can teach you about your business if you send me a email.

One of my mentors who in my opinion is the best at this is Harvey Mackay who own the Mackay Envelope Company and all of his sales people are required to to use the Mackay 66 which tell them everything that anybody would ever want to know about their customer. Look him up at Mackay.com

Lesson –the better you understand the customers reasons for wanting to own your product they better chance you will have to have them choose you over your competition when the time for them to buy arises.





Word of mouth marketing-Being memorable enough to talk about

5 09 2007

This weekend my brother Joe got married in a little town of Warwick, NY. I was looking for some pizza to eat and there where a few pizza places in this small town. Since I knew nothing of the area I was reliant on other people’s good taste. Now I just asked to a few people where can I get a slice of pizza? I didn’t preface my request with anything more than that. However the response I got from several people who didn’t realize I was gathering several opinions to make my decision where the same. You gotta go to Franks if you want real New York Style pizza they are the best. Now I didn’t know what they meant but these people all spoke in a passionate way about this place.

The key factor is that they expressed in in such a way that made me feel that –IF I DIDN’T GO TO THIS PLACE THATI WOULD BE MISSING SOMETHING REALLY¬† AMAZING THAT I WASN’T ABLE TO GET ANYWHERE ELSE. I had to go just to see what they meant and I told Frank that others had said I simply had to come here. His reply was “oh you must have been talking to some of my best customers”

My point in word of mouth marketing or buzz marketing is you have to give people great reasons to talk about your business. This guy after tasting the pizza it was the memorable recipe he used. Most people open up a pizza place because it makes more money that almost any other business and it is really easy to do. However this guy and several other great foods I have had do it to impact people taste buds first.

Word of mouth marketing is not something you can pay for.Instead it has to be something people have to experience in order to understand. What do you do as a business exceptionally that your customers rave about? All business have the ability to do amazing things but you have to decide to showcase your gift in such a way people can lead others to you. Start looking at when your friends are describing their favorite places to you in any industry how they are talking about it. If people are recommending place that is one thing but if they are speaking with ANY type of emotion that is how you want people to describe you. If you create something that stands head and shoulders above the rest people will be talking about you with the same passions that I found put about Frank’s Pizza in Warwick, NY.