words | Eran Shay & Ayelet Mamo Shay
Of all strategic mistakes that businesses (small and large) make, one stands out: Taking the customer for granted.
Taking the customer for granted is, unfortunately, something that in Gibraltar has become rather more common in some sectors. After all, it is a small, contained economy; there aren’t many competitors around, so consumers have fewer alternatives to turn to. Some businesses know this well and are abusing the situation, treating their clientele as if it is a captive audience. Surprisingly, the situation is sometimes exacerbated by the consumers themselves. Given the close-knit social and family ties in Gibraltar, people often shy away from complaining or providing criticism because those providing the service may be relatives, friends or people they interact with socially. Faced with no complaints, businesses’ owners, in turn, think that the service level they provide is adequate and the poor level of service remains the norm.
There are many ways in which businesses take their customers for granted. For a start, this may be in the general appearance of the premises: there are some shops and restaurants around that still look as though they are in the 1960s or 70s…Their owners may be thinking “Why invest in a facelift or modernisation if customers continue to come in anyway?”
Another way may be not returning calls to clients or ignoring their emails, with business staff thinking something on the lines of “Why should we bother chasing after clients, we have enough work already…”.
Every business that wants to achieve outstanding long-term success must understand that their customer list is the number one asset they have. Research indicates that it costs about six to eight times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain one. So, business owners should be going beyond the “extra mile” to show gratitude to their customers. Their goal should be to provide such great products and services that their customers will become part of their sales force. Customers will love their business so much they will brag to their friends, family and co-workers about it.
Indeed, don’t assume that because you have a customer today, you’ll have them tomorrow. You don’t own your customers. They are doing you a favour by giving you their business. Treat them accordingly, try to discover their wants, needs and desires and educate them on how your products and services can help them.
According to research the reasons why most businesses lose customers are:
As evident by the above chart, the vast majority (68%) of your customers will leave you because of what they perceived as “indifference” from your company. Simply put, they felt “unappreciated, unimportant and taken for granted”.
How many businesses can afford to lose 68% of their customers? My guess is none. What are you doing to make your customers feel appreciated and important? What’s your plan to differentiate your business from your competitors? If you don’t have one, it’s time to start taking some action.
Whether you are a big corporate or a small business, below are some examples of actions companies can make to demonstrate to their customers they are not taken for granted:
- A professional services firm that works intensively with clients over a long period may find it most useful to just have a conversation about how the relationship is working. This conversation can pull in thoughts about future client needs and may lead to additional assignments.
- Service or retail businesses with large volumes of customers have many options. Surveys can be done on site or later online. Customer feedback will never be 100% but you may be surprised how many will respond to your survey. Most people will appreciate your attempt to keep their business. That alone sets you apart – and in first place.
- Comment cards on restaurant tables or at the cash register are still quick and easy ways to obtain feedback. Their content is relevant because it reflects an immediate experience.
- Repair or home improvement businesses can benefit from follow-up surveys after a service call. This survey will let you know how well your technicians are performing, not only in doing the work but in how they’re handling customers.
- Send clients info you think will help them. Learnt something new or read an article that could positively impact or help a client? Shoot over an email and let him or her know.
- Show you care via social media. Sharing a customer’s blog post or a recent success (even a shout-out on Twitter or Facebook) with your social network lets customers know you’re thinking of them.
- Give them free stuff! Whether that comes in the form of an e-book, webinar, a free drink or even just a snack bar, your customers will love free gifts.
Whether you sell to individuals or businesses, people have more options every day. We live in a global economy where customers are only a click away from ordering their desired product from the other side of the world rather than from their local shop. Keeping their business is a matter of rising to the top when they consider their need for your product or service. As mentioned before, it is also up to us consumers to let retailers and other business owners know if we are unsatisfied with the service or if we think more can be done. You’ll be surprised how many businesses would welcome constructive criticism.