By Jeff Wuorio
Getting to know your customers and how to talk to them can reap long-term rewards for your business.
"Y’all come back now." That memorable line — pinched from "The Beverly Hillbillies" television show — is a phrase that, in some shape or form, every business should be saying to each and every customer. No businessperson need be sold on the importance of letting your clientele know how much you value them and how you can’t wait to see them again.
With that in mind, here are eight other things you can say to get a customer to come back.
"I’ll keep an eye out for other things that may interest you." A customer buying a product or service is in a pure one-shot deal. Taking note of what they bought and letting them know that you’re on the lookout for like items is a natural enticement for them to return. "When you do that, you’re acting as a resource for them," says Maura Schreier-Fleming, author of "Real World Selling for Out of This World Results." "Giving the customer a reason to come back is why they do come back."
"Do you know this item is on sale?" Recently, a buddy of mine stormed back to an electronics store after he found out that the software he bought on Saturday was 40% off no more than 10 hours later. Yes, he came back — but for the wrong reason. Go to bat for your customers. If you know something is a particularly good value, share your insight. Likewise, if something’s going to be cheaper in a day or so, urge them to hold off until the sale takes hold.
"We don’t have it, but the folks down the block do." Referring business to someone else, particularly a competitor, can seem as pleasant as getting a splinter out with a pick axe. It’s a natural inclination to try to make a sale whenever possible, but don’t bypass the value of pointing someone elsewhere. Few actions craft a more effective image of trust, confidence, and an overriding interest in the client’s needs — attributes that will likely bring customers back to your business.
"This is going to cut your costs by 50%." Or "half," or words to that effect. One of the most effective means of cementing a relationship with customers is to be as specific as possible. Letting them know precisely what’s in it for them will bring them back, if for no other reason that many appreciate a business which spells out exactly what it does and why it’s worth what it charges. "Be overt about the benefits you offer," says Doug Hall, author of "Meaningful Marketing." "But be sure to be as numeric as possible about those benefits."
"Let me give you a hand with that." This phrase personifies a business that consistently goes above and beyond. Whether it’s helping someone carry out packages to a minivan or simply getting the door for a client loaded down with papers, a clear message that you’re willing to help out however possible sticks in others’ minds. And that can often lead them right back to your door.
"Go ahead and try this out." Giving a client or customer a small taste of what your business has to offer is a terrific way to bring them back for more. If, for instance, your business sells pricey software programs, give a prospective customer a free trial or a sample disk so he or she can get a sense of how the big boy functions. The same holds true for service-focused concerns. All the law offices that offer free initial consultations, for example, aren’t setting up those appointments just to pad out downtime.
"This [sale or deal] is good until the fifteenth." Like ’em or despise ’em, deadlines are dynamic. Even a customer riding the fence on a particular sale can be moved to come back if she knows that, come a certain date, the deal is gone. So, if it’s a question of a sale or some other time-sensitive arrangement, don’t be shy about making it clear that the bargain isn’t permanent.
"How ya doin’, Jeff?" This last bit of advice, commonly known though it may be, makes the list based on personal experience. To be blunt: I don’t really like my bank. It’s not particularly convenient, the charges are occasionally mysterious, and I’d change in the beat of a gnat’s heart were I not so lazy.
But there is, admittedly, another reason I stay put. Every teller in the place knows me by name and consistently greets me in that fashion. That may seem like enjoying the appetizer only to throw up the main course, but it means something to us all when someone takes the time and effort to remember who you are.
If yours is a relatively small operation, try to call your customers by name. If there are too many faces coming and going to make that practical, at least single out a few key names. If they like what you do, that can certainly keep them coming back. And, like me, even if they’re not your biggest fans, remembering someone’s name can offset a fair degree of dissatisfaction.
Jeff Wuorio is a veteran freelance writer and author based in southern Maine. He writes about small-business management, marketing and technology issues.
He is a Magnificent writer and business person… I share his views…. MR.B