Lisbiz strategies: Did you forget me? I used to be your customer

Home Columns Lisbiz strategies: Did you forget me? I used to be your customer

August 19/26 2013; Volume 27/number 9

By Lisbeth Calandrino

I’ve been a member of the YMCA for eight years. For most of those years, I’ve been there at least five days a week. I know lots of the staff and trainers by name since I interned at the YMCA to complete my requirements for my personal trainer certificate.

I recently went back to the Y for the first time since I hurt my back about eight weeks ago. OK, I didn’t expect balloons, but wouldn’t you miss a customer who’s always under your nose and has plenty to say? I used to love the Y.

Not one card, phone call or “Where are you?” In three months the Y will hold a membership drive and complain they need money.

I don’t understand businesspeople. No matter how many times they hear that 85% of their new business comes from referrals, they don’t take care of their present customers. At the end of the day, those wonderful businesses that you support don’t care about you. They would probably be just as happy if they never had to talk with you.

Maybe the guy who owns the local pizzeria cares for you. To him, you have a name and a face, and if you didn’t shop there he couldn’t do what he really loves to do. However, if you look at most places where you shop and who has reached out to you after a sale, you would realize most of these people don’t care.

Why don’t they care? Because they think it doesn’t matter and assume you won’t shop anywhere else. If you frequent a business where the amount of product the owner sells is more important than to whom he sells the product, you can be sure he really doesn’t care. McDonald’s just needs to keep pushing out those double Big Macs by the truckload. Instead of worrying about individual customers, they rely on demographics and hope there’s a large enough customer base in any given area.

On the other side, there are business owners who say they deliver “quality” service, value and all that nonsense. Since it costs more to stay in business, they rely on people with money. If you’re selling higher quality product (or service), you should take better care of your customer.

Today, so many businesses rely on the Internet to increase their numbers without actually thinking about their customers. They think the more viral their growth and the more eyes looking at them mean more money. As the old song says, “it ain’t necessarily so.” Just because you have thousands of people showing up at your Internet doorstep doesn’t mean you’ll make more money. A site visit doesn’t mean the customer is buying something. Consider that it’s easier and cheaper to sell 30% of 1,000 people than it is to sell 1% of 20,000 people. It takes less staff and overhead. Most businesspeople don’t understand their Internet stats anyway or what to do with them.

In one respect, retail hasn’t changed. The more you can focus on your customers and be “personal,” the more people will refer you to their friends, period. Good business is still about connections with humans. The Internet has made us less “human friendly” but customers still want to be treated like they’re special. This means you need to conduct communication training for your staff and teach them how to be affable, caring people. This is what we call “customer service,” and contrary to what people think, there isn’t anything left but service.

The sales-friendly employees will win over those with the old sales lines of yesteryear, such as “Buy today because it’s the last one.” This doesn’t mean today’s customer is any easier or harder to work with; it means some things never change.

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