Cherish Your Customers January 2008

Last month, I asked you to pay attention to the people around you. Did you find that the attention was returned?
Happy New Year!
I hope your holidays were blissful. I think 2008 is going to be great! What are your plans? Do you have any big goals? (I refuse to call them resolutions. LOL)

Do You Know Your Customers?
"He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever."
-Chinese Proverb

As you know, I do consulting and training for organizations on a number of topics such as communication, team building, motivation, business writing, and managing change. Because of my own experiences and those of others I have talked to, I'm focusing more on customer service.

Poor service - who is responsible?
Here's the tragedy. We all think we provide excellent customer service. And yet, we all complain about the general lack of concern for the customer in our society. It appears that everyone is guilty of poor service except us.

So, for 2008, I'm going to focus this newsletter on aspects that provide outstanding customer service, or as I refer to it, cherishing your customers. If you are sure that your organization is already providing outstanding service to your customers, just skip down to the puzzle. (smile)

I've worked with a number of small businesses and found that very few have mastered the art of knowing their customers. It shows in their marketing materials, in the way their phones are answered, in the way their products and services are presented, and the way their salespeople and front line personnel act toward the customer.

Who is your customer?
The biggest problem seems to be that small businesses do not know who their customers are and what is important to these customers. There is a ton of information available on how important this knowledge is. Large companies spend huge amounts of money on obtaining more and more information on their customers with only a few using the information effectively.

For instance, my bank convinced me several months ago that purchasing a credit bureau monitoring program was a good idea. After the break-in at my home, it seemed an especially good idea to make sure no additional accounts appeared. Since I signed up, I have had no fewer than a dozen phone calls asking me to sign up for this same service. I realize these calls are being made by some subcontracted firm, but they always start by saying, "We appreciate you as a loyal (name of bank) customer..." Well, if you do appreciate me, surely you would keep track of the fact that I've already purchased this product.

So as a small business without the funds to put a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program into place, what can you do to find out what your customers want? It's really as simple as ABC.

*A* Ask your customer
How did your customers find you? What caused them to come to you over every other similar business? What else you can do for them? What additional products and services would they like you to deliver? What do they like about doing business with you? How can you improve? Make sure you give your customers a way to provide you with feedback. You can't please everyone, but the customers you really want to keep are the ones who don't complain. The problem is that these customers just disappear without letting you know why. If you don't ask, you'll never know.

*B* Become the customer
Walk through the experience of doing business with your company as a customer would. If you didn't know anything about your company, what would you want to know? This may be as simple as making sure that your contact information is on the first page of your website and at the bottom of every email you send. It may be as difficult as writing text for your marketing materials that focuses on benefits to the customer, not the features of your product. What else does your customer need? Are there other products and services you can you offer to your existing customers that will make them see you as the solution to their problems?

*C* Celebrate your customer
Reward the customers who have been with you the longest. What do you do to let people know that you appreciate their business? Do you reward new customers more than you do existing ones? Recruiting new customers costs considerably more than holding onto your existing customers. Create specials and reward programs for those long-term clients. Let your existing customers know how much you value their loyalty.

How often do you contact your existing customers? You don't want to overwhelm them, but you might want to consider a newsletter or postcard as a way to contact them on a regular basis. You can reach out by email, postal mail, or by phone. Just make sure that you stay in touch.

A new year is always a great time to make plans for your business. Look at what you can do to follow the ABCs of customer contact. (If you need help, please let me know.)

Last month, I asked about the origin of St. Nicholas. Paul Cuevas was the first person with the correct answer. He knew that Santa Claus started in what is now part of Turkey and the first present he delivered was a bag of gold for a dowry for a poor man's daughter. Paul wins a $25 gift certificate.

Here's this month's puzzle: what was the main event at the Rose Bowl Stadium between 1903 and 1915? Why wasn't it football? The first person to answer will win a $25 gift certificate.

red tape
Make Your Voice Heard
The Small Business Administration National Ombudsman will be in Austin to hear from small business owners, representatives of trade associations, and community and business leaders who have had experience with Federal regulatory compliance and enforcement issues. The U.S. SBA is hosting a forum in Austin on January 22 from 9:00 AM to Noon.

This is a great opportunity to comment about compliance issues and the impact of federal regulations on small businesses. In many cases, feedback to the National Ombudsman has resulted in the reduction or waiving of penalties in situations where there was evidence of unfair or unwarranted regulations.

WHERE: Austin City Hall
City Hall Chamber - Room 1001
301 W. 2nd St.
Austin, TX 78701

WHEN: Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Registration: 9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Hearing: 9:30 a.m. to Noon

If you are interested in testifying, please contact Lucille Salinas of the SBA San Antonio District Office at (210) 403-5921 or by email at

Upcoming Events
First Friday at Loft 120 at Blue Star Fri, 1/4, 6 PM More info...
Economic Outlook Conference Tue, 1/15, 7 AM More info...
Greater Connection Mixer Thu, 1/17, 5 PM More info...
Braille Awareness Day Sat, 1/26, 11 AM More info...
Small Business Training January classes More info...
Know your customers!
Thanks for reading. Feedback is always appreciated!
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Crystal Darby
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