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Service: Building a Customer-Centric Business
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The Art of Retaining Customers

What does it mean to have a customer-centric business? It means much more than the old adage about how the customer is always right. That may or may not be true, but in many cases, it’s only lip service at best.

What I’m talking about is building your entire business “from the customer in.” You have to understand your customers’ needs and know how your customers want to be served. You need to know what’s important to them on a daily basis. You need to know how they work and what kind of information they’ll need before making any type of purchase decision. And, you need to understand how your people, practices, and processes feel to your customers. You’ll then have to turn the microscope around and take a hard look at your businesses model and decide whether you are doing everything you can to fit into your customers’ world.

Of course, matching the business to the customer sounds good. And it feels good to care about your customers and give them good service. But it’s so much more than feel-good customer care.

The three keys to building a successful, sustainable, and highly profitable business are what I like to call “The Three Rs”.

1. Rave reviews
2. Repeat business
3. Referrals

Creating rave reviews is the key to getting your customers to come back into your businesses, repeatedly. To me, a “rave” is several steps up from merely “satisfied.” A customer who gives your business a rave review in a customer feedback survey, on a social media site, or any other place he or she has the opportunity, will, in most cases, become a repeat customer. And repeat customers are usually inclined to tell their friends, family, and coworkers about their tremendous experience with your business.

For example, one of my company’s customers, Boloco, sells fantastic wraps in the New England area. Customers like me who love Boloco’s food like to spread the word and tell our friends in person, on social media sites, and elsewhere that they simply must try a Yucatan Habanero Burrito, or some other tasty treat. These referrals bring new customers into the stores, people who are already pre-sold on the quality of the product. Chances are good that these new customers will then tell their friends about their positive experience, thus renewing the cycle.

This process creates a steady and sustainable stream of referrals. And referrals bring new, qualified customers into your business. It’s like creating the perpetual motion machine of small business — by taking the Three Rs to heart and properly cultivating a culture that is all about building and maintaining them, the Three Rs create their own energy and keep the wheels of your business turning through good times and bad.

Gail Goodman, Guest Blogger
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Sales: Avoid the Hard Sell!
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Is there anything worse than being pushed too hard by a salesperson?

Before Mother’s Day my daughters and I went shopping in a tea store in a nearby mall. But instead of entering the Zen-like atmosphere one would expect, it was if we had walked into the boiler room of Earl Grey.

No, that sampler is not good enough, the $100 one is what you want! That tea you just chose will “spoil” in 10 days if you don’t buy this $40 tin to put it in! Buy more, buy now!

It was a strange experience, and yes, we left without purchasing a thing. But plenty of others remained.

It’s easy to see why a manager would push hard sell tactics on his or her staff: It’s easy and can get short-term results. But in actuality it is a very shortsighted strategy. Consider all of the downsides to the hard sell:

Poorer quality sales: When you force someone into buying something they may not really want, what you are really doing is setting the business up for failure. What often happens is that later, when the pressure is off and customers consider the interaction and the products they purchased, they decide that they do not really want or like the product.

They will return it. It’s a fake sale.

Disgruntled customers: Customers who get products or services crammed down their throat don’t usually stay customers for long. Feeling used and abused, they rightfully take their money elsewhere. more…

Steve Strauss - Founder, TheSelfEmployed.com and MrAllBiz.com
Steven is one of the world’s leading entrepreneurship and small business experts. He is a lawyer, public speaker and author, speaking around the world about entrepreneurship. He has been seen on CNN, CNBC, The O’Reilly Factor, and his column, Ask an Expert, appears weekly on USATODAY.com.
www.theselfemployed.com | www.mrallbiz.com | @stevestrauss | More from Steve

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