One of the curious facts of being in business is that we tend to pay more attention to winning new customers than to looking after them and keeping them loyal once we have won them.
Some people might regard this as an inexplicable enigma--why do we behave like that? But I do not really think it is much of a mystery. It is human nature for us to find new opportunities and new people inherently exciting. Similarly, having a great honeymoon is very different from making a marriage really work after you come back home.
Yet, I personally tend to believe that the 'making the marriage work after you come back home' aspect of being in business is really the interesting one. Wooing customers, winning them, and enjoying the honeymoon period just after they have become customers is all very well, but I do not regard it as a substitute for the much more intense satisfaction of building a long-term, mutually beneficial business relationship that may well last through the rest of the customer's life.
It is all about having a grasp of what customers really want and giving them what they really want. And not just giving them what they really want now, but finding ways of continuing to give them this on an indefinite basis.
Yes, of course it requires you to be endlessly resourceful, seriously creative and distinctly imaginative. It also requires you to make the demanding mental effort of placing yourself in the customer's shoes and then working out what exactly it is he or she wants from you.
So what do customers want? I'd say the following are the most important types of thoughts likely to be in customers' heads after you've won their hearts:
* Take the trouble to understand what I need--even before I know what I need myself.
* You worked hard to win me as a customer in the first place--please continue to make me feel valued.
* Don't put all your efforts into new customers and offer them products, services and prices that you don't offer me.
* Solve my problems quickly, effectively and consistently.
* Treat me as a person, not just as a number or a sales opportunity.
* Be pleasant, efficient and helpful.
* Never forget--and I am not threatening you, I am just stating a fact--that if you do not keep me happy, I might look around for someone else who will.
I do not think anyone in business would dispute that keeping customers loyal and keeping hold of their heads and hearts is more difficult now than ever before. Customers are more...