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Coddling customers can never be wrong

April 13, 2014

As it is said, “I know I’m preaching to the choir,” when I say that customers will help you build and grow your small business.  Business owners constantly work to get referrals from their customers but sometimes it is good hear about and explore different techniques which may sharpen your skills.

The goal is to move your customers from being simply customers to becoming advocates of your business. A locally owned business did just that recently.  My daughter had purchased a skirt off the sales rack at a local boutique.  The skirt was too long to wear with her sandals so the owner offered to hem the skirt at no charge.  My daughter returned to pick up the skirt and the owner offered her a cup of coffee.  THEN the owner gave her a choice, plain or fancy.  My daughter chose fancy.  The owner brought her the cup of coffee – in a glass coffee mug, topped with whipped cream.  This owner moved my daughter from being a customer to being an advocate.  Enjoying the opportunity to slow down for eight to ten minutes, my daughter strolled through the shop.  When the coffee was finished, she returned the cup, thanked the owner and picked up her skirt.  She went straight to her car and posted what had happened directly to her Facebook.  What a great example of moving a customer into the role of an advocate!

Gordan Tan, R&G Technologies & Client Heartbeat states, “I tell each of my employees to treat every interaction with a client as if they were going to ask for a referral at the end.  This helps encourage a high level of customer service.”

A study by Wharton School of Business states, “83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer products and services, but only 29% actually do so.”  The challenge is for the exchange with the business to be so memorable that the customer refers their friends.

As a business owner, you need to learn to ask for a referral. Asking should not be intimidating if you have properly built a working relationship.  Ross Beard, author of the business article, How to Create Customer Advocates that Send More Referral Leads offers this suggestion, “Pick five of your loyal customers that you think might have some customers interested in your services.  Next time you have a scheduled call or quarterly business review with them, put it in your notes to ask for a referral.  Use this line: “Hey Bob, do you know any companies that would find my services valuable?”

Beard also offers this observation, “Referrals are warm leads that convert better and faster than any leads generated through online or offline marketing initiatives.  Creating customer advocates and harnessing them to drive more referrals is a key component to all successful, growing businesses.”

Remember, the Small Business Development Center can assist you with getting a plan to move your customers to become advocates for your business.  Give us a call to make an appointment, we might even offer you - fancy coffee!

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    Peggy Hodges Rosser, Business Development Specialist and Rural Business Manager

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