By Bryan Williams
United Airlines is now a case study for how not to treat customers. Especially paying customers…who are about to receive the service they paid for…and are obviously unhappy about how they are being treated. There is so much to learn from this scenario. Horst Schulze, who is the former President and COO of the Ritz-Carlton (and one of my biggest influences) always said that rule #1 is to keep the customer. For any organization to be successful, they must become proficient at keeping customers (and not lose them).
Keep them happy. Keep them engaged. Keep them so well that they eagerly look forward to returning AND bringing friends and family with them. Keep them so well that they enthusiastically tell everyone they know and everyone they don’t know (via social media) about how amazing your service is. In fact, keeping the customer is even more important than getting new customers and making money. This article, however, is not about United Airlines; rather it is about keeping customers and how THAT is the most important driver in getting new customers, maximizing revenue and being efficient.
It may sound like common sense, but it is not common at all. Keep your customers happy! All of them. Even more than that, keep them so happy that they become intensely loyal. Loyal customers are people who are very satisfied with the overall experience with your brand, very likely to return and very likely to recommend your organization to others.
To become loyal, customers need three things: No defects. Timeliness. Engaging Service.
Basically, give me what I want with no mistakes (defects); when I expect it (timeliness); and graciously provided by a caring person (engaging service). To speed up the loyalty process, personalize the interaction with the customer. Use names, learn preferences and take a genuine interest in each person you are fortunate to serve.
One of the best ways to get new customers is to take care of your current customers. Your loyal customers will tell everyone about you. They will be your most passionate advocates. Interestingly, one of the best ways to turn new customers into loyal customers is to treat them like loyal customers!
We have a tendency of undervaluing our current customers as we pursue future customers. Big Mistake. If you can only do one of them today, pick to keep your current customers happy. They will spend more, refer more and be more forgiving when things go wrong.
Loyal customers love to patronize their favorite businesses. In fact, they look for ways to spend money with you. One of my favorite stores is Whole Foods and I try to mainly eat there when I’m travelling. I can see how much they value their culture, products and customers. I happily go there to shop and eat. The more loyal I become, the happier I am to shop there, eat there and refer people to go there. They are very successful at making me feel good about spending money there.
So attract customers and keep them close. Don’t let them go. If they have a request, do it. If they have a suggestion, listen to it. If they have a complaint, fix it. In most cases, they did not have to be your customer. They could have chosen to go somewhere else. When your customers choose you, it is your job to re-affirm their decision by treating them like royalty. Everyday. Find ways to serve them with excellence. Everyday. Be eager to welcome them. Everyday. Anticipate their needs. Everyday. Learn their preferences. Everyday. Follow through on their requests. Everyday. Listen to their suggestions and act on them. Everyday. Thank them for the opportunity to be of service. Everyday.
In all things, stay with your customers…then watch them stay with you. Everyday.