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September 22, 2003 9:00 AM CDT

Fifty Ways You Can Trill Your Customers

By

Whoever your customers may be, whatever product or service lines you offer them, opportunities to delight your customers are all around you. And delighted customers are the key to your future success.

You can thrill and delight your customers with homespun care and concern, or with sophisticated events and customer service programs. You make the choice, but use these fifty tips to get yourself started ...

  1. Hang photographs of customers and their children on your bulletin board or "customer wall."
  2. Solicit complaints. Thank customers every time they bring a problem to your attention.
  3. Schedule "customer appreciation" days or weeks on a regular basis. Mark them with celebrations, open houses, refreshments or gifts.
  4. Send handwritten notes to customers -- on almost any subject - from time to time.
  5. At holiday time, make gifts to charities favored by your customers.
  6. Send birthday or anniversary cards.
  7. Issue "VIP" coupons or passes to preferred customers, entitling them to special pricing.
  8. Present annual awards to customers for community service they undertake.
  9. Offer business-related talks or product samples to the schools your customers' children attend.
  10. Set up a customer bulletin board, and invite customers to post "for sale" notices, event announcements, or other information there.
  11. Leave a customer "question-and-answer" or "comment" box in your place of business. Offer personal responses to any comments received.
  12. Congratulate customers on the births of children or grandchildren, or offer them a merchandise gift on these occasions.
  13. Give customers mugs or bags imprinted with your firm name.
  14. Offer a competitive college scholarship to children of your customers, or the surrounding community, each year.
  15. Host a free celebrity gathering (a local sports or entertainment celebrity is fine) at your place of business.
  16. Provide customers with "shopping lists" or "client guides" that can aid them in locating the right products.
  17. Provide product or service reviews that can help customers make buying decisions.
  18. Distribute simple gifts for customers' family or friends.
  19. Use the names of customers at least once during brief telephone conversations, and in the first thirty seconds of face-to-face conversations.
  20. Thank customers for referring new customers. Better yet, offer simple "thank you" gifts to customers for making referrals.
  21. Follow up every customer complaint with a telephone call a week later.
  22. Publicly congratulate customers for achievements or good deeds completed in the community.
  23. Let your customers benefit through cross-promotions. Give them coupons for merchandise or services offered by non-competing vendors.
  24. Sponsor an annual customer picnic or open house.
  25. Offer customers a hearty greeting whenever they walk into your place of business. Shake their hands.
  26. Allow your customers to determine employee bonuses or awards.
  27. Personally deliver urgent goods to customers' homes or places of business.
  28. Offer refreshments at your place of business.
  29. Answer your telephone within three rings.
  30. Offer a no-questions-asked refund on unsatisfactory merchandise or services - and follow through on your commitment.
  31. Ask customers, with courtesy and enthusiasm, how you can help them, whether you're speaking in person or on the telephone.
  32. Hold the door when customers enter your office.
  33. Take responsibility for any problem. And when a customer raises a need or question, address it directly, rather than referring the customer to someone else.
  34. Create a simple customer lounge outside your office.
  35. Make it easy for your customers to contact you. Give them in-person, telephone, fax and e-mail order and customer service capabilities.
  36. Offer free services, such as research, gift wrapping, delivery, or other ancillary services.
  37. Offer customers unexpected gifts when they pay their bills.
  38. Invite customers to evaluate you and your service every time they deal with you. Pre-addressed, pre-stamped comment cards do the trick.
  39. Match your competitors' prices.
  40. Carry bags or other items for your customers.
  41. Offer a "needs assessment service" to customers.
  42. Meet customers at times and places convenient to them.
  43. Whenever you speak with customers, signal your understanding of their thoughts by gently nodding your head.
  44. Offer advice about products or services they've recently purchased.
  45. Confer membership in a preferred customer club or product-related club.
  46. Allow customers to liberally sample goods and services.
  47. Invite customers in for an ad-hoc "customer advisory council" meeting over coffee or lunch.
  48. Offer a "customer orientation" program. Introduce your peers or subordinates, and the workings of your business.
  49. Participate in community or charitable activities at the request of customers.
  50. Never forget to say "thank you" to your customers.


About the Author

Richard G. Ensman Jr. is a free-lance writer based in Rochester, N.Y.

 

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