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Andi Gray: Enduring customer relationships make money

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Andi GrayHow do we stay in touch with existing clients? Once we get an order it gets turned over to people in our operations department to handle everything from customer questions to delivering on time and in budget. Once we deliver, we tend to move on to focus on the next order, and consequently we lose touch with past customers unless they contact us to order again. What is the best way to change that?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Maintaining relations with past clients is very important, even though there’s no more work coming from those clients at the moment. People in operations probably have the best working relationships when work is completed. Great marketing strategy is to develop new products for old clients – get your folks in operations involved in figuring out what to do next with those old clients. Build a community that customers want to be involved with, even if they’re not active.

Past customers are very valuable to every business. They can teach your business about how well you’re doing at meeting customer needs. They can spark ideas about what to do next. And they’re a proven source of income.

Many companies forget that it costs many times more to acquire a new customer than it does to circle back and sell something additional to someone who has already bought from you. Once your company has gotten through the door with sales, keeping that door open for future opportunities is everyone’s job. That includes folks who do the work of satisfying customer needs by delivering products or services.

Folks in operations tend to focus on what’s right in front of them and what’s coming next. Finish this order, get the next order ready to go out. That’s the normal order of things. After all, some would say, looking after customers for new orders — well, that’s sales and marketing, isn’t it? Yes and no.

Think about who owns the relationship with customers. After working to get an order delivered correctly, customers often feel their greatest bond with the folks in operations who stepped up to do the work and handle their questions. Their ties to sales and marketing often drop away once their request is transferred over to the operations people to fulfill. Past customers are often more likely to take a call from someone they’ve worked with most recently.

There’s a lot of benefit to the operations department for following up with customers after they’ve taken delivery of their order. Operations may find out about a customer’s upcoming need and they certainly know how to best fit additional orders into their busy schedule. Customers can provide insight as to how the product or service was received and they can make suggestions on what else they need. That feedback can lead to valuable enhancements and new product development, which operations is best positioned to understand and work on.

It’s easy to stay in touch with customers if you think about building a user community. Connecting satisfied buyers with other satisfied buyers tends to multiply the good will customers feel toward your company. And often much of that goodwill is tied to how well operations served their past needs.

Help operations people stay at the center of your customers’ focus by giving everyone a reason to connect. Invite customers to visit. Hold user conferences. Host a dinner. Put up a message board where everyone can communicate with your people and with each other. There are a thousand ways to stay in touch post-sale. Implement a few of them, put your operations people front and center and watch the dollars multiply.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving” by Noah Fleming.

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., StrategyLeaders.com, a business-consulting firm that teaches companies how to double revenue and triple profits in repetitive growth cycles. Have a question for AskAndi? Wondering how Strategy Leaders can help your business thrive? Call or email for a free consultation and diagnostics at 877-238-3535 or AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com. Check out our library of business advice articles at AskAndi.com.

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