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CONSULTING CORNER
Straight answers to tough questions related to owning and operating a small business.

BulletFocus On Existing Customers
by Ruth A. Sheets, MBA

How can small businesses succeed during this economic downturn?

One approach is to focus on existing customers.

Consider this:

  • It costs five times as much to sell to a new customer as to an existing customer. When a company shifts its focus from strangers to friends, it not only reduces the cost of marketing, it also reinforces the customer relationship.
  • Current research shows that through 2010, effective management of customer relationships will be the main cause of competitive advantage for the majority of successful enterprises. (Gartner Research)
  • Customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction has a powerful impact on business. If a customer has a great experience, he or she will tell one friend. But if a customer has a bad experience, the customer will tell ten friends about that experience.
  • It has been said that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, but in customer service, it is often the last impression that leaves the aftertaste. If the customer's last impression isn't favorable, it may literally be the last transaction with that customer. Find ways to leave customers feeling valued, cared for, and happy to have been a patron.
  • Customers want to be appreciated and they inherently want to feel an "attitude of gratitude." A "thank you" goes a long way but knowing when to thank a customer is equally important. Consider these simple guidelines.
  • Thank customers when:

    They do business with you

    They compliment you or your company

    They offer comments or suggestions – Thank them for taking the time to tell you how you can better serve them.

    They try a new product or service – Thank them for daring to try something different.

    They recommend the company to a friend – This demands a handwritten "thank you" note or a face-to-face "thank you."

    They are patient . . . and not so patient – Thanking customers for their patience acknowledges the value of their time and it may also diffuse an angry customer.

    They help you serve them better – Thank these customers for making your life easier.

    They complain to you – Thank customers for taking the time to let you know of their dissatisfaction and/or concerns. Take this opportunity to find ways to improve products and/or services.

  • During poor economic times customers are more risk averse and price sensitive. However, price becomes secondary to value. Offer customers more durable products, more encompassing services, or long-term economy. Eliminate any perceived risk by offering a money-back guarantee, a liberal warranty, and serious commitment to service. (Guerrilla Marketing Excellence)
  • Give customers more than they expect.

Ruth Sheets of Ducks in a Row Consulting provides strategic business consulting to start ups, fix ups, and build ups to turn business pains into business gains. Ducks in a Row Consulting helps businesses to increase their revenue and profitability and fix operational problems that have become obstacles to success. With an operational and marketing focus, we work with companies in various stages of transition to launch new products and services, target new markets, eliminate barriers to business viability, and establish and achieve business goals. To obtain more information about Ruth Sheets and Ducks in a Row Consulting please contact us or call 978-463-2264.

The article Focus On Your Existing Customers was originally published in The Navigator, the newsletter of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, February 2003.

©2003 Ducks in a Row Consulting. All rights reserved. Articles were written by and are the property of Ruth A. Sheets, MBA. Please contact us if you would like to use these articles on your web site or in your newsletter.

 

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Ducks in a Row Consulting™
Helping Businesses Start Up, Fix up & Build Up
P.O. Box 703, Newburyport, MA 01950
Phone: 978.463.2264 | Fax: 978.462.4353 | Email: ruth@ducksinarowconsulting.com

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