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Is it easy to do business with you?


How many of you have ever used America Online as your Internet service provider? How many of you have fired the company as your vendor?

I ask this question of every group I’m in front of. On average, half of the people in the audience raise their hands. If the response to my informal survey is typical, AOL loses nearly half of its customers.

How is this possible, and why does this occur? When I ask my audience, some of the service horror examples they scream out include “lousy service,” “no live human being to talk to” and “rude people.”

Then I ask: “How many of you received additional bills from AOL after you cancelled your service?” With a look of frustration and disgust on their faces, half of the people in the audience raise their hands. Then I ask: “If you dropped AOL, did you tell others about how you were mistreated or billed again and again for a service you discontinued? Guess what? Everyone’s hand goes up.

What does this mean? More importantly, do you know whether similar scenarios are not occurring in your company? After all, it’s easy to talk about lousy service when it’s someone else’s company. It’s much more difficult to address it in your own backyard.

What are you doing to ensure that your customer service is strong? Most companies measure customer “satisfaction,” and they’re happy when their customers are “satisfied.” To me, “satisfaction” means you’re providing the lowest level of acceptable customer service. Shame on you.

I want to know if, based on the incredible service you provide, will your customers do business with you again? Will they refer other people to you? When you lose a customer because of lousy service or poor business practices, you lose more than the revenue from that one account. You lose the potential customers your lost customer dissuaded. The dollars lost is staggering.

Here are some tough questions:   How many customers did you lose last year? How much did it cost you? What have you done to stop the loss? What are you doing to create a higher level of service to keep your existing customers? How much of your marketing outreach budget is spent building loyalty among existing customers so they refer new customers?

From my 51 years of sales experience, I have found that it’s easier to make a sale than it is to keep a customer. After you make the sale, the most expensive part of doing business, the object of the game is to get the customer to stay, to do more business with you and to get others to call you. Unfortunately, most businesses do not participate in this game.

To make sure you don’t drive your customers away, implement the following 5.5 steps that create customer loyalty:

1. Make it easy to do business with you. Can I place an order 24/7? Anything less is not easy.

2. Have live human beings answer the phones. If a customer has a question or a problem, how easy is it to talk to a person?

3. Hire friendly people. How friendly are your people?

4. Take advantage of leading-edge technology. Are you two steps ahead of your competitors? Are you using technology to save time, money, and to be more productive?

5. Identify the reasons your customers are leaving and fix them. Take action to eliminate internal problems.

5.5 Be your own customer. Would you do business with you? Call once a week to find out what it’s like to do business with your company.

Many of you reading this are going to be frustrated because you’re thinking, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” You’re wrong. Contact your five best customers. Ask them to call your company five minutes before the start of your business day and try to place a large order. Then ask them to e-mail their experience to you. Forward that e-mail to your chief executive, and sit back to watch the sparks fly.

You may be handcuffed by your corporation, but your chief executive knows that your customers fill your bank accounts. If you would like to fill your corporate bank accounts, refocus and redouble your efforts on the people that fill them first: your present customers.

FREE GitBit: Want to learn the formula for customer loyalty? Go to www.gitomer.com. Register if you’re a first-time user and enter LOYALTY in the GitBit box.

President of Charlotte, N.C.-based Buy Gitomer, Jeffrey Gitomer gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or by e-mail at salesman@gitomer.com.  

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