It’s hard to walk into a shop at this time of year without stumbling over a proliferation of hearts, roses and declarations of love. And whether you embrace Valentine’s day and all that it stands for or remain cynical about its over-commercialisation, the day acts as a reminder of the importance of letting loved ones know how much they mean to you.
This got me thinking that it’s not just our personal lives where we should bear this in mind. In business, a little bit of love can go a long way. I don’t mean the romantic kind of course; rather that making clients and prospects feel special – loved – is important for customer retention and making your business a success.
According to research by business author and speaker Michael LeBoeuf, 68 per cent of customers leave because of perceived indifference. But just as with any romantic relationship, the rules of engagement in business can be just as unclear and confusing. Getting to know your clients and what makes them tick is therefore crucial
Some clients may demand all of your attention – regular phone calls, daily updates, biweekly meetings…others may find this stifling and prefer less frequent but more in-depth reassurance. One might take offence to something you have done, keep quiet about it but hold a grudge; others will confront a problem head on and have forgotten about it as soon as the air has been cleared.
Understanding how your clients operate and adapting the way you work accordingly will help you maintain a healthy relationship. Ask your clients up front how they like to work – how often do they want updates, and in what format. Review this every six months to make sure that this still stands true or if a different approach is needed.
Once you’ve built the foundations of your relationship, you can start plying them with add-ons. Often, promotions and discounts are used to attract new customers but for an existing client it can be frustrating to see benefits for which you don’t qualify. Their heads may be turned by your competitors who you can bet will be tempting them with hard-to-resist deals.
Loyalty and reward schemes are therefore worth considering. Give your clients benefits for staying with you – vouchers, money off etc. – if they stay with you for a certain length of time. If your customers aren’t on a retainer, loyalty cards can work well. Coffee shops are a perfect example encouraging repeat custom by offering loyalty cards that get you free drinks if you buy more with them.
Sometimes though, it’s the little that can make a big difference. Ever been offered a free coffee in your local Pret A Manger? Maybe that’s because you were looking a little stressed or were particularly friendly to staff – employees are able to give things away at their discretion. In our serviced offices we provide customers with a Friday doughnuts, which never fails to put a smile on people’s faces. Small acts of kindness make your company more personable.
Of course there’s lots of different ways you can make your customers feel special – so this Valentine’s day why not give a thought to spreading the love in your business as well as personal life?
David Saul is managing director of Business Environment