Remember when you first started your business—how difficult it was to get those first customers to take a chance and buy from you? If you’re starting your business now, you’ll quickly learn firsthand that it’s a challenge to build your customer base. If you don’t want to do that all over again, all the time, you need to keep those customers coming back regularly. You can do so by getting close to them and staying close. A number of customers will help you build your business because they:
- Order often
- Place large orders
- Pay their bills quickly
- Send referrals and friends
- Are easy to work with
- Give you new product ideas
- Tell you their likes and dislikes
- Are patient when problems arise
These great customers belong on your A list to receive your best prices and service all the time. Your employees should know who these customers are and go that extra mile when dealing with them. These are the people with whom you want to continually discuss what new products and services they want and how you can provide them. Keep these customers informed about what’s happening in your business. Give them advance notice of any price increases so they can stock up at the old prices. When you’re considering adding a new product or service, ask what they think and value their opinion—use it in making your decision. Most such customers will feel honored to be asked and will likely give you their true opinion.
When any problem occurs with an order for your A-list customers, solve it promptly and to their satisfaction. Have your employees alert you personally so you can follow up and make sure the problem is taken care of. A quick call from the top (you) shows customers that you really care about them.
You might also consider giving your A-list customers your home phone number or your personal cell number. If you’d rather not give your home or cell phone, give them your home email address so they can reach you in the evening or on a weekend if some emergency arises. Getting back to your customers in off hours, even if you can’t help until the next business day, will go a long way in showing your concern and willingness to help.
Your next group of customers will be the majority group consisting of regular buyers who you can reasonably count on for business. This is your B list, and your staff should treat them with respect, concern, and helpfulness. This group of customers is reasonably loyal, but they may occasionally flirt with other businesses to see what’s going on and whether they can get a better deal somewhere else. Many customers can be enticed into experimenting with a newly opened business just to see how it’s different from yours. They may be given little perks and once-a-year gifts or rewards.
They probably won’t change for small differences, but they may be swayed by big offers.
Often, if these customers try another source and it doesn’t work out, they will come right back to your business. You need your B-list customers, who you can count on about 75 percent of the time, to help grow your company and provide a stable customer base. Some will move up to your A list after time, especially if they have tried other sources and come back to you. Don’t neglect this group; handle their requests and problems promptly.
Your casual customers will fall into your C list and will provide sales and profits, but you can’t always count on them. They will change sources on a whim, and you won’t see or hear from them again. But you may pick up C-list customers from your competitors in the same way. C-listers don’t have loyalty to any business and are sort of “here today, gone tomorrow” customers. These are the ones who probably won’t tell you when there’s a problem; you just won’t see them again. If they really like your products or services and your way of doing business, they may eventually become B-list customers, but they’ll never be on the A list. Their personality and character won’t allow them to make a serious
commitment to any one business over the long term. But regardless of their lack of loyalty, you need their business, and you and your staff should treat them professionally.
Then you come to your lowest-level customers—your D list. You’ll never get any loyalty from them—but do you even want it? They will buy from you only when it’s convenient for them, and they’re always looking for a better deal. They don’t care whether you make a profit or you go out of business tomorrow. D-listers are often unpleasant to do business with and may come up with unreasonable demands and silly complaints.
When selling to your D list, be sure they check and okay everything along the way. They often like nothing better than to find a little problem and demand a discount. Exercise caution when selling to your D list, and when the aggravation outweighs the gain, stop doing business with them. You can suggest that they buy from one of your competitors and let the competitor try to handle their annoying ways.
Few, if any, of these types of customers will ever move up to your C list—it’s not in their nature. Have a set policy when dealing with these customers, and let your employees know how to handle them.