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Permanent Customers

Take Me, I'm Yours to Keep

Today, we are going to an auction. We are told that there is going to be a fine selection today, and that we are sure to find what we want. In preparing to go to the auction, we check our wallet to make sure that we have plenty of money to buy all that we want.

What is on the auction block you ask? Why, it's customers. We are going to participate in an auction for which each of the top bids will earn the right to have permanent customers. Does this idea sound strange to you? Perhaps, if you envision going to an auction that is similar to the one held at the county fair for the prize bull. But in actuality, there is a similar situation that occurs everyday in your store.

A person walks through your front door. Your store may be in a shopping center, and the individual simply came in while their spouse was shopping in another store. Then again, your store may be a free standing building, which would indicate that any customer that comes into your store had specified your store as a destination for their shopping trip. Unfortunately, for much of retail, there seems to be an opinion of, "Why should I work hard to keep this customer when there are so many others out there?" Or, "I can't compete with the chain stores, catalogs or Internet on price, and the customers that are shopping here are already mine. Why do anything else?"

The answer to that question is very easy. It costs, in real dollars, so little to keep an existing customer as compared to the required expenditure to obtain a new customer. The majority of customers are there for the taking. How is that so?

Look at any of the surveys about customers and their wants and needs. Never have you seen a survey that states that a customer places price above all other considerations. Most often the idea of price as a basis to choose where to shop never rates higher than fifth on the consideration list. This is an indirect way of a customer saying to a retailer that he wants to be cared for, and is willing to spend his dollars in your store.

How do you accomplish this? Start by giving the customer full attention when he walks in your store. "Good morning. I'm glad to see you. My name is Bob. How about a cup of coffee? I just made a fresh pot."

It may sound like something strange to say to a customer, but only because we are so used to saying and hearing, "Can I help you?"

The second aspect of acquiring this permanent customer is to recognize that the initial sale is complete when the customer has returned to make a second purchase. This permanent customer comes as a result of your working towards building a relationship.

You have the opportunity to set yourself apart using customer service, product knowledge, unique products and services, developing a shopping atmosphere, and by way of your prices - whether they be high, low, or in the middle. Can this strategy work?

You may choose which fast food place you eat at according to price, but when you want to have a special dining experience, don't you select the restaurant based upon the entrees or the ambiance of the restaurant?

By looking towards the second sale, you are more interested in the individual than the sale. That unique approach will place you head and shoulders above the competition.

The third aspect of maintaining these customers is to implement as many ways to care for customers as you can possibly find. Keep extra umbrellas at the check out counter so that you can help the customer to the car in rainy weather, prepare hot apple cider on a cold day, or get a list of customer names and addresses from the checks tendered in your store and send a thank you note to each one.

The fourth and final aspect of this concept in providing this strategy to your customers is to empower your employees. You begin by treating your employees as the most important asset to your business. "Make your employees number one, and they will make your customers number one", is the policy according to one saying. Create for your employees an ongoing training program where you demonstrate to them that you are concerned about them and that you want to make sure that they never have to tell your customers, "I don't know".

As you share with them, product knowledge, sales techniques, and general information about the operation of your business, you will see employees begin to think like owners.

Sure, you may need to spend part of the time with each training session to correct problems. But spending an hour every other week to meet with your employees will probably be the best hour you could spend, as well as being some of the best spent money you could ever invest.

What are we creating here? It is a culture of having your employees demonstrating to your customers that you want to earn their business. And that you will do whatever it takes to keep their business. The pleasant surprise to you and your employees will be that it will usually take less than what you expect to keep their business if you are willing to do more than it takes.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179