EDITORIAL – What’s a killer for many small businesses? It is the need for cash, which can be an overriding factor in many business decisions dealing with customers. The attitude of “make whatever I can today regardless of the consequences tomorrow” can affect future sales and long‐term customer relationships. No business can satisfy the needs of every customer all the time. A business should be prepared to let a sale “go” when the timing is not right, so the customer can be secured for a future sale. Once a customer is dissatisfied, it is highly unlikely that the customer will ever return. Once lost – lost forever!
Make a Buck Today
Many small businesses have a shortsighted approach with the philosophy of make a buck today and worry about tomorrow, when tomorrow comes. From a practical standpoint, taking this type of approach to business acquisition means:
Over promise and under deliver
Some businesses are notorious for promising customers the moon ‐ whatever the customer wants to hear
– knowing they will not be able to provide what was promised.
Customer service ‐ here today ‐ gone tomorrow
During the typical “sales pitch,” the presentation is all about customer service. You probably get the picture. Whatever the customer needs or wants, it can all be accomplished until the sale is made or contract signed. Oh, how the service situation changes after that point in time!
No need for details in writing, we’re all about ethics
It is such a hassle at times to get all the details of a sale or service engagement written in a finely worded document. While many customers think that they have verbally agreed on the details of a transaction, they later find to their dismay that the business did not consider “this or that” as part of the sale, especially when the small business realizes that the profit margin is much less than originally estimated.
These situations and many similar ones accomplish two things for a small business – immediate cash and the loss of future business. Customers are savvy today and competition is intense for the same dollars. Few businesses have a monopoly on the market in which they do not have to worry about customers seeking
to do business with competitive rivals.
A loyal customer can be equated to an annuity. The dollars roll in year after year. A satisfied customer will hopefully recommend a business to others, but a dissatisfied customer will most certainly tell a multitude of associates and acquaintances about their unpleasant experience with a business.
So, there is a compound effect on revenues and profits when businesses look only to the short‐term to make a sale without considering the long‐term effect of turning an advocate into an adversary. This is not a technique to promote business!
Long‐term success relies on steady growth. If a business does not plan for customer retention, then it is a revolving door of securing customers, losing customers, and trying to secure new customers – wasted effort and wasted dollars!
Build for Tomorrow
The solution for this dilemma can be quite simple and the reverse of the above points:
Under promise and over deliver
Customers want to feel that they received the benefits expected and what was promised. They want value for the money they paid. And, when a business over delivers what was promised, customers are pleasantly surprised and loyalty is developed.
Customer service always
Customers do not forget bad experiences. They remember what was promised and what they received after a transaction is completed. Customer service cannot be provided only up to the point of sale and then ignored.
Attention to detail and follow‐up
These two factors make it is easy for a business to ensure that all sale commitments are made whether previously agreed upon verbally or written. When other businesses are forgetting about the fine details of a sale, strict attention to detail and follow‐up allows a business to springboard past its competition.
Business success is not only about today, but tomorrow. Today’s sale should be viewed as an installment for tomorrow. When customers are properly taken care of, they will follow a business into the future. In contrast, once a customer is dissatisfied, that customer is probably lost forever. When a business is
proactive about customer retention, (1) under promising and over delivering, (2) customer service always, and (3) attention to detail and follow up automatically fall into place.