Can you really create customers for life?

HandshakeAsk most business owners whether they think any of their customers will remain with them for the life of their businesses and they’ll probably admit that it’s unlikely. They’ve seen customers come and go, and they know that their competitors are always trying to lure them away with offers that are sometimes impossible to match.

Yet the concept of ‘customers for life’ remains with us as a tantalizing ideal that represents something we’d like to have if only we could. Perhaps then it’s best to view this concept as a target – something to aim for and do all we can to achieve.

First, understand that the business creates its customers and in many ways determines how loyal they are. Businesses that are forever chasing new customers and neglect their existing ones are the worst at generating real customer loyalty. Businesses that look after their existing customers, on the other hand, still gain new customers through referrals and word of mouth.

If there is a ‘secret’ to any business having customers for life, it’s there in the previous paragraph. Look after your existing customers and the new customers will find their way to your door.

Prioritize every customer

The proliferation of CRM programs and other customer-retention software makes it fairly easy to keep track of existing customers. For some businesses those customers represent the results of past expenditures that don’t require further investment – “We’ve got them and they’ll stay with us”, is the attitude.

But nothing could be worse if you’re trying to create customers for life. These existing customers are the very ones that should be looked after the most and treated better than someone who shows up at your door for the first time. How many businesses put off an existing customer to impress a prospect? Unfortunately, this is precisely how most businesses behave.

Make and keep your promises

Go out of your way to make promises to your customers. That way you can be seen to be honoring your commitments when your delivery is made on time or your serviceman arrives as promised. Customers really appreciate being given specific times and dates for things to happen, and they appreciate even more having someone who keeps their promises.

Always do a bit more

Consciously strive to do more than what’s expected of you. When one of your regular customers gives you a big order, surprise them with a free delivery or an extra six months of warranty. Let it become a part of your thinking to always do more than what your customers expect; you’ll surprise them in a way that nobody else can duplicate.

Invite your customers into the business

There are many ways to get your customers closer to your business, and one of the best is to invite them in for a discussion about how you can serve them even better. This can be a kind of ‘market research’ session that gives them the opportunity to tell you how to become even more valuable to them – and of course, to become even harder to replace.

Invite them to come to your office for a working lunch or perhaps for a drink and some nibbles after work. Show them around your office and let them see how many people are there to make sure they get what they want from your business. Introduce them to some of those people they talk to over the phone but would never meet otherwise.

Keep in touch with updates

Products are constantly improved, with better features and greater utility for purchasers. Whenever someone has bought a product from you that gets updated, contact them and give them a chance to acquire the newest version at a special price. They may not take you up on your offer, but when the time comes to replace their older model they’ll come to you for the latest one.

Not every customer will become a customer for life. Some will be lured away by a better price, and some will ‘shop around’ and find a more attractive value proposition elsewhere.

The most important thing is that you try to make every customer a customer for life and do all you can to keep them satisfied. Get close to them and don’t be afraid to let them become familiar with your business and your team. People like to deal with friends they can trust, and that’s what you become to your ‘customers for life’.