Opening Lines of Communication With Your Customers

June 1, 2008
The more chances we have to communicate with our clientele, the better our chances are of being the one they call for their needs in the future.

Woody Allen has been quoted as saying that 90 percent of life is just showing up. As a salesman, I’ve seen this proven to be accurate over and over again. Numerous times, I have gotten an order or an opportunity that never would have made its way to me if I wasn’t standing with a customer when it came up. I would love to think all my customers will contact me whenever they need a quote or some form of help but I know that’s not realistic. The more chances we have to communicate with our clientele, the better our chances are of being the one they call for their needs in the future.

In the case of the typical locksmith business, we have no idea what our customers are doing or thinking about when we aren’t in front of them. That usually means we’re waiting for them to call us. We get calls to come do work or to quote a job and in some cases people speak with us just to pick our brains.

What I’m going to suggest is that we increase the frequency of our communication with these people. This needs to be done in a manner that doesn’t result in us being viewed as pushy or obnoxious, but given the number of times most business owners contact their customers when nothing is going on, this shouldn’t be a problem. Think about it: When was the last time you went over a list of people or companies who have paid for your services and followed up in the form of a phone call, a visit or some type of written correspondence?

So how do we do this? If you’re comfortable with picking up the phone and checking in, then do it.

If you recently did work for someone, don’t assume that everything went well simply because you didn’t receive a complaint. Many people won’t tell you they were dissatisfied with something but instead they’ll call a competitor next time they need your service.

A follow up call shows the customer that you care and will also give you valuable feedback that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. It’s much better to have talks with dissatisfied customers than not to hear from them. That way, you have an opportunity to make things right and possibly avoid a mistake with others in the future.

Another way to follow up is to do an occasional customer satisfaction survey. You can come up with a simple one-page survey.  Ask your customers if they are satisfied with the level of service they received, the value they got for their money and if they’d recommend your business to someone else. You should also use this time to let them know about all that you’re able to do. Chances are that they aren’t aware of all the services your company can provide.

When you begin surveying customers about their experience with your company, I want you to ask your employees to fill out a survey as if they were the customer. In other words, what do they think the people they serviced will say about how things went? This will give you a little insight into how large or small the gap is between what the customer thinks and what you and your employees think is happening. If you are an employee of a locksmith company, this could be a way for you to become more in touch with what customers really think and want from you.

I heard about the owner of an auto repair shop who ferreted out problems by telephoning all customers one week after they visited either of his two locations. Customers remembered that the president of the company called them and they really felt serviced. He got them to admit what might have bothered them and was able to address their problems and satisfy them. This practice also kept his employees on their toes since they knew the boss was in touch with the front line and would likely find out if customer’s experience was less than okay.

I truly believe that it’s much easier to increase business with existing customers than it is to acquire new business from new customers. That can be done if you are serious about letting them know what else you can do and finding out how they felt about what you’ve done for them so far.

I realize this will be much easier to do with regular commercial accounts but I think it’s equally important to get feedback from someone who walked into your shop for a key or had you rekey their apartment door one time. You never know where the next opportunity will come from; don’t prejudge people. The guy who walks in for one key could be an influential person in a business or community and his experience could pay off in the future.
Figure out a way to collect business cards; maybe have a monthly drawing where you give something away. How many times have you dropped your card into a bowl because a restaurant was offering a free lunch to the winner? You have to make the most of any opportunity to impress a customer; be creative with it, have fun with it! Find out what more you can do for your customers so that you don’t just sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Do something new to increase the communication between you and your customers. I guarantee you will see positive results.