A Customer is for life – not just a sale!

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”.

Mahatma Gandhi

A couple of years ago I was meandering through Oxford Street checking out the various offers the shops had before Christmas.  On the way out of one shop I was jumped by a CC, a Commission Chick, who was determined that I wouldn’t leave the shop before she had my cash.  She cooed about how great her product was as she gazed lovingly into my eyes as though she were trying to seduce me into parting with my money.

After her spiel, I gently broke the news to her that I didn’t wish to purchase anything.  Well, what a change in her attitude!  The cooing was replaced by offended silence and the goo-goo eyes disappeared into angry slits. She huffily re-arranged the wares on her stand and refused to make further eye contact with me as she scanned the crowd for a cash laden victim, oops, sorry, I meant customer!  Because I wasn’t going to purchase anything from her, I was unceremoniously dumped.

Sales lesson 101: NEVER treat visitors to your business like pound signs, treat them like people!   While I wasn’t going to purchase anything from the CC on that occasion, I may have done later on, but her attitude ensured that I would never do so.

Not all publicity is good publicity

In the increasingly competitive world of business, how customers are treated could be the difference between success and going under.  Word of mouth has always been a very powerful form of publicity; but add to that all of the social networking sites, message boards, forums, etc,  and you can see that within a very short space of time tales of a misdeed or a kind deed will wing its way around the world in minutes.

The terminology has a lot to do with the issue of how customers are perceived and treated when they visit some establishments.  To the majority of salespeople, the word ‘customer’ implies a person that buys goods or services, period.  The average business person would not think of a customer as someone they need to build a more meaningful relationship with. They approach interaction with customers with a short-term end game in mind, i.e. time spent with a customer is all about making a sale right there, right then.  But attention needs to be paid to how every step of that encounter will affect the customers’ decision to make future purchases or not.

Have you ever come into contact with people who have used you in some way?  Would you allow them to do that to you again?  Of course you wouldn’t.  Therefore be aware that customers are very discerning, and if they feel that you are only interested in them for their money, they will not be back anytime soon! “What are you talking about?  Customers mean sales!” I hear you cry.  That is pretty much the same for every business, but the way in which a customer is treated during the sales process could determine whether you have more or less customers in the future.

Your business is all about your customers

The bottom line is this – without people you have no business.  People are your business and they must be valued whether they can be converted into a sale or not.   The saying: “be mindful to entertain strangers because in so doing you may be entertaining angels” is never truer than in the area of business.  That customer who you may be tempted to write off as a waste of your time because they did not purchase anything, may actually turn out to be the key to turning your business around or taking you to a greater level of success.  Research for yourselves how many defining moments entrepreneurs have had as a result of encounters  with people they initially did not regard as anything much. Treat all your customers well!

Also, if you have customers that purchase from you on a regular basis, don’t take them for granted. There is no such thing as once a customer always a customer.  You have to work at keeping them. With the veritable smorgasbord of choice available nowadays, customers can jump ship at a moment’s notice and never come back to you unless you give them a good reason to stay with you.    Your customer service must be one of your unique selling points which sets you apart from the crowd.  What do your customers get in return for being so loyal to you?  You’d be surprised at how something as simple as sending a birthday card or cake on birthdays or the odd communication here and there which aren’t sales related can really touch a person.  So much of our communication is done electronically which can be cold and impersonal.  These human touches will go a long way to making you stand out in your field of business, and I guarantee you word will spread!

Points to consider for getting and retaining customers

  • Whether online or offline, always remember that visitors to your establishment are people first and customers second.  This must be evident in how you interact with them.
  • There must not be a change in etiquette when dealing with those who buy from you and those who don’t.  As stated earlier, while they may not purchase anything from you, they may have connections who will and who can also do great things for your business.
  • Do not approach customers with the mindset of getting their cash.  Being warm and genuine will go a long way to ensuring they keep coming back to you.
  • Customer service is a two way street – what do they get in return for spending their money with you?  Implement some kind of rewards policy for regular customers.

Happy customers will buy more from you and will tell people about you.  Pay attention to every step of your customer service process and ensure that all of the visitors to your business have a memorable experience with you for all the right reasons!

Belinda Nnoka

Belinda is a staff writer for Women Unlimited.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.