2002 Spring

Treat Your CustomersLike Family

Simply thinking about your customers a new way can greatly increase your sales.
Do you think of your customers as just a paycheck? Or, do you think of customers as family, partners or friends ... people you can help, and who in turn can help you? In my job, I get to see a lot of different small businesses in action. I see which are growing and which are struggling. One thing the top performers have in common is the way they treat their customers like family. Here are six ways customers resemble family, along with suggestions to help you re-enforce “that family feeling”:

1. Families Nurture
When you have a new customer in your area, find some things you can do to help them succeed. It could be as simple as a welcome gift, friendly payment terms or an invitation to join a local business group like the chamber of commerce. Anything you can do to make a new business owner feel welcome in your community will go a long way toward winning a customer for the long term.

2. Families Share Information
Sharing your knowledge can help your customers be more successful. Most don’t come to you just to rent a toilet—they need your expertise. Counsel them on placement, service times and service frequency. Don’t just ask them “where do you want it?” When you think about it, there are many ways your service can add value to your customers’ businesses. And don’t forget to tell customers what their upgrade options are. Not only will you sell more, but the customer will be happier with their selection.

3. Families Keep Promises and Commitments
In order to be consistent at delivering on promises, you need a contingency plan for everything that can go wrong. Ask yourself, what will I do if my truck breaks down? What if my driver doesn’t show up? What if a rainstorm floods the placement area? To be a truly dependable partner, plan for worst-case scenarios.

4. Families Leave the Door Open
You can’t stop customers from shopping around. However, if you lose a customer, don’t burn bridges. Keep former customers on your call list and contact them at least quarterly. It pays to be persistent. Here’s how Bob Davis of Bob’s Septic Service, Berwick, Iowa, emphasized this point for me recently, “Even though I bought from a competitor for a few years, Faye stayed after me. I buy from PolyJohn now, because I know they care.”

5. Families Celebrate Together
Don’t hesitate to send a “Congratulations” card when you hear about a customer who has just won a big contract or received a community honor. Why not celebrate your own business anniversary each year by inviting customers to an open house?

6. Families Help in a Pinch
Urgent requests are an opportunity to show how much you are willing to do for customers. The most common “urgent” call is a spill or turnover on customer property. While this may be a routine occurrence for you or your crew, it’s not for your customer. How fast you respond, and how well the scene is cleaned, will show off your commitment to service.

These are a few of my observations and suggestions. I’m sure you can think of more. Treat customers like family, and you’ll never lack for business.

Faye Kelley,
Vice President
of Business Development

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