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Five ways to keep customers coming back

Better Business Bureau develops framework to keep relationships intact, even when there's a service hiccup

It used to be that if a customer had a bad service experience, the worst they could do was take their business elsewhere. But times have changed. In the modern marketplace, the worst thing an unhappy customer can do is take their business elsewhere, then take to social media or a review website and tell the world.

According to a new report 5 Gestures of Trust by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the key to guiding a customer through a service hiccup is to first build a layer of equity to insulate the relationship.

The currency of this equity is trust and, according to the BBB, trust wins prospects and keeps customers. To build trust, customers have to experience it, and they experience it when you do these 5 things:

1. Be Honest

Honesty is a “threshold” gesture—if you don’t appear or don’t prove over time to be honest, it will be hard under any circumstances to maintain a customer relationship.

How to be honest: 

  • Do exactly what you say you will
  • Ask customers if they fully understand the transaction before completing it (for example, point out the risks and make sure the customer understands them)
  • Put the most important information up front (for example, point out that a competitor might have an option that suits them better)
  • Tell the truth when you make a mistake
  • Advertise truthfully

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2. Be Transparent

Consumers experience transparency when you share information, even if doing so might make you competitively vulnerable.

How to be transparent:

  • Admit mistakes when they happen and make amends to both the customer and the public
  • Share processes and decision-making
  • Freely offer information about yourself
  • Highlight your history and management team
  • Make it easy to contact you
  • Share customer reviews

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3. Be Proactive

Take initiative in two ways. One, anticipate customer needs and provide solutions without being asked. Two, respond quickly to customer requests or issues that customers raise.

How to be proactive: 

  • Listen for the customer’s needs above and beyond what they want to buy and make suggestions that will satisfy them, regardless of the nature of the potential sale
  • Review repeat customer needs and habits and maximize value
  • Respond swiftly to customer questions, requests and complaints
  • Take steps to anticipate and prevent customer issues and pave the way for positive customer experiences
  • Find ways to save the customer money either through efficient pricing or differentiated pricing based on services and features most important to them
  • Identify and correct mistakes that favor the company, even if the customer does not notice

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4. Be Humble

Being humble is among the most powerful of the trust drivers and signals you’re not likely to deceive customers.. Being humble embodies the idea that your company exists as part of something larger than itself and credits success in part to your customers, community and infrastructure.

How to be humble: 

  • Make customer service a priority over other things your business does
  • Admit mistakes when they happen and take responsibility
  • Bring the highest value to customers
  • Protects customers against choices that may be detrimental to them
  • Treat employees with respect and attempt to develop them as people and professionals

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5. Be Equitable

Companies seek money from customers and customers seek value for their money. If a transaction tips power in your favor, customer may be wary.

How to be equitable: 

  • Commit to generous return policies
  • Use simple contracts, highlighting (not hiding) information favorable and important to customers
  • Make polices and decisions for customers you’d make for yourself if you were a customer
  • Relax time period for decision-making and avoid deals that expire quickly or change with time

To read the full report, visit: www.bbb.org/5Gestures

ALSO READ: When a downtown business closes, it’s not just economics

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