by George Hedley
After every holiday, I am always glad they are over. Too much food. Too much fun. Not enough productivity. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, traditionally we stop what we're doing to give gifts and thank those who make it all possible - our customers and clients. This year my suppliers, subcontractors and service providers gave me one bottle of champagne, two wine and cheese baskets, three wall calendars, four logo shirts, five boxes of chocolates, six plates of cookies, seven cans of nuts, twenty two Christmas cards and an invitation to a great dinner party.
Don't give gifts - give yourself.
But did those gifts really matter? Three weeks later, I honestly can't remember who gave me what. But I do remember the party. Every year the company who handles our property management on the industrial parks we own, sends us a very expensive tower of fruit and nuts as a holiday thank you gift. I was discussing that annual gesture with the owner in September last year and commented that the gift was nice but seeing her in a casual setting would be more beneficial to our ongoing business relationship. She listened and instead of gifts, held a fun holiday party at a restaurant for her best customers. I estimate the total cost was close to the gift she previously gave. But, the impact was ten times greater. She gave us her time in a very personal way.
Show customers you care.
The number one reason customers stop doing business with companies is an attitude of indifference. They don't think you care. They don't think you care about them as a customer or as a person. You do a good job, give them good value and then they pay. No more and no less. What do you do for your customers to show you care about them - their business success and them as people? In today's very competitive marketplace, you've got to set yourself apart and leave a lasting impression. An impersonal Christmas card once a year is a waste of time and money to better your customer relationships.
Customers want to know you care about them, their business, their challenges and them as people. The best way to develop customer relationships is face to face time with them. I call this relationship building sessions. Just like you do with your best friend, spend quality time with your best customers. I venture to guess that most of you only have 10 to 20 customers who make up most of your sales. It doesn't take a lot of time to keep in touch and build a profitable relationship with your top customers on a regular basis.
Chart your customer care.
Make a chart of your top customers. Make sure that you visit them in a relationship building setting at least every two or three months. These settings must be face to face. They should include breakfast or lunch, trips to the ballgame, dinner meetings at your local associations, golfing, fishing or hunting. Anything that gets you together in a fun setting where you can really get to know each other.
One on one time will allow you to discuss what really matters to your customer. Their likes, dislikes, needs and wants. Find out how you can do a better job for them and give them better service. Build trust and confidence. Laugh, learn and grow closer. Send them business articles or books to help them overcome their problems. Give them advice on how to increase their business or improve productivity. Discuss how they can do a better job and make more money. The key is to show them you care about their future success in any way you can.
Time is money. Meaningful time with your customers is big money. Remember, phone calls and job meetings don't count as relationship building sessions. Make it a priority to invest in your future by investing in your customers. Customer care in a special way will return big cash and create loyal customers who only want to do business with you.
George Hedley owns a $75 million construction and development company and
Hardhat Presentations. He speaks to companies on building profitable businesses,
leadership, and loyal customers. He holds 3-day in-depth "Profit-Builder
Circles" open to construction company owners in an interactive roundtable
format every 3 months. His "Profit-Builder System" includes proven
tools to always make a profit, build equity, create wealth, win profitable
jobs, motivate your people, and enjoy the benefits of owning a profitable company.