Have you ever seen the chart explaining why people leave businesses? One reason that has always left my head ringing and audiences chuckling is that “customers die.”
Of course, they don’t come back after they’re dead! For that reason being dead is so obvious that it’s probably not worth mentioning. However, when you look at some of the reasons why people return to a place of business, they are equally dismal.
Many people return to a business because it’s the closest game in town. They don’t feel like driving to a competitor, and so you get their business by default. Some are so afraid to try anything new that your familiarity is what keeps them returning. Inertia is a big driver for repeat customers— until something more appealing shows up down the street.
Unfortunately, getting repeat customers for these reasons is not the most controllable way to run a successful business with a substantial number of regulars. These reasons are opportunistic. That is, there isn’t much you can do to influence this type of customer choice. And luck is not the most effective way to build up a base of regulars coming back year after year.
Have you asked your regulars why they come back? I mean really asked them, one to one, instead of having them fill out a feedback form. It’s a simple question, one that engages people in conversation, and pays them a compliment. You’re noticing them, after all, with that question. Most importantly, the answers will give you some valuable information that can be used to strengthen your brand.
And here’s a little trick. When a customer has a complaint because something didn’t go right, thank them for speaking up, sincerely apologize, recover for them, and then ask, “By the way, now that we’re talking, why do you do business with us?.” You could add a few words, such as, “I’m curious. I see you in our store and and we appreciate your business. And now we’ve created a problem for you (or made you wait too long, or whatever happened to this customer), and I want to make sure you come back. So, why do you normally shop with us?” Or, stay with us? Or, buy your gasoline from us?
I’ve informally asked this question of our TMI repeat customers. We get a variety of responses and we’ve noted that most of the responses have an emotional component to them. People say they like us, they trust us, probably in the same way they trust and like you — or they wouldn’t do business with you!
But remember, you’ll probably get better more complete answers when you ask a customer this question after there has been some sort of service failure because it’s an inherently emotional situation.
Just by talking with your customer when there is a service failure, you are already doing service recovery. Your customer will certainly be aware that you noticed them when there was a problem and you took the time and trouble to speak with them. Maybe you even fixed the problem exactly as they wished.
And now you have information you can use with this customer in the future. You can weave it into your next interaction. For example, if your customers tell you that they like doing business with you because they feel connected with your staff, it might be a good idea to see how you can make more of that happen. You’ll never see your business the way your customers see your business. Asking customers why they return after a service problem and service recovery will give you answers that you simply cannot predict. And if they tell you something that can be fixed right then and there, all the better. Immediate service recovery is the best kind of service recovery.
Find out what made them happy at that moment, and they’ll never say, I keep coming back because I’m not dead yet!
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