how to keep a customer happy

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Ever heard the phrase “the customer is always right?” That phrase comes from the American founder of the British retail chain Selfridges (coincidentally named Harry Gordon Selfridge). Managing customers or clients can be a challenge for anyone in business, from a freelancer to a manager for a big corporation. I use the word “challenge” because Bubelah’s let me know that I use the word “problem” too frequently – but let’s face it, managing customers can be a problem. I work as a contract consultant where I have to sell and deliver, and I’ve learned that there is one surefire way to keep customers happy.

Mistakes are easy to make when dealing with good customers, and disasters are easy when working with stubborn or (they do exist) stupid customers. Too often the seller (who can be selling anything: goods, services or even free services) starts jumping through hoops to repair the situation. Some of the solutions:

  • Offering credits
  • Lower prices
  • More “face time”
  • Throwing around perks – taking a client out for drinks, etc.

None of these solutions are BAD ideas, but they won’t keep the seller’s customer happy forever. You know what keeps a customer happy? If the seller LISTENS.

Am I saying the customer’s always right? Well, yes, but you can’t rely on the customer to always TELL you what you need to hear. Sometimes you have to read between the lines. Sometimes you have to listen to what other sellers are offering your customer. Listening takes many forms, but it’s not the same thing as “hearing.”

Selling is often as simple as listening for your customer’s need rather than trying to tell them how YOUR product/service will help them. Let them establish the need. You may learn something that helps you expand your service or offer them a slightly different product.

I am hired for my professional skills in audit, compliance or finance. Yet I find again and again that if I sit down with clients I’ll find out they have challenges (see, I remembered to use the right word!). They share these challenges without any expectation that I can fix them, sometimes, but I make an effort to understand what their need is and then fix it – or find someone else who can. Maybe I understand their accounting systems, or know someone who does. Maybe I can connect them with a subject matter expert. Perhaps I can lead a training course for their staff or give them tips on the social web (you’d be surprised how many corporate types are unaware of LinkedIn, for example). Listening to what they need doesn’t take the place of doing the work they hired me for, but the extra value – something they might not even realize they needed – will make me more valuable to them.

Don’t assume that doing your best on a service or closing sales of a product alone will be enough. Keep your ears open. Wait one second AFTER your customer has stopped speaking before answering (you’d be surprised how much people appreciate that simple courtesy). Make the time to get to know your customer and never stop listening to what they need. The customer will eventually be right, but it’s your job to help him figure out what’s right.

photo by chanchan222
  • craig

    It is all about listening. Just being there on a timely fashion to hear the customer can do a lot.

  • http://www.fidelitylocksmith.com/ Locksmith Services

    Customers are very happy when you give them what they need and add on some feature to give them a “wow” effect. And only way to get to do this is to listen to them and undertand what is it that they want. Thus ” Listeninig ” is the mantra along with “Being at the right place at the right time” to get the maths right.

  • http://a-loonie-saved.blogspot.com/ Patrick

    I would just like to say I'm relieved you have replaced the word “problem” (a perfectly good word, I might add) with “challenge” rather than the increasingly pervasive euphemism “issue”.

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  • https://www.acecashexpress.com/ Andrew @ Financial Services

    I wish it were all that simple. I've worked in customer service for quite some time and God knows I've tried to do my best to keep my clients happy. Sometimes there are just some inescapable situations where you won't be able to cater to their request because it would mean a loss or even a lawsuit for the company. I know that service should come before profit, it's just so unfortunate that not all companies have that in mind.

  • http://blog.financiallysmartonline.com FinanciallySmartService

    When dealing with the public we have to understand that everyone is different and so we should adapted to it. Since our business is consist of communicating with individuals we should always observe them so that we can have a wonderful customer/clients relationship. Your article is very informative thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.greatstopsllc.com/ Great Stops

    Listen…Listen…Listen. Over my years I have learned that this is the most important factor in customer service and client relations. If you listen, instead of planing what you are going to say next, you will be better informed about what course of actions need to be taken.

    Good Post

  • http://www.greatstopsllc.com/ Great Stops

    Listen…Listen…Listen. Over my years I have learned that this is the most important factor in customer service and client relations. If you listen, instead of planing what you are going to say next, you will be better informed about what course of actions need to be taken.

    Good Post

  • http://www.abcey.com/ Event Planner San Fransico

    Customer only gets happy when he gets what he wants and not what you think he wants. And this can only be achieved if you are a good listener. So not doubt that you need to prepare what you are going to talk when u meet you client but its even more important to develop the habit of listening to make the most out of it

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