Five Surefire Ways to Generate Repeat Business

For any business to thrive and succeed, do not underestimate the importance of repeat business. Too many senior executives believe that providing good customer service is enough to get customers to return. However, the service interaction alone is not sufficient to generate repeat business; creating and building an emotional connection with customers is the loyalty glue. Repeat business does not happen automatically; it must be cultivated one transaction at a time. Each encounter with a customer is a critical link in the customer loyalty chain. A high level of engaged customer service is key.

Unfortunately, from a service perspective, the customer interaction—whether in person, over the phone, or via a website—is now often a series of robotic or indifferent encounters. It is a shame and a critical mistake that the personalization of customer service has almost disappeared. We do not need to abolish the malls or eradicate the internet to go back to neighborly service. We need to make the customer the focal point and drive home that customers are people first and not just a commercial interaction.

Call centers speak to more customers than any other department in a company. If it is possible to have one company associate or a small team with the contact center develop a one-to-one relationship with an individual customer, it will almost always guarantee that customer will return. Relationships are created between people.

Every customer is unique, with different needs. With few exceptions, customers become repeat or loyal patrons because an associate at the company has built a relationship or created a bond with them. While these bonds can happen organically, companies need to incorporate a customer service strategy that facilitates and encourages this type of relationship building.

Here are five surefire ways to generate repeat business:

1. Hire the Right People.

Hire frontline associates who are capable of making an excellentfirst impression. I can guarantee that any organization that employs a welcomer—someone who can make customers feel welcomed, important, and appreciated—in its frontline will find business revenue dramatically increased over time. A welcomer sees the customer as a person first, a customer second, and will engage that person to find out what brought him into the store or what prompted her to call or email. First opinions are formed within the initial 15 seconds of an interaction. While customers might not be able to instantly discern if a company representative is knowledgeable, they will form an immediate impression of whether the person is caring and sincere.

2. Communicate and Demonstrate Customer Appreciation.

Very few companies take the opportunity to thank customers for their business. Thanking customers in a meaningful and thoughtful manner during every customer encounter demonstrates that your company cares and values their business. Too many customers leave an establishment thinking the associates were robotic, indifferent, or even hostile. Customers want to feel that their business is appreciated. If you don't show appreciation for your customers, they will not appreciate you.

3. Treat Associates as Family and Neighbors.

When company associates are treated with respect and their opinions are valued, they will, in turn, treat the company's customers the same way. Customers notice when a company appreciates their people. Research has shown that employee and customer satisfaction are clearly linked.

4. Segment the Customer Encounter into Three Distinct Components.

Aristotle, the famed Greek philosopher, scientist, and educator, is responsible for the axiom that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Taking into account this wisdom, we can say that while each of the three components described below might be equally important and can stand alone, when used together the customer's experience will dramatically improve.

The Greet. Say hello and smile. In this era of technology, people are more stressed than ever. Getting a big warm hello can go a long way in conveying a feeling that this person is really glad to hear from me.

The Assist. The primary task of any customer interaction is to help patrons find what they need or respond to an inquiry. Whether it's regarding barbecue chicken or an automobile is immaterial; the better the explanation, the more likely that the customer is to purchase an item or return.

The Leave-Behind. Leaving a positive, lasting impression is just as important as providing a good first impression. The last step of the customer interaction provides one of the best opportunities to generate repeat business. Always tell customers you want to talk to them again, get their feedback, or just find out how they are doing.

5. Review All Compensation and Reward Policies.

Frontline associates are the voice of the company. Associates who can make every customer feel welcomed and important should be continually thanked and rewarded appropriately.

Rome was not built in a day. Finding frontline associates who are natural welcomers can take some time. It can be unrealistic to transform your contact center overnight into one that is more nurturing and caring, but you can take immediate steps toward this goal. Having a good customer experience is clearly an important component of generating repeat business, but coupling the experience with a personal relationship is key to long-term loyalty and generating incremental repeat business.

Richard Shapiro is founder and president of The Center for Client Retention.