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When business is slow, the finger pointing starts. The economy, the government, even your staff can be made scapegoats but the customer experience starts and ends with you.

An entrepreneur and small business leader herself, Fiona Adler is in the unique position of seeing business from the customer’s perspective on a daily basis. Founder of the review website, womo.com.au said that all too often business owners lose customers without even noticing.

“Rather than focusing your efforts on chasing new customers, looking at why customers aren’t returning can be eye-opening,” Adler said.

Adler outlined her six most common reasons why customers leave:

1. You were being difficult

“If you are too hard to contact, don’t answer the phone, or never have room in your schedule, then customers will get over you,” Adler said. “Most people lead very busy lives and if a customer puts aside time to call up to make a booking, but can’t lock it in within a reasonable timeframe, most are not going to work around you. They are on the phone now calling someone else because clearly it is just too difficult!”

2. They felt unloved

Customers need to feel they are important to you and not just another number. “Pay them more attention, listen to them, constantly reassure them that you can give them what they want,” Adler said. “It comes down to your customer service attitude, but remembering (or tracking) their name, likes, dislikes and interests can go a long way to show you care.”

There are simple, low-cost gestures to make customers feel loved: send them an e-card on their birthday, offer special occasion discounts such as on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Simple as they are, they all add up to make customers feel happy and most importantly, will keep your brand on their radar.

3. They were seduced by someone else

Existing customers are the foundation of small businesses. “It’s often said that for many businesses 20% of customers produce 80% of their revenue,” Adler commented.

“Too often businesses are offering promotions for new customers without focusing enough on existing and loyal customers. More importantly, you can safely assume your competitors are trying to woo your customers with fabulous offers too. If you don’t give customers a reason to be loyal, they’ll soon start looking around at other offers and could easily be seduced by a better deal.”

4. They didn’t know you could do that!

Unless you constantly promote your entire range of offerings, chances are that even your best customers won’t know about everything you can do. Adler gives the example: “A customer may get their dog washed by Business A, but will go to a dog-sitter (Business B) when they go on holiday. Business B is great to deal with and it turns out that they also do great dog washing. Pity that Business A didn’t let their customer know they also provide dog-sitting services.”

5. You assumed you knew what the customer wanted

Do your research, and seek out what people are saying about you online. “What are your competitors offering? How are people responding to them? It’s important to listen and adapt to build a positive reputation,” Adler said.

6. The grass seemed greener elsewhere

“To continually impress your customers, you need to ‘wow’ them regularly,” Adler said, adding: “You need to look good, provide fabulous service, please them with your price points, and always keep things new and fresh. If you play old music in your shop, leave a mess, have employees take no pride in their physical appearance, your customers will be bored and unimpressed – which of course results in them looking towards greener pastures. Don’t fall into the trap of regarding customers as ‘just a regular’ – aim to ‘wow’ everyone who walks through your door.”

7. They forgot about you

“Remember, people are busy and have a lot on their plates. They won’t necessarily remember that you did a great job of fixing their car last year, so it’s up to you to keep yourself front of mind,” Adler said. “Remember to call, email, or send a letter reminding them that you looked after them last season or last month, and that you’re available for them again. Unless you follow up, chances are they’ll be looking around for another supplier. Set up a program of regular communication and your customer retention will improve dramatically.”

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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