I know why you lost your club members. I know why your customers fade away. I know why your attendence is down, why your clubs aren't full, why your advertisements garner no response.
This is a touchy topic. Nobody likes losing a customer for any reason, but it's even worse when you find out they've changed to another demonstrator. And it stings all the more if you find out it's someone in your group. I will undoubtedly step on a few toes here with my conclusions.
Let me just insert here that this article has been a long, long time in the making, so if you're local to me, please don't think I'm talking about ANY one specific situation.
Contrary to what many demonstrators conclude when this happens to them, it's not "my" fault. It's not because I am so much more talented, or have more resources to spend, or lavish more time on what I do. I'm not prettier or funnier or more socially connected than you. I don't undercut your prices, steal your mailing list, or badmouth you behind your back.
I don't agressively OR passively go after your people.
It has nothing to do with me personally, at all.
So what makes your customers wind up contributing to my annual sales instead of yours? Because they are. You may or may not be aware of it, but I gain your customers every month. They're curious, you see. They want to know if all demonstrators are alike. If they all run their clubs the same way. If anyone else out there is providing fresh and up to date inspiration.
The answer is so simple. It's customer service.
Which, I am finding out, a larger majority of demonstrators do not make a priority in their businesses. Consider these quotes from actual customers new to me in the past couple years:
"I am switching to you... thought if you were the one answering my questions, you should be the one getting my orders."
"I need to order downloads and print products, but my demo doesn't have a web store and is not willing to get one so I will be ordering from you from now on."
"I have gone to stamp club for three years and I can't believe I didn't know how to use this... I learned more in one night from you than I did in a whole year from her."
"We've asked and asked her to take the projects up a notch, but every month we do exactly the same thing. We want cards we couldn't think up on our own."
"I'm so bored of such-and-such stamp set. My former demo used it every single month and we were all so sick of it. She never ordered anything new."
"Wow, your catalogs are free? Awesome. What is a mini catalog? I've never heard of them. There is a sale this month? My demo never shared any of this with me!"
I provide GOOD customer service. I make no apologies for this. Customer service is king. Like most things in my life, I go after it 110%, because that's just who I am. For me, that means three things:
- constantly looking for ways to better my systems,
- keep them thrilled with the products and feeling personally cared about,
- giving them no reason not to be loyal.
Customer service is so much more than just making sure you place and deliver their orders on time. It's also about making sure you offer events that appeal to a wide variety of people. It's about staying abreast of announcements and informing customers about promotions in a timely fashion. It's about educating yourself on the products we carry so you can answer people's questions. Having an online presence. Communicating through different forms knowing that one size doesn't fit all. Looking for new and adorable things to share instead of the same old, same old.
The easy way out here is for you to blame the demonstrator that your customers have migrated to. To close your ears to even the barest whisper of a thought that it might have been in any way your fault that your club was bored and repeatedly asked for more challenging projects. To shut your eyes to the fact that you no longer stay on top of announcements and news, that you don't buy anything unless it's in your personal style, that you haven't actively looked for new ideas/techniques/products to share in months, or maybe even years.
Or to tell yourself that "some things you just can't control." Yes, that is true. People move, get sick, change jobs or simply quit hobbies. But don't let the possibility of that blind you to the fact that there are MANY things you CAN control about your customers bleeding away, which brings the potential responsibility right back to your doorstep.
It's easy to say those things to yourself, yes. That's because it hurts. Even worse than it hurts to think that someone else has "stolen" your customers, it hurts to think you may have fallen down on your job. Let yourself go. Stopped being "hungry."
A business built on anything less than integrity will not stand. So my challenge to you today is to be honest with yourself when you look at this topic. Simply face this truth:
If you have lost some customers, it could be your fault. Please note that I'm not saying it IS, for sure, entirely your fault, but just admit to yourself in the honesty and privacy of your own heart, that it could be your customer service levels have slipped. That there could be things that you could change to reverse this trend. That there could be some steps you could take to make sure you don't find your ranks thinning again. That a renewed committment to customer service could be in order.
I believe that a word to the wise is all it takes. Once you've opened up your mind to the possibility that you could be at least partially responsible for poor customer retension, then you've also freed up your fabulously creative brain for the task of figuring out what to do to halt that process.
I've used this anonymous quote before: "The good news is, you're responsible for the success or failure of your own business. The bad news is, your're responsible for the success or failure of your own business." And I'll tell you what. If your customer service stinks, you're going to be responsible for the failure of your own business, whether you blame someone else, or not.
Customer service is a huge topic, and there have been and will be other and better articles on this subject. But I hope you've taken today's post in the spirit in which it was intended. Bottom line? I don't want your customers. I'll take them if they come to me, because people deserve good customer service and more lovely stampy inspiration than any ten people can use in a year. If they don't find it from me, they'll find it from someone else. So I'll show them how a professional representative of Stampin' Up treats the people who make her job possible, and they'll reward me by turning to me for their papercrafting needs.
Decide today to do what is in your power to retain customers. Don't allow yourself to place blame or make excuses. I can't imagine less healthy behaviors for your business. Don't be discouraged if you're back at square one again. You built this and you can keep it going, and embracing this tough eye-opener moment in your business could be a game-changer if you let it.
Dream BIG, friend!