April 9 2018 06:00 AM

A customer who sees you treating his problems as your own may become a customer for life.

When it comes to running your green industry business it is vital that you and your team are “brilliant on the basics.”

The funny thing is that usually means simply doing the things your competitors are just too lazy to do.

Oh, they may have started out doing them when they first opened their doors, but over the years they’ve became complacent or apathetic. Don’t let this happen to you and your team.

Here are three simple strategies that when practiced can be the keys to getting and keeping lifetime clients.

STRATEGY 01 Names are important. A few months ago, I walked into my credit union. As I waited in line, I noticed one of the tellers was new.

Whenever there is a new teller it makes me aware that there will be a short period of time for that person to get to know me.

Once this young lady got my account number, she immediately used my name. On my next visit, the same thing happened.

By my third visit, she called me by name as I walked up to the window; she didn’t even need to look at my account number to know who I was. This kind of treatment made me feel important and respected. It is one of the reasons I’ve been a member of this credit union since 1983.

Do you know the names of most of your clients? As Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Research has shown that there is a particular feel-good reaction that takes place in our brains when we hear our name spoken.

If you and your team members are not regularly using the names of your clients, you are missing out on a strategy that can help build a lasting relationship with them.

An easy way to get and use a customer’s name, if you or your employees don’t remember it, is to read it off his or her invoice, work order, check or credit card.

When in doubt, simply ask. An easy way to do this is to use the fill-in-the-blank method. It works like this: “My name is Tom Borg, and your name is?” Once you get that person’s name, use it in the conversation a few times. It also helps to write down the names of the customers you have the most trouble remembering. Review the list from time to time.

You’ll be surprised and delighted at how easily you’ll be able to build a sincere rapport with your clients.

STRATEGY 02 Become a problem solver. Some time ago, I was flying back to Detroit on Delta Airlines. At a stopover in Knoxville, Tennessee, I checked in at the airline counter and got the bad news: from the time I’d boarded my originating flight in Dallas, my baggage had been mistakenly routed to Chicago.

Realizing there were only a few minutes before my next flight would be leaving, I anxiously asked the agent if my baggage could possibly be transferred to this flight.

He said, “Mr. Borg, (I like being called by name) I’ll see what I can do.” He then left the counter and still hadn’t returned when the final boarding call was given.

You can imagine how reluctantly I boarded my connecting flight. I sat there anxiously waiting for the plane to leave without my baggage. Then the pilot announced that our flight would be momentarily delayed while they transferred a passenger’s bag. Imagine my surprise when the passenger door suddenly opened, and in walked the gate agent I’d spoken to earlier. He looked around the airplane, spotted me sitting in my seat and came over.

As he knelt down next to me, I could see beads of sweat on his forehead. (I knew he had been up to something!) In a very low voice he said, “Mr. Borg, I want you to know that I’ve personally transferred your bag to this plane. You will be able to pick it up in baggage claim in Detroit. Have a great flight and thanks for flying Delta.”

Sure enough, after landing in Detroit, my bag was the first one to arrive on the conveyor belt. Now that’s what I call service! This agent figured out a solution to my dilemma. He was a problem solver.

How about in your green industry business? Where and how can you and your team become problem solvers for your clients?

By becoming a problem solver, you are communicating to them that you value them as human beings as well as clients. As you make your clients’ satisfaction a priority, you and your team become more valuable to them.

STRATEGY 03 Value the little customer. Some time ago I called a company about installing a split-rail fence on our residential property. A representative stopped over, gave me a price and remarked that it was a “minimum-sized job.” The agreement was signed, and I was promised that work would begin as soon as I obtained a permit.

I promptly obtained it, called the fencing company and left a message for the salesman to notify the crew to begin work as soon as possible.

This didn’t happen, and my repeated calls ended in frustration. Evidently, the salesman had placed my job low on his priority list. Despite my numerous calls, he never bothered to arrange for the work to be done.

Borg’s rule: Never ignore a small order. It can cost you big money.

Just because an order is of minimal cost to a customer doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be important to you. Let’s examine the psychology behind that rule.

First, even though the job that I requested was small, it could have been the beginning of a relationship that would bring in repeat, additional and referral business to that fencing company. Second, like every one of your clients, that customer knows other people and will tell them if your service or product is poor.

Ultimately, a bad experience with a company can have major consequences. If someone I know is looking for a fencing company for their residence or business, I won’t be recommending this one.

According to research, both happy and unhappy customers talk to friends and acquaintances about their experiences. On average, a customer will tell five to seven other people of a good experience he’s had with a particular business or organization.

Good word-of-mouth advertising is free and results from delivering good products and service. But an unhappy customer will tell even more people — an average of nine to 16 others — about poor service he or she has received. Bad service equals bad word-of-mouth and lots of it.

Need I also mention that we’re living in the era of online review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List? A bad review on one of these sites — earned or not — might live forever on the global wordof-mouth community that is the internet.

How can we avoid offending a client who has a small order? First and foremost, train your employees to give the same kind of service to that client as they would to one with a large order.

If that’s impossible because your company is just too busy, I suggest you find a couple other similar businesses that you feel comfortable referring this type of client to. By doing this, you will give the client the kind of service and respect he or she deserves. This will leave a positive impression with him and generate positive word of mouth for you.

There you have it. Three proven strategies to improve your client service and build your business.

Now that you know these strategies, make sure you and your team go out and use them.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, speaking, training and mentoring. He can be reached at 734.404.5909 or at tom@tomborg.com, or visit www.tomborgconsulting.com.