7 Steps to More Customer Referrals

Referrals can be the key for your business to succeed in a tough economy.

One of the best ways to increase revenue and profits in a tough economy is to get more new customers who are already sold on your product, service or brand. These customers can be hugely profitable because they require very little marketing or sales costs. By the time they reach your door they have already heard good things about your business and they are interested in learning more. If handle them right a high percentage will become customers with little effort on your part.

Here are seven things you can do to increase customer referrals at your business. They’re not complicated and they won’t cost you a fortune. And if you do them well and consistently, they’ll help you build a better business.

1. Talk to your customers.

Have real person-to-person conversations with as many customers as you can. If you have a lot of customers relative to your employees, then you’ll need to prioritize. Find ways to have real, meaningful and ongoing conversations with them.

This might mean inviting some to lunch. It might mean hosting get-togethers at your business. It might start with a survey and end with a phone call or a meeting. For others it might be virtual conversations using email or Web 2.0 tools.

2. Serve their needs.

Of course you’re doing this to make your company better. But everything you do in your customer referral effort needs to be useful from your customer’s perspective. Educate them while you engage them.

3. Engage your customers.

Find multiple ways to get your customers involved. For some people, just a regular phone call or lunch will be enough. For others you might get their help finding solutions to challenges you’re facing (using brainstorming or other facilitated meetings). Create communities for your customers to participate in. Forums and blogs are great for this. Software and online companies have done this for years but so can small businesses.

4. Get your employees involved.

Let your employees participate. Don’t script them or micro-manage their involvement. Let them get to know your customers and vice-versa. The more your customers know and like your employees, the more likely they will tell others to do business with you.

5. Hire customer friendly.

You can train, teach and coach a lot of things but being friendly is not one of them. And beyond just friendly, you should look for employees who make a habit of focusing on the customer, who go out of their way to take care of customer’s needs. One of the best ways to do this is to keep your eyes open when you are a customer. When you meet people who are very good, tell them what you do. Start a relationship so if they look for other work they might call you.

6. Post reminders.

This sounds basic but it works. Make posters of the top things your customers want from you. Include your “customer service standards” so everyone knows what the expectations are. Place them around your business so everyone can see them. Also, use post-it notes, emails, customer service calendars and any other fun ways you can think of to refresh your employee’s memories.

7. Celebrate good news.

When customers give you and your staff good feedback, share it. Have a party! Let all your staff know about it. Show your employees how important it is. Post it where people will see it. Send emails. Talk about it at staff meetings.

When your is driven by service, your customers will notice. And they’ll like it. Serve them well and they’ll keep coming back. Even better, they’ll tell their friends too!

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