Building customer loyalty in the printing world starts with relationships. Don’t think you are a commodity or a retailer because you are not. Print buyers like to buy from people they like and can connect with. Here are five practical things to consider to build loyalty. It is the little stuff that matters.
1) Take time to get to know the print buyer. Use their name during conversations, but don’t make it canned. People love to hear their name when genuine. It is easier to show empathy when you know your customer beyond print. Get to know their personal life such as children, anniversaries, food they like, hobbies. Some of my best customers had so many things in common with me and we could share wonderful time together and enjoyed each other’s company.
2) Be happy even when you feel down. No one likes to hang out with Eeyore. I much rather hang out with Tigger. I know that physical pain drains us, family issues challenge our outlook, chemical imbalances fight our abilities to stay positive, but if you are serving customers you need to put that aside.
Example, after bringing my car to an auto repair shop for 10 years I learned that the receptionist was on chemotherapy for cancer the past 5 years and will be on it the rest of her life. WOW, I never even knew until one day she did something strange and I asked her how she was doing. She always asked me and I felt we had a relationship enough to ask her. It gave me more respect for her and the company.
3) Think like a customer. Sounds basic, but it drives people nuts to hear “That is company policy.” or “That is how we do it here.” Bend the rules can go a long way to make customers feel unique and special.
Example: My six year old daughter had to really go a few weeks ago. You know what I mean. I went to three places in a strip mall and all said “no”, we don’t have public restrooms, but you can go to the Dunkin Donuts down the road. It was 3 miles away! I hate to say it, but she let loose in the parking lot near their dumpster. I knew she would not make it. I have boycotted all three places.
4) Appreciating your customers and letting them know it. Not the “thanks for the order” type appreciation, but the “Thank you for the lead, thank you for getting back to me, thank you for your patience, thank you for your flexibility, thank you, thank you, thank you. We don’t thank enough. In the internet age it is easy to just send an e-mail. Try sending a hand written note in the mail. It is memorable.
Example, I received a hand written note five years ago from an older woman I helped by just raking her leaves while her husband was sick. It was personal and just beautifully written. I will never forget the time she took in saying thank you.
5) Think “other centered”. What I mean by this is to keep in mind that most of us have less time than when we were in high school. Be efficient with the time you use when communicating with customers. Schedule around them, email, text message, phone, face to face when it makes sense to them or when the end product will be better for them. I know time is money, but too often people try to sell or solve problems remotely with the age of technology and there is a balance. I believe we have shifted way too far to the impersonal side of communicating. I use technology quite a bit, but there is a time to meet people face to face.
Example, Dean Harrington, the president of a successful mortgage banking business called Shamrock Financial, invited me to a wine drinking group meeting last week. There is a group of 50 or so wine lovers who get together once a month for lunch, bring a bottle of their favorite wine, and share about two hours together. I had a ball talking wine, sharing laughs, and connecting. The group was fun to be with. They checked out of the technology world for a couple hours to just chat. Don’t under-estimate face time in a relationship building business like print.
Good luck building loyalty and hopefully you pick one of these areas and make a conscious effort to try something different or re-energize relationships with a customer you may not have been connecting with lately.