An award-winning contractor in Savannah, Georgia, (who also happens to be my award-winning brother) wrote a great example of why customer service skills are crucial to business:
“In my business (home construction and remodeling), I have many accounts with different suppliers supporting the construction industry. Sometimes I use their services and then will not see them again for 8 to 12 months or whenever my next project requires. When I do return to order new supplies, some companies have let my account ‘run out,’ and I have to apply for a new account with them all over again.
“I ask why they don’t send a card letting me know that my account has become dormant, and is about to be closed? Perhaps they could offer me an incentive to return and make a purchase instead of just ‘letting me go.’ After all, they already have me as a good customer, just not very frequent. I just thought this might be happening in other industries as well.”
This is a great question, and a terrific point for anyone seeking to grow their business. Once a company has the benefit of receiving a customer’s business, it makes no sense to close the account simply because the customer has not ordered from you in a while—even a long while. Unless there is substantial cost to keeping an account open, you should allow the customer to return at any time, and welcome them back with enthusiasm. This is just a basic application of good customer service skills.
Remember, once a customer has purchased from you, they will have become familiar with your products, your location, your ordering system and the way you do business. If they have opened an account, then additional time has been invested in completing paperwork and going through the new-account approval process. This person has invested time, energy and money in becoming your customer. Why in the world would you be in a hurry to close their account? This lack of customer service skills can hurt your business in the long run.
Instead of closing the account, take my brother’s advice; apply good customer service skills and move in a positive direction. Send dormant accounts a letter asking, “How are you? We haven’t heard from you in a while and we miss you!” Provide an incentive, a discount or other special offer to get these customers back into your business. Put a reasonable expiration date on the offer to encourage prompt response. Let them know you want them back, and that you will appreciate and value their business. Using good customer service skills like this can earn you repeat business.
Note: If you must, tell customers their account will go on dormant status by a certain date. This is acceptable and still puts solid customer service skills in the spotlight. But also tell them that reactivating the account will be easy to do whenever they are ready.
You will be amazed at the profitability of your efforts toward applying sound customer service skills. Customers will be delighted by your show of concern, generosity and attention. Don’t assume your customers are “dead.” Stir them back to life!
Key Learning Point for Customer Service Skills When accounts go quiet, don’t assume the customer is going away. Use excellent customer service skills to find out what is going on. They may be waiting, occupied with something else, or have simply forgotten where you are or how to reach you! One effort at reactivation can make the difference between a customer who comes once and disappears forever, and a customer who comes once, is invited back and stays with you forever.
Action Steps for Customer Service Skills
Identify customers you have not heard from in a while, long enough to be considered dormant, decidedly dull or dead. Now create a simple process to contact these customers and tell them you want them back. Give them an incentive to do business with you in the very near future. You will be glad you exercised exceptional customer service skills!
Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission.