What will happen if your top sales person walks out the door? Will your customers (or clients) follow?

Have you experienced instances where a sales person took a customer list when he or she left? I have, and I see it regularly. And it isn’t just sales people who do it.  Professionals who you would normally consider to be well above average on the “integrity meter” are quite adept at it too.

Who “owns” the customer?

I guess the first thing to examine is whether they are your customers, or customers of your employee? Imagine that you spend good money from your revenue streams to attract customers so that your business can grow. You employ staff; sales people to win the business and trained staff to deal with the customers and to convert the opportunity into cash. You provide a place for your staff to work and you provide the resources they need to do their job.  Your staff work for you and you reward them well in return.

Would you then provide a competitor with all your data? Would it make sense to provide those competitors with access to your computer systems and database?

And is that any different than allowing your employees to walk away with that information, and subsequently use it to damage your business?

We know it happens, but how do you minimise the impact and keep your customers loyal to you?

A good place to start is with watertight employment contracts. Let’s call that “the stick”.

The more lasting solution is “the carrot”.

I guess we have all read a lot about the negativity that comes with the notion of “the stick”, and that leads us to wonder if it really works. What happens if your customer decides they want to go too? Can you stop them? Your contracts may well stop your former employee from “poaching” them, but it won’t stop your customer from following or looking elsewhere.

So, that leads us to the carrot. “The carrot” is the lure that keeps your customers interested in you and your business. It creates a binding loyalty that transcends individuals. It helps to create your “brand” and loyalty to the brand.

Trusted Brands

Sceptical? I was too, until I realised that after all these years, and despite goodness knows how many changes in personnel, I still have the same opinion of many trusted brands that I had twenty years ago.

If I want a soft drink, the first thing I think of is Coke. Not Pepsi. And who cares who sells it?

When I think about buying a car, my mind turns to Holden. Why? It’s a familiarity thing. For some people it’s Ford. I have had plenty of Holdens and they have always met my expectations. If I had a bigger budget, my choice might well be Audi, BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes. Lexus is also on the radar. Do I know the owners of any of these companies? Do I know the salesman? Do I really care?

There is little doubt that a business that is built on personal relationships will create personal support. As a result, the departure of the key people will have a bigger impact than the changing of the guard in a well branded company. And that is one reason a well branded and well-run company will withstand a change personnel and will eventually sell at a premium.

Easy to say

Easy to say, but is it easy to do? Like everything, it does need a bit of effort, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Here are a few thoughts.

  1. Make it your business to let your customers know who you are, and then keep in touch. Write a personal letter of welcome (snail mail or email) and let them know that you have a team of people working to meet your customers’ needs. Mention a couple by name to personalise the experience with a wider number of contacts. Follow up periodically to ensure they are getting what they want from your business.
  2.  Create a culture of customer focus throughout your whole organisation. Use and maintain a Customer Management and Contact system. Ensure everyone updates it at every opportunity. When everyone understands that it is the customer who is the focus of everything they do, dealing with your business becomes an experience they won’t forget.
  3. Take advantage of the low cost technology that is available to make contact with your customers in the way that they want. Provide them with relevant and interesting information. Not just about what you are doing with them right now, but also provide them with other interesting and important information.

There is ample evidence that supports these simple ideas on how to bring your customers to you rather than your employees.

accross business is able to help you make sure your customers stick.