Successful business owners are focused on taking care of their customers. They wake up every day with buyers on their minds.
These entrepreneurs have worked long hours to win customers and now labor to retain and increase their buying activities. This attitude typifies the best entrepreneurs.
Intelligent business builders view customers as their lifeblood and greatly value loyal patrons. Entrepreneurs recognize that every dollar a client spends provides the revenue to cover expenses, produce a profit and keep them in business. They appreciate and respect the people who shop with them.
Wise managers understand the lifetime value of customer purchases. Dollars collected from clients, on a regular basis, become a reliable flow of cash that can be significant over time.
Consider a family that buys pizza from the same store each week. In general terms, a frequent lover of cheese and pepperoni might spend well over $500 per year. Over time, this equates to several thousand dollars.
To keep these greenbacks rolling in, the pizza store owner has a single focus: Encourage loyal patrons to continue buying. He accomplishes this by delivering real value to shoppers.
Every purchase involves several elements in the buying process. Consumers will always evaluate whether they have bought the best product at the right price with appropriate service, warranty and support. They are also inclined to ask themselves, "Did I have a pleasant buying experience?"
A merchant's goal is to ensure that each element in the buying process receives the highest customer valuation to keep the consumer happy and willing to make referrals. I believe that customers will buy and buy again if they see and feel real value.
I have found the most important element is the buying experience itself. I think of it as the human interaction that occurs between the buyer and the seller before, during and after the purchase. It might be described as the emotions we experience during the process. Are we treated fairly, honestly, and kindly? Do we feel appreciated, valued, honored and respected? Or do we sense contempt, ill will and lack of attention?
When I ask an audience of consumers about this critical element, nearly every person tells me they have had significant negative purchasing experiences. Few relate any positive encounters.
Do these consumers want to return to these businesses? Even if the product and price receive high marks, if the buying experience is sour, customers are reluctant to return for more punishment.
Consider two different national companies: Nordstrom, which consistently receives wonderful reviews for superior products and service, and Netflix, which lost 800,000 customers last summer.
Nordstrom is always ranked as one of the best department stores in the country in terms of value to customers. Management believes in taking care of people throughout the buying experience.
The mission and culture of the company is to appreciate and serve loyal patrons. Need to return something that doesn't fit or you dislike, even after wearing it? Nordstrom will take it back, no questions asked. Are there friendly and attentive personnel to assist buyers? Absolutely.
On the other hand, last year Netflix customers who love to watch Hollywood's latest via the Internet screamed as the company increased its monthly subscription price by 60 percent.
"Where's the love?" they cried. Management did not address the price increase with consumers in a thoughtful manner, and thousands of customers felt betrayed.
There are powerful lessons to be learned from the behavior of both companies. In my view, the customer is always king.
Savvy entrepreneurs keep customers happy and returning for more by delivering exceptional products and great service. If you are running a business today, ask yourself this question, "What value would shoppers give my buying process?"
Hopefully, you know their response.
Consumers will honestly tell you what they think and how they feel. Your job is to listen and respond quickly to improve the overall buying experience.
You can reach me at @AskAlanEHall, at www.AlanEHall.com or from the new Grow America website at www.GrowAm.com.