Are you taking care of your existing customers?

In the world of marketing and public relations, we talk a lot about ways to get more customers to choose our business over the competition, but one thing we often neglect is maintaining the relationships we have already built.

We have all heard horror stories of companies that lose their customer service personnel and leave a gaping hole between the company and its customers. It’s a fact of being in business that staff members leave—whether it be for one reason or another. An abrupt change in personnel can pose serious challenges during the time it takes to hire someone new, but it should not mean the customer experience should be compromised.

Losing a valuable employee is hard enough, so it’s important to make sure we do not lose valuable customers in the process. If a customer sends an e-mail to a consultant, someone should be ready to respond, even if that consultant has moved on; phone calls shouldn’t be met with a generic out-of-office response with no follow up; people in the office shouldn’t act clueless when fielding questions about client accounts. Simply put, the system shouldn’t break down for the customer.

In talking to colleagues, I’ve discussed the difference between institutionalized strategies versus personalized strategies. A personalized strategy is specific to a single person, one that will disappear when he or she leaves the company. This is hazardous because it means that once that person is gone, so is the strategy.

It’s important to let our staff members develop solid relationships with customers, but we have to make sure that the rapport translates to the business as a whole and not just to a singular individual. Instead of a strictly personalized strategy, it is a good idea to institutionalize what our staff members develop with clients.

The best way to do this is to keep a good record of what the customer’s needs are and how to best address them. When someone leaves, or staff moves around, the company should be able to respond and adjust to give clients what they have come to expect: great customer service.

By staying in touch with our customers on a company-wide basis, we can much more easily address their concerns as our staff changes and make sure we are providing the level of service they expect.

And frankly, that’s just good public relations! Providing our existing clients with consistently excellent service can only serve to enhance our brand and make way for future clientele. Being attentive to our current customers’ needs can also help us understand how we can adjust for potential new clients as well.

In this economy, it’s important to take a moment and be thankful for the customers we can count on and consider ways to make sure they stick with us, and part of building relationships with new customers is taking care of the ones that already exist.