An average business hears from only about 4 percent of unhappy customers. The other 96 percent don’t complain – they just go somewhere else.

customer service

The fundamental challenge facing manufacturers and distributors today is this: What does it take to keep customers happy and satisfied enough to come back next time?

Building strategic relationships, encouraging customer loyalty and building value in products or services are some of the most basic concepts of modern management.

Most organizations spend a considerable amount of time and effort looking for ways to attract new customers. But they sometimes ignore what it takes to keep their current customers coming back.

Experts say that businesses get 80 percent of their profits from 20 percent of their customers. And it is much more expensive to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.

If you aren’t focusing on building customer loyalty, you may be missing out on repeat business.

What can manufacturers and distributors do to get customers coming back again and again? Here are five universal points to consider:

  • Think like a customer – One way to keep your customers happy is to think like a customer. You may not be a consumer of your own products, but you are a consumer of other goods and services. What do you look for when you pay for a similar service? When you purchase something, what do you expect? And don’t forget to say Thanks! Just like you, customers will be more likely to come back again if they feel appreciated. And remember, price is usually not your customers’ top concern. If you position your product strictly on price, you will probably lose to a company with a lower price.
  • Survey your customers – Keeping your customers happy starts with knowing what your customers want. Many companies don’t spend the time to ask – but they should. Research published in Harvard Business Review reached the conclusion that the simple fact of asking customers how a company was performing by itself proved to be a great customer retention strategy.
  • Validate your customers – After a customer has done business with you, validate their choice by making sure they know that they made the right decision to do business with you. Reinforcing their choice is your opportunity to stand out. If you do something different from the competition, make sure the customer knows about it. Educate your customers about topics and benefits related to your product. Be sure they hear about other attractive aspects, such as your community service or your environmentally friendly "green" initiatives, which will validate their decision to do business with you.
  • Create a demanding customer – If your customers were to go to your competition, would they expect, or even demand, the same level of service that they get from you? Your goal is to create a demanding customer so that, if they receive anything less from your competition, they quickly realize they would be better off doing business with you. Spoil your customers by establishing a level of service that is standard for you but better than your competition.
  • Put the “care” in customer care – Customers don’t do business with your company; they do business with the people who represent your company. If you truly care about your customers, make sure they know you mean it. For instance, don’t just pass a customer problem on to someone else (“It’s not my department”). Shepherd the process and advocate for quick resolution. After all, you are the person that received the original complaint, and it’s your responsibility to see it through to the end. The more you truly care about your customers, the more likely it is that they will care about you the next time they need your product or service.

A variety of studies focus on building customer loyalty, and these are just a few of the techniques that will help you keep your customers happy.

If you maintain a customer focus and pay attention to customer feedback, you will take important steps in keeping them coming back for more.