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Mining Your Existing Customer Base
 
Let me start with a preface. Those companies that REALLY want to earn my money... those are the companies I want to work with, those that go up and beyond. My mother use to call it, "The extra mile." These are the companies that stick out in your mind for something different that they did.

Below I list 3 examples of Memorable Service... however, memories aren't ALL good. I've listed some examples that can be learned from... 1 isn't so great, 1 is kinda neat, 1 is 50/50.

A few different examples...

1- I called Dell recently to order a new server for my company. Well, let me back up. I placed an order over the internet and there was an issue with the order, so I called Dell to figure it out. Initially, I felt like the call went well. A rep got me pointed in the right direction... but, then... round and round and round. I got stuck in one of those never ending menus that you can never get out of. Finally I must have hit the "WRONG" key because another rep gets on the line... then asks me the exact same questions as before... and attempts to direct me to the same menu system... LOL

MAN... Finally I told the gal... just 3 way me... please. I got to a SALES person this time and (to digress briefly) come to find out that my account with Dell had been flagged as some... "Corporate Gold Special Potato Chip with Chocolate Syrup" account. WOOHOO! Um... guess what? That means I have an assigned sales rep. Only 1 person in the whole entire world is allowed to sell me Dell stuff. Um... the guy was sick that day... and I needed my server... NO MATTER WHAT I DID... this sales rep gal would NOT sell me a server. I think Michael Dell would be interested in hearing that I was unable to give them my money... anyway... I'm a tad bit more sneaky than that. So I call back and set up a new account under a different DBA and order my server anyway. *sigh* needless to say, I wasn't happy with Dell that day.

2- I called to order Pizza and the OWNER picks up the phone and man could I hear over the phone he was cheerful... so, I chit chatted with him about business (was a big car show in town and he was swamped)... but even under the pressure he was cheery and you could hear it. He told me it would be about an hour... and no big deal I was suppressing the wife and kids... so, an hour was fine with me. But then it's an hour and 30 and the kids start to get hungry... so I call the place... "Oh it's on its way..."

2 hours 15 min and I call again... "Oh she couldn't find your house." Now... in today's age... when everyone in the world carries cell phones... why couldn't someone have called me when they were 2 min from my home to ask for the final directions... I ended up making home made pizza for the kids that night myself... but it was kinda... I don't know... the lack of follow-through that really ate at me that day. Granted they were busy and some amount of leniency was needed. I still think it crossed the line.

3- I love it when someone goes the extra mile. On the Carnival Fantasy Cruise liner they do something extra fun. Those keeping your cabin will fold the wash cloths into little animals on your pillow. For me... I just picked it up and tossed it aside after glancing at it... but, my wife will remember that to this day... rants about it to the kids.

I'll always remember that Dell assigns you 1 sales rep when you meet some high level corporate requirements which in reality only limit my ability to run my business.

I'll always remember that that Pizza guy was so cheerful... and next time to give a lot more land marks so they can find my house.

I'll always remember the funny towel animals on the Cruise she and I took.

In addition on a side note, one of the things I dislike the most... is waiting on hold.... forever listening to advertisements or terrible music or never ending menus... I really just want to talk to a human being. I talk to a lot of companies and particularly I notice how bad they want my business by their phone system and attitude when I call. I think you've all been in situations... and I am sure this has brought back some interesting experiences for some.

Additionally, I want to share with you something I do in my business. No, I'm not making a advertisement. It's something I have found useful and I want to share.

I ALWAYS answer my phone when you call. Well... 99.9% between 9am and 9pm. I have done away with a receptionist and answer my own calls for many reasons... mostly because I want to talk to my clients directly.

However, what I wanted to share with you 2 things that in practice has really paid off.

First, I'll put whoever I have on hold (briefly) and will take the incoming call. I really do not want my clients getting a Voice Mail box... I want to answer... tell them I am on the other line, that they are important to me, and that I will call them back as soon as I can.

I always make sure to tell my clients as I am working with them that I will periodically interrupt our conversation to take the other line. This guarantees that if it is ever them calling... I will be sure not to miss their call. I've found that 95% of my clients really appreciate this.

On the flip side, I have a few clients who think that's what VM was made for. *chuckle* and while they appreciate the fact that 99.9% of the time they got a hold of me... they don't see the flip side value when we are discussing their project at length and I interrupt them for an incoming call.

I'm sure there are a zillion thoughts on this... and I've about heard them all over the years. However, on whole my clients just love the fact that I answer my phones almost every time they call.

Second, I spend a great deal of time with perspective clients establishing a relationship. When I first started doing this about 6 years ago many would ask me why I spent so much time with them... I would simple reply because I want to take care of you and make sure you are headed in the right direction.

In a recent Introduction made by the CEO of a company I was the Key Note speaker for their national convention... he recalled the first few times he called me. He mentioned that while he was busy writing everything I was saying... he also wondered in the back of his mind how I made any money, because as he recalled at that point in time he purchased an MLM software solution from another company. He went on to say, that in our conversation I gave him more respect, more time, and more help than anyone had given him to that point.

Two years later he called me again. This time his company was established and growing nicely (you likely all know the company). He needed a marketing system with email follow-up for his distributors, and he never forgot our conversation. He asked me about our WebTech2K solution. We have since developed a relationship with this company in providing a solid marketing system for them and a lead source that has generated my company tens of thousands of dollars... headed to the hundreds of thousands.

The interesting thing is some times clients never call back, but the ones that do are customers for life.

Both of these I think boil down to 1 thing. Relationships!

I want my clients to know that they are PERSONALLY important to me, that the success of their company is something I take seriously and have a sincere interest in.

The internet has become a very cold place. Using the internet as a tool to develop relationships is (I believe) the key to my success. Huge lists are nice... 100K, 1M, 10M faceless names getting my ad is one thing... 100-1K-10K people who know I care about them personally is something FAR more valuable.

We often times look so hard at the #'s we forget that there are real people that those number represent. I truly believe in putting relationships back into marketing.

Good Luck on your Journey,
Mel Atwood

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