Small businesses putting their heart into attracting customers

Romance is not confined to Valentine’s Day for UK small businesses, with over a third admitting to flirting with customers to increase profits, a new survey has revealed.

The research, conducted by Microsoft, found that 34 per cent of firms sweet-talked customers into parting with their money, with many prepared to go even further to increase takings.

One in three of those quizzed said that they would send cards to customers, while 19 per cent were prepared to buy gifts or flowers for valuable clients.

Half said that would go out for a meal with a customer, while 22 per cent were even prepared to invite a client to a wedding or birthday party.

Christine Webber, a relationship consultant, said that there are many lessons that businesses can take from the art of romance.

“Nowadays, we all have horror stories to tell of large corporations – like some major banks – that have completely de-personalised their treatment of customers.

“But what we all value – whether it’s in our personal relationship or in business are the three ‘C’s’ – care concern and courtesy.

“So, apply everything you know about building relationships to your business life and you’ll be more successful – and your customers will feel important, cherished and grateful,” she said.

John Coulthard, head of small business at Microsoft, said that having a great relationship with customers is one thing that a small business can do that the big corporate businesses cannot hope to achieve.

“We all know when we have received great service and its refreshing to see just how many are looking at new and clever ways to retain and grow their customer base,” he said.

Microsoft outlined the following top 10 tips to help firms ‘get it on’ with customers:

  • Remember the customer’s first name and use it as much as possible.
  • Be positive and smile.
  • Even if you have masses of customers, try to make each one feel that he or she is top of your list of priorities.
  • Never assume that this is a good moment to talk – it might be for you, but your customer may be having staff or personal problems that day, or may just be so hectic that your approach will be unwanted and/or ineffective.
  • Keep an up to date record of personal and business details of your customer. You may think that you’ll remember everything you’re told, but you won’t. And knowing real details about someone helps that person to feel cherished and important.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. (In romantic relationships, we warm to people who listen to us properly and who seem genuinely interested in us. This is just as important in business)
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • If you want to indulge a client with a treat, make sure it’s an appropriate one – not much point giving a bottle of expensive malt whisky to a teetotaller!
  • Email a humorous story or just a ‘hello’ even when you are not trying to get an order or tie down a contract.
  • Don’t surprise your client with lunch at your favourite sushi place, or that trendy noodle bar – he or she might loathe fish, or be on a wheat free diet! Always check where the customer would be excited and pleased to have lunch. Don’t assume anything!

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