Nurturing Small Business Customers to Maximize Repeat Business

A personal touch goes a long way toward establishing a loyal customer. Maximize repeat business by providing for customer comfort and delivering timely service.

Ensuring an adequate customer base can be a challenge for a small business. From opening day on, it's important not only to draw in customers, but also to turn them into "regulars." How can you do this?

Personalize Interactions

Introduce yourself to each customer not in a perfunctory way, but in the same genuine manner you would use if meeting at a friend's house. Once you know the customer's name, use it when speaking to him. Make eye contact. A customer who feels attended to is more likely to stick around than one who feels like a cog in the machinery.

When a former customer returns, greet him warmly. Let him know you remember him and appreciate his repeat business.

Small businesses often face difficulty competing price-wise with larger entities, but they are positioned to excel when it comes to human interaction. The customer is the lifeblood of your small business, so make sure he is treated accordingly.

Focus on Customer Comfort

If you operate an office or retail establishment open to customers, make sure the experience of being there is an enjoyable one. An inviting location will be clean and cheerfully decorated, contain comfortable seating, and provide a restroom and water fountain for customer use.

If you operate a service business, avoid overbooking. If customers have to wait for your attention - and you can't compete price-wise with larger operations - they have little incentive to remain customers. Knowing that larger businesses have certain cost advantages, maximize your use of the advantages intrinsic to a small business.

Reward Customer Loyalty

As a small business owner, it may seem impossible to compete with big chains' reward card programs and drastic discount offers. You can reward customer loyalty with minimal expense and a little creativity. With a small customer base, you can call and alert them to upcoming sales. You might offer a one-time small discount for a referral. You could even enter your monthly visitors' names in a drawing for a product gift basket. These small investments may generate large returns in customer retention.

Customer loyalty is a linchpin to small business success, so make sure you are doing all you can to maintain that trusted relationship.

Avoid Unchecked Growth

One problem responsible for the ruination of many a small business is unchecked growth. A small business can't continue to provide personalized, quality service when it grows beyond the capacity of the business owner to handle the demands. Delays in seeing customers is one of the first indicators that growth may be getting out of hand. If you hate standing in long lines or waiting weeks for an appointment, don't impose those conditions on your valued customers.

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