By Jim Giammarinaro
President & CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce
FRAMINGHAM – I believe that both large businesses and small businesses would love to have both customers and employees for life. If you choose your employees well and have good customers, why would you ever want them to leave? It is particularly important for small businesses to work towards this goal, and they have a reduced ability to withstand losing customers and employees as just losing a few of each can have a greater impact on their business success.
In most businesses the process of gaining a new customer takes more effort than retaining one.
You have no “goodwill” that has been built from years of providing good products and services. An initial mistake can cause you to lose that customer. In addition, it takes a while to get to know a new customer. What is important for one is not as important for another.
In getting to know your customers it tends to make them feel more appreciated. I cannot think of any individual customer who would appreciate being treated as a “transaction”. Hand over the money and I will get you your product is not the attitude you want to take. You, as the business owner, may not feel that way and you need to make sure that anyone who interacts with you customers does not feel that way. You need to make sure that any customer who interacts with a representative from your business feels better than they did before their interaction that individual. If you can achieve that you can achieve customer loyalty. You must remember that your customers have the choice on how they spend their money, and they are not required to spend it with you.
It is important to remember that in most cases you will not be the only person in your business who interacts with customers. It then becomes critical to hire employees who can model the philosophy you have towards customer interaction.
You, as the owner, must also live that philosophy as your employees will model what they see. You are better off not hiring a person who cannot buy into your philosophy as ultimately you will need to replace the customers that they lose for you. You may also need to replace their fellow employees who may leave based on having to work in an environment which is less than ideal.
What impression does a customer have of a business when they constantly see or interact with a revolving door of employees? They may think that the owner does not do a good job of hiring people. They may also think that the owner does not create a good working environment.
Worst of all, they may think that the business will not survive.
If they feel that way, it begins a process where they are looking for other options to get the product you provide.
Any employer is up against it these days when trying to retain people for the long-term. The current environment is not the same as the days of our parents, where someone would make a career of being with one company. Small businesses are challenged with employee retention more than ever before. It is key to create a work environment where people want to stay. You need to make it hard for your good employees (which hopefully means all your employees) to leave. You must be better than your competition in this area.
Employee retention is as much about work environment as it is about compensation. Although you must be competitive with compensation. You can not run a successful small business when you are regularly losing employees and having to be in a consistent mode of training.
In summary, you must work as hard as possible to retain your customers and employees. They are the lifeblood of a successful business. You never want to become too confident that you have the best work environment or the best customer service. You always need to be checking. Put systems in place to check. Get regular feedback from your customers and employees as to how things are going. Always remember that your customers and employees have a choice, and you want them to choose you.
Editor’s Note: SOURCE and the MetroWest Chamber have formed a partnership. The Chamber’s column will run on Tuesdays on the digital news media outlet.