By Timico

Whether purchasing your products, sampling your services or funding your development, customers play the biggest role in making your business money. Paying them due care and attention throughout their entire customer journey is fundamental to success – and should not be underestimated. But rather than drawing the line under your customers once they’ve paid their bill – why not consider the different ways in which your customers can further contribute to the success of your business?

While driving sales and generating revenue is the primary function of a business, if it becomes your sole objective it’s only a matter of time before the success, growth and reputation of an organisation begins to suffer. After all, the way in which a business handles sales, solves customer problems and builds long-lasting relationships is the point of difference that gives a business a competitive edge.

It’s important to remember that customer service comes in many forms and is so much more than the odd telephone conversation. Customers that receive a quality product, high level of service or quick-fire solution will naturally be happier with their experience. The ripple effect of this is a happy client spreading the word about your services to friends, family and colleagues; leading to new business leads, increased sales and enhancing your reputation.

Word of mouth referrals are worth their weight in gold. To encourage personal recommendations, many businesses now have formal structures in place to reward customer referrals – such as exclusive offers, customer loyalty points, events and hospitality days. Customers can play a fantastic role in the development of your business if they are given right opportunities – it’s just up to you to provide them.

Elevate your business

Financial incentives are a great way of strengthening a customer’s willingness to recommend your business. By offering these incentives within a structured customer referral scheme, a business can not only benefit from broader sales and a widened reputation, but also happier existing customers and better client retention rates.

How to turn your customers into even greater assets

Many businesses are guilty of forgetting just how vital customer word-of-mouth has been in contributing to their success over the years. The key thing to remember is that customers are more than just an invoice number and that they hold a great deal of potential when it comes to marketing your business, even if they are largely unaware of it. While sales reps are contracted to sell and persuade, customers choose to endorse; in doing so giving their recommendation great credibility and reassurance. By capitalising on their invaluable integrity, a customer can become a huge asset for a business, influencing colleagues and potential customers without the hard sell.

Why customer focus is the key to success

With businesses investing in advertising and marketing, you might wonder why focusing so heavily on the customer would provide an advantage. Essentially, it all comes down to experience. While ad and marketing reps have strategies in place to reach markets and influence consumers, nothing holds as much power as neutral, first-hand experience. A customer recommendation will come from someone who has experienced every level of the business from initial contact, to sales, to end-product.

Ultimately, the foundation of any referral programme is excellent customer service. Every staff member needs to be offering the same level of service from the top down and bottom up. There needs to be a culture in which an engineer or sales rep handles customers in the same manner that the CEO would handle an investor. Great customer service leads to a great reputation and can be the key difference between a customer using your services over a competitor’s.

How can you implement a successful referral programme?

#1 – Do your research
By knowing what’s going on around you, you can gain a natural advantage. Ask yourself: Are others in your industry offering a similar scheme for their customers? Is yours the first? How is your offer better than your competitors? What do your customers think of your service? Being prepared makes it much easier for your business to stand out.

#2 – Keep it simple
Nothing is clearer than black and white. And that’s the frame of mind you want to approach a referral scheme with. A simple process of rewarding customers for their valued referrals is as complex as it should get – keep percentages and margins clear and make sure that everyone knows where they stand from the outset.

#3 – The reward
Percentage earnings are a great way of bringing flexible rewards for customers. The bigger the sale, the higher percentage of the new deal value they will receive. This will not only keep them happy, but encourage greater rewards for high asset customers.

#4 – Good communications
Referrals and word of mouth recommendations are built on good communication; so make sure that referral partners have regular contact from your business and continue to receive excellent customer service.

#5 - No hidden gotchas
Many schemes do not account for overhead costs and can leave customers with a sour taste in the mouth when they realise they will not receive their full percentage. Keep hidden gotchas to a minimum, or better still, make sure that they do not disrupt the customer’s entitlement.