Ten best ways to connect to your customers

by Peter Sydserff

Many clinicians make the mistake of thinking that time and money spent recruiting new customers is pound for pound better for them and their business. However as Peter Sydserff writes, the reverse often proves to be the case. No one suggests that it should be one or the other and it is up to business models to decide for themselves where the balance should be.

Many clinicians make the mistake of thinking that time and money spent recruiting new customers is pound for pound better for them and their business. However as Peter Sydserff writes, the reverse often proves to be the case. No one suggests that it should be one or the other and it is up to business models to decide for themselves where the balance should be.

Many clinicians make the mistake that time and money spent recruiting new customers is pound for pound better for them and their business. However, the reverse often proves to be the case. No one suggests that it should be one or the other and it is up to business models to decide for themselves where the balance should be.

That said; this article supports the case for staying in touch with the customers you already have and here are ten ways to do exactly that. It’s ambitious to believe you can do all of them and of course you may already be working somewhere that takes care of much of this for you. Only you can decide what’s relevant and whether you believe it will make a difference.

1.     Customer Contact Plan

If you don’t already have a contact management plan, then prepare one. Even the process of writing it out will make you think about where the opportunities are to contact your customers. You can decide when and how you want to contact your customers (also ask yourself the question ‘who else is planning to contact my customers?’). The customer contact plan should also be linked to your aftercare plan; i.e. include any contact points where you are asking customers to return for routine service appointments or annual checks. Don’t forget the most important element of the plan, budget cost and target the sales you would like to see back from the activity.

2.     Loyalty scheme

If your company doesn’t already have one, consider a membership scheme where customers can feel part of something. This might be something simple like a glorified battery club but at the very least, you have a better chance of retaining them as a customer when it is time to upgrade or replace their hearing system. Membership of the scheme will also inform how often you contact these customers and how or with what.

3.     Batteries

Most businesses will not be pushed into the black because of the sales of batteries. The reason why they are important is because of customer loyalty. If you haven’t found a way of personalising the batteries you supply with your contact details, then do it. Do not grudge the time and effort invested in supplying batteries as there are many places on the high street and on the internet where batteries can be bought – wouldn’t it be a shame if that’s also where they bought their next hearing system from..?

4.     Routine mail outs (broken down into 3 distinct media as an example)

  • Email – again, a good customer database should have an email address for customers or that of their nearest and dearest. Consider email for anything where you want to link on to some other part of the web with a call to action.
  • Newsletter – the frequency of these is always the first call and you will be surprised how interesting your customers will find this especially when you can deliver stories of human interest (including staff!).
  • Mailshots – These are useful when inviting customers to something like an open day where a new piece of technology or equipment will be revealed especially for them. They can also be used as a covering letter for a leaflet or brochure. As post is becoming increasingly expensive, use wisely to maximise the return.
  • With all three of these, make sure you record what you spent and measure what you got back from it in terms of sales. Refer back to your plan, are you on track?

5.     Birthday cards

Any good database should include your customer’s date of birth. How easy is it then to send a birthday card and remind people that you care? Christmas cards can also work, but remember that this specific time of year can mean different things to different people.

6.     Pick up the phone

It sounds obvious, but one of the best ways to stay in contact with your customers is to talk to them. If you can find the time each week to make a targeted number of calls to customers then you will be impressed with what you will get back. Thinking of a reason to call or not wishing to appear pushy is generally what holds us back from doing this. If you start with ‘how are you?’ and ‘is there anything you need?’ you will be amazed how quickly you find the areas of commonality amongst your customer group.

7.     Widen the net

  • Part 1 – don’t limit your customer list to those who have bought a hearing system. Include anyone who you have tested, helped or advised, even if they didn’t buy anything.
  • Part 2 – do not be afraid to ask for referrals. If you’ve looked after them well, they shouldn’t hesitate to recommend you to a friend and this rarely causes offence (even then, only when it’s done clumsily or at an inappropriate moment).

8.     Social media

The average age of a hearing care customer is over 70. Access to social media is encouraged by friends and relatives who are keen to share photos and experiences. Availability of social media is made easier by the advent of the iPad. If your business doesn’t have a social media presence, then think about how you might use it. Update with photos and stories no matter how trivial. With permission, you might even share experiences of customers with new hearing aids.

9.     Website

Competition for new customers online has never been more competitive but don’t forget that it can also be a place for existing customers to frequent. ‘Contact us’ should be easy to find and to use so that customers and their significant others can find you with ease. Consider a separate section for existing customers where they can request consumables for their hearing aids or an appointment. This same section could also be used to preview the latest or next range of hearing aids.

10.  Contact management system

If you don’t already have a system to manage client contact then get one. Many big companies have their own and it is also possible to buy a bespoke hearing care platform. A good CMS that works for you can make all of the above possible (in some cases automatically) as long as you manage the data well. On set up or part of routine maintenance, think about how you can segment customers into those you can target by technology upgrade (i.e. how old is their current system?), binaural upgrade (monaural wearer of hearing aid) and severity of hearing loss (e.g. a new super power aid will be of no interest to most).

Summary

Only you can decide what’s right for you and your business. You will challenge yourself from time to time on the notion that you are ‘overdoing’ it or stating the obvious. Just remember that doing little or nothing is definitely not enough and therefore don’t be surprised when your customers shop again elsewhere. Doing something means that you increase your chances of landing a communication when they are thinking about buying again.

Peter Sydserff | Oct 15

 

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