Make your customers happyLet’s start with a simple premise – that you actually want your customers to be happy. The reason is really simple – happy customers tell their friends about you and continue to purchase things from you. Angry customers by comparison post angry comments about you (see the fifth item here for an example).

Keeping Customers Happy

Now I’m not going to tell you to give away whatever it is that you usually sell. That’s ironically a way to lose customers because people tend to think that if you can get it for free, it’s got to be something really junky. Rather, these are small things that you can do to keep customers happy so that they’ll continue to buy your products and continue to tell their friends about you:

Pick Up the Phone

Or answer your e-mail. I wrote about this extensively the other day in a post about customer service so I won’t go over it in great detail. Suffice it to say that your customers will be thrilled to actually manage to talk to a human being when there is a problem. If you can let them talk to a human being who has enough brains to figure out how to solve simple problems, then so much the better.

Provide a Free Update or Two

If you make software or even if you have an eBook or any product which lends itself to updates, offer a year of free updates. Trust me – you’ll get more customers signing up for paid updates if they’ve had the chance to see the improvements that come with each update than if you simply tell them they must pay $30 per update. Speaking of that…

Offer Long Term Subscriptions

Maybe this is a pet peeve of mine, but I think that one great way to keep customers happy would be to offer long term subscriptions that save them some money.
Obviously, something expensive like the cable bill is a little difficult to do this with (most people don’t want to pay $1200 up front even if it does mean they’ll get HBO and Showtime free for the year). However, if you’re selling a software program which is going to need regular updates, I’d love to buy a five year subscription to all the updates for the next five years at $199 instead of paying out $29.95 each time an update is available.

Listen to Your Customers

Your customers often will have good ideas for you which can help you to improve your product. And they’ll even tell you about them for free. Those who want to keep their customers happy will listen to them. Those who want their business to fail, won’t.

Don’t Be Petty

Finally, this is another pet peeve of mine – some companies are remarkably petty and spiteful with their customers. Take for example my (now former) Internet bank – ING Direct. I rarely keep money in the account because I do most of my banking locally or through PayPal. I recently had an overdraft which amounted to 29 cents more than I had in the account. They didn’t charge me $33 for it. They just closed my account, with no possibility of asking for a reversal of the decision.
When I called to complain, they sent me another e-mail saying they were closing my savings account with them as well for the crime of getting upset with their customer service people. This is just downright petty. I’ve since switched to Ally Bank (I’ll be putting up a more detailed account of this on my personal finance blog in the next week or two), but the bottom line is – if you want to keep your customers happy, think for a moment before you act petty. It’s not worth it.