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The softest sell

“Don't talk to me about telephoning or writing to past customers,” exclaimed the MD. “The last time we did that we expected a load of add-ons and easy sales, but all we got was complaints. Our service engineers were run off their feet for months. It cost us a lot. It was a nightmare. Our database of past customers was a can of worms.”

He might have been exaggerating but the fear of encouraging customers to find faults that might have been forgotten, or to come forward with unreasonable gripes deters many companies from exploiting their customer database. Under any circumstances that's marketing myopia, because past customers should be your most fertile source of new orders. But when companies are diversifying into conservatories, roofline, garage doors, flat roofing, composite doors, and hard landscaping it is waste on a grand scale.

Past customers should be the softest sell. Past customers are also the prime source of word of mouth, your lowest cost of high quality leads. As most marketers know, it costs up to six times more to win a new customer than to keep or resell to an existing one.

If customers are unhappy or installations aren't right, sticking your head in the sand isn't going to make them go away. Those complaints will slow your growth and eat away your profits. Who can afford that? So encourage complaints and act on them. Flush them out of the system and then put systems in place to prevent them.

People talk about quality of product, and it's vital, but the most important factor in home improvements is the quality of installation. A poor quality product can be rescued by a good installation, but a quality product is sunk by bad installation.

A window company's reputation rests on the quality of its installation. So what can you do to protect and build on it? In Network Veka homeowners have to complete a five question feedback form on their installation before they get their guarantee. Members can see the average ratings for all their installations and those members with the highest ratings receive awards at the end of the year. This feedback ensures a high level of customer satisfaction and encourages members to improve. It's no surprise that the standard of installation continues to rise.

The quality of interaction between customers and the brand creates the foundation for repeat business and positive word of mouth. Happy customers are the ambassadors of your business. Profitable businesses ensure they have many happy customers.

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