By Megan Totka

How much does it cost you to find a new prospect and develop that lead into a customer? Plenty of marketing teams know their cost per lead, but they aren’t always aware of an alternative that’s far less expensive. Your best source of sales is already with you; they’re your customers. If you treat them well, they are happy to return the favor in the form of referrals, good press and cross-selling opportunities.

Give Customers a Voice

How do you know what your customers are thinking? Passive feedback options are one viable way, but they don’t always paint an accurate picture because the only customers who are moved to comment are those who are at the extremes of satisfaction. To supplement your passive feedback channel, actively seek answers about your customers’ satisfaction.

There are two ways to go about learning more. One is simply to ask them via text, phone or email surveys. By reaching a broader cross-section of your customers, you’ll get a more balanced answer about how they feel toward your company. The other method is more deductive, and it involves a combination of social listening and site traffic. Tune into what your customers say on social media channels and pay especially close attention to review sites. When possible, respond and let clients know you’re hearing their comments. How you solve problems is even more important than how you thank enthusiastic customers, so answer both types of customer commentary.

Encourage Sharing

Earned goodwill is more valuable than any amount of paid media presence your company could buy. When you do something extra for your customers, don’t be shy about asking them for a testimonial or social media sharing of their story. After a successful customer service call, close with a simple statement inviting the customer to tell this success story and offer incentives for it, such as a small discount for a review. A great way to fit in requests for referrals can also involve incentives: “We’d like to send you a thank-you gift for your call today. May we mail that to the address we have on file, and do you know anyone else who’d like one?”

Make a Great First Impression

Selling starts with the first contact you and your customer make. In today’s digital universe, that’s sooner than you think. Your website, blog and on-site chat features introduce prospective customers to your brand and its voice even before you’ve officially been introduced.

Your front-line personnel must have a customer-focused outlook. Service businesses have to be especially adept at making the customer experience flawless. For these types of businesses, the customer experience is as important as the service that’s being performed. Have you ever a cable guy scheduled to come to your house and the scheduler gave you a four-hour window for when the technician would be there? That’s half a work day!

Making a good impression starts with how you communicate with the customer. For example, imagine an electrical contractor has been scheduled to come to your how to fix some outlets. They’re scheduled time is 2:00 p.m. today but that time goes by and no communication. You try and call the office, but they aren’t’ sure when he will be there. He doesn’t show up until 3:30 p.m. Your impression of this company is forever tarnished.

There may have been a legitimate reason why he was late, but no one communicate with you to give you options on how to handle it, such as rescheduling. Home service professional tools, such as ServiceTitan, allow businesses to manage any technician delays and communicate directly with the customer to ensure any issues are resolved in real time.

Ask for More Business

Speaking of referrals, they’re one of your most valuable assets, and only satisfied customers can bring them to you. Happy customers are delighted to make more happy customers by sharing your name. Make it easy for them to provide referrals by asking after successful customer service calls, leaving blanks for referral information on forms, and offering tell-a-friend discounts. Too many businesses miss out on this crucial source of new customers because they don’t bother to ask.

Up-Sell, Cross-Sell and Replenish

If you sell more than one product or service, you need your sales team to work on up-selling and cross-selling. If you do sell only one product, then they should aim for regular replenishment and replacement sales. A customer’s first purchase is just the beginning of your relationship with that buyer, so find ways to build on that foundation with upgrades or flankers.

Caring for your customers well means they’ll care more for you. They want to get such great service that they can’t wait to tell their friends. Give them that stellar service, and they’ll reward you.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. 

Customers stock photo by Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock