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The Customer Environment: Gaining the repeat customer

A Bar Bathroom in PhillyImage by voteprime via Flickr

Growing a business is often accomplished through repeat customers.  It is terribly expensive to attract a new customer to your business.  Advertising works but the cost is high.  Coupons, rebates and free offers all cost money.  Once you have spent that money, what can you do to keep the customer coming back?  After all, once they start coming back, your cost to "acquire" more revenue from that customer is close to zero.

In retail, the environment is a multifaceted issue.  The obvious but often overlooked are cleanliness, temperature and lighting appropriate to the product.  If you want customers to keep coming back, make sure your business is always clean, well lit and comfortable.  Want a simple example? Go into the bathrooms of the following convenience stores: Kum & Go, Casey's, and QuikTrip.  If a clean bathroom matters to you, the result is obvious and the level of difference is amazing given they are in the same business. 

But that is not enough.  One in six Americans suffer from tinnitus, a ringing in the ear.  I have personal experience as I suffer from this condition.  Loud sharp noises are very challenging to the point of debilitating.  Make sure the sound levels in your business are comfortable for your clientele.  For those in wheel chairs, it is not enough to just have a "accessible"  entrance.  How about a bathroom that is accessible? Or isles wide enough to navigate?  I am constantly amazed by retailers that stuff massive amounts of merchandise into the isles thereby blocking their customers from getting where they want to go.

How does the business owner come to understand and then deal with all of these issues?  Ask!  Ask your customers for feedback.  Ask what they think of the sound level, the lighting, the cleanliness?  Get a couple friends to give you critical feedback. Ask them to be truthful, not just nice.  Check up on your employees.  If you are often not present in your business, make sure someone you trust is checking up on your store.  I was in a bar / restaurant recently where the bartender was loudly proclaiming his theories on his perceived "failings" of the current administration. Several people became offended, got up and left.  It appeared the manager shared his views and did nothing about the issue.  I don't know about you but I was taught that politics was not a discussion topic with customers. 

You have a choice, you can spend time and money chasing new customers into your business or you can spend a portion of that money and time making sure you keep the customers you have.  Start asking!

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Comments

Thanks for the post Mike. I had a great discussion with Mike Wagner, where he told me of QT's efforts to power-wash their driveways. Most people won't consciously realize this effort, however, MOST people will sub-consciously recall this and decide for or against a particular business simply because "they feel funny." I talk about it here:

http://www.testoftimedesign.com/2009/04/are-you-quick-tripping-your-parking-lot.html

The big things matter, but those little things that might not get public attention do to. Thanks for bringing this up.

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