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The customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer.

That tidbit of business reality means, simply, that keeping the customers happy—even the cranky, demanding ones—is the foundation of success.

Customers complicate everything. Keeping the right inventory can be a logistical nightmare, especially as the global supply chain still hasn’t recovered from the disruptions of the government-ordered global shutdowns. Customers clamor for new products, which means a whole new set of headaches.

Most of all, they want to be the center of your world. Customer satisfaction is the leading factor in consumer choices, and yet more than half of them feel that service has become an afterthought.

Customers can be a pain, but no business survives without them.

So, what’s your customer-centric business plan?

Customers Want to Feel Welcomed

Customers’ first impression of your business—whether it’s online, in-store, or over the phone—sets the tone for the relationship. And you may get only one chance to impress them.

If you are a retail or franchise business, a mom-and-pop or expanding business-services vendor, your customers’ first point of contact with your business is the most important.

Their experience with the first person they talk to will shape their opinion of your business. You can control the quality and outcomes of the first contact by ensuring your staff is trained to always treat the customer as the most important part of the business. You should also implement policies that customers meet compliance obligations for contractual agreements, even if you have to engage an internal-controls management consultant.

Similarly, the first contact customers have with an online business is the website or portal. A balky or hard-to-navigate user interface that confuses customers likely will mean no-sale. The same goes for poor payment solutions. The shopping-cart abandonment rate is nearly 70% with an estimated revenue loss of $18 billion.

Optimization Is an Ongoing Process

Customers can be fickle. What was hot last month may bay be “not” this month. Keeping them happy is also a moving target, particularly as your customer base grows. Creating a system for managing customer expectations and collecting, organizing, and analyzing their feedback is vital to your service proposition. Make it easy for your customers to rate your service after using it, you can collect data swiftly and cheaply—giving you ample time to act on it.

Rewarding Loyalty

Satisfied customers are repeat buyers, and repeat buyers are more profitable than prospects. Marketing Metrics rates the probability of a prospect making a purchase at no better than 20%. The probability of an existing customer becoming a repeat buyer is 70%. First-time e-commerce buyers spend an average of $24.50; repeat e-commerce customers spend an average of $52.50.

So, yes, it makes sense to reward existing customers. It will mean an investment on your part, but it will pay off.

Going the Extra Mile

Last but not least, customer service is not always a smooth experience. Things go wrong and mistakes are made, sometimes unavoidably. What defines a positive customer interaction here is the speed, efficacy, and grace with which you handle the situation. By taking additional time to reassure your customers and make things right, you show them that your business is a dependable one—even when things go awry.