Building A Loyal Customer Base

Inside Sales Livestock

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Open your medicine cabinet or kitchen cupboard and you’ll probably see a few products you’ve used for years – the same peanut butter your mom packed in school lunches or the toothpaste you’ve brushed with since grade school. We all have favorite brands when it comes to products and services, but with so many choices in an ever-changing marketplace, brand loyalty can never be taken for granted.

An article in this issue examines the various reasons producers and practitioners switch to different products. As an inside sales rep, you’ll no doubt help your clients make those changes with your knowledge of new products, backorders, price increases and discontinued items. This is just one way you add value to customer interactions with your own personal “brand.” Understanding the key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty will ensure that your clients won’t have a reason to make the switch to a competitor.

Make it easy
Customer experience is integral to customer loyalty. In a recent survey by the Northridge Group, eighty-one percent of consumers admitted frustration dealing with companies that don’t make it easy to do business with them, and that same number said they would likely stop doing business with a company after a poor service experience. To build and maintain customer loyalty, it’s vital to make things as easy as possible for customers to engage with you and your company. Learn what your customers value most, and work to provide that at every interaction. This can be challenging, particularly if you work with a diverse customer base of producers, solo practitioners and multi-doctor practices – which is why it’s so important to take the time to get to know your customers as individuals, even if you never meet them face-to-face.

Companies spend millions to collect data on customer behavior and buying patterns, but you have a wealth of information at your fingertips with your client’s purchase history. Having the data isn’t enough unless you use it to add value to your customer interactions. What product lines do they use? What are their seasonal buying trends? What promotions have they participated in – and which ones might save them money next year, based on their purchases? Just as important as what they buy from you are the items you don’t find in their history. Was there a drop in a particular product or category from the previous year? Are you missing out on add-on items or sales of consumables like needles, syringes, white goods, or fluids? If you are, find out why and what you can do to earn that business.

Besides knowing your clients’ preferences and buying habits, it’s important to know why they’re doing business with you – or why they’re not. It might seem awkward to simply ask your customers for honest feedback, but most will welcome the opportunity and appreciate your interest and genuine commitment to improving their experience, and continue building on what’s working well. Consumers who feel their opinions are valued become loyal customers. Over half of the respondents in the Northridge Group survey said they are willing to spend more with a company that provides an excellent customer experience.

Location may be critical in both real estate and retail, but for you, knowing your customer’s location and how it impacts their business shows them that you go above and beyond as a true partner in their success. The needs of livestock operations and large animal practices, in particular, can vary greatly across the country, depending on geography, weather and accessibility. Taking the time to follow news of adverse weather events, pest or disease outbreaks, biosecurity problems or other issues that could impact your customers in their region of the country gives you the opportunity to discuss their needs, make recommendations and help them get ahead of a potentially negative situation.

Historically, the veterinary and livestock industries have lagged a bit behind when it comes to communication technology, but today’s producers and practitioners have become much more tech-savvy, including how they access information on products, services and price. Knowing your customers’ preferred channels for receiving information and making sure that your company is providing a simple, seamless experience across those channels makes it easy for them to do business with you. A surprising statistic from the Northridge Group survey found that 57 percent of consumers have trouble finding the answers they’re looking for on a company’s website. Navigate a typical customer journey through your company’s site so you can address any areas that could cause frustration.

Your clients likely fall into multiple age groups, and while some channels like email are declining in use for customer service, it may still be the best way to get information to some of your customer segments. Texting, tweeting, and using social media to get the word out about new products and upcoming promotions are opportunities for direct and personalized communication that can lead to better engagement with your customers. Despite the increase of social media as a preferred channel with consumers, 25 percent say they never receive a response when they contact a company this way, so be sure your customers know they can count on hearing from you in a timely manner!

With so many existing choices, a steady stream of new products, and instant access to information and competitive pricing, finding and then keeping customers from making a switch to the competition is an ongoing challenge for every business. Going above and beyond traditional sales skills by getting to know your customers and understanding what’s important to them, adding value to every interaction, and making it easy and enjoyable to do business with you will build a loyal customer base and keep them coming back.