Lisa Bell

Having a great product and great customer service are the foundation for customer retention. And positive word of mouth is by far the best marketing tool in your arsenal. But you can't control when that happens, so you need a marketing plan to keep the customers you want. Don't just hope your customers love you—be proactive. Put your plan in writing and make it stick. Follow through and take action. Use direct mail, e-mail, newsletters and other marketing tools to make your best customers feel special.   Treat your best customers with respect and they'll reward you with loyalty beyond your wildest dreams. Send

When you solicit feedback from your customers, you're giving them power: the power to affect changes to your product or service, and the power to redefine your relationship. Customers like feeling in control. In reality, it's just the opposite. By asking for all this honesty and insight, you're subtly taking control. You can fix what needs to be fixed. It's a proactive versus reactive strategy. You're the valiant knight who rides in on the white horse and makes it all better. A noble mission, indeed. But if you don't use the information gleaned to make improvements, you've dropped the ball. Don't ask

Analyze your customer data to find out who your best customers are. This may sound like a big "duh", but the devil is in the details. There may be trends that you've overlooked. And keep an eye on profitability, not just transactions. In the credit card world, a heavy spender who pays off his balance each month is usually not as profitable as a moderate spender who carries a balance. When you know who your best customers are, you can tailor your marketing programs to keep those customers and encourage them to spend more with you. —Lisa Bell, president and chief creative officer, Tivoli

If you've sold your customer a service and they're not using it, get them to activate. Examples: online bill pay; long-distance service; credit and debit cards. At the start of a new relationship, there's that warm and fuzzy feeling when a customer signs on. You got them to say "yes."  Three months later you're wondering why your customer doesn't love you. Is it something you did? No. It's something you didn't do. You sold them and moved on. You assumed that the customer would fend for himself and figure out all the great things about doing business with you. The first few days/weeks of

Ask your customers what they want, what they like and don't like. Include customer surveys on your Web site, at point-of-sale and in package inserts. You'll likely get extreme feedback from customers who either love you or hate you. Customers who are mildly satisfied are not as motivated to speak their minds. But only ask if you're prepared to deal with the responses. Turning a deaf ear to a problem is the kiss of death. Customers expect you to take action when they complain, especially if you initiated the dialog. Use feedback from your surveys to make improvements to your product or service. Customers

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