Loyal customers are a win-win situation. The customer wins because he has a steady supply of a product he likes from a company he trusts, and doesn't have to do research every time he makes another purchase. The company wins because the more a customer buys, the more money they make. And the salesperson wins because that steady stream of revenue becomes a steady stream of commissions.
Most people, if asked, would say that the best way to create loyal customers is to satisfy their needs. Surprisingly, that's not the case. The Customer Contact Council, an entity that conducts research on customer service-related topics, discovered in one of its studies that customer loyalty is strongly tied to the amount of effort a customer must make to resolve problems related to his supplier. In other words, a customer who can quickly and easily resolve any issues as they arise – perhaps with one quick phone call to the company – are far more likely to stay loyal than a customer who never has a problem arise at all and simply has his needs met without asking.
The study in question demonstrated that 94% of customers who are able to resolve issues painlessly will purchase again from that company. But it found no correlation between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. This fact has a profound impact on salespeople, since they're often the first person a customer will call if a problem develops – particularly if their purchase is fairly recent.
If a customer calls with a problem, you should rejoice because it's an opportunity to show that customer the problem can be quickly resolved. You can almost ensure that they'll buy from you again just by providing excellent customer service. It's also a good reason to stay in touch with customers after the sale has closed, so that you can encourage them to reach out to you with a problem instead of just throwing their hands up and deciding to buy from someone else.
You may end up spending some extra time mediating with the tech support department or the repair department in order to save your customer some pain, but you'll get your reward in the form of future purchases from that customer and probably even referrals of friends and colleagues. The time you spend on customer service is actually an investment in future sales, just like cold calling or asking for referrals.
In order to smooth out the process, make connections with your tech support team and try to recruit an ally or two who can help speed things along. This will help immensely with customers who have already put in some effort on their own trying to fix things. You should also stay on top of common customer complaints so that you'll know how to resolve them quickly.
Make time to reach out to your existing customers if you haven't heard from them in a while. Sometimes a customer won't call because everything is fine, but it's also possible that they've been struggling with the product and just haven't thought to reach out to you for help. If you call a customer on your own initiative and quickly resolve a problem for them, you'll be that customer's new hero.
Sometimes you'll run up against a problem that you just can't fix quickly. It may be a product bug that the support team is still trying to fix, or even a customer whose needs simply aren't met by the product at its best. In that case, all you can do is your best. If the customer leaves despite your best efforts to provide excellent service, write them off and move on to the next!