The erosion of customer loyalty is a hot subject these days, along with how cost-conscious buyers are putting a higher priority on price. Fortunately, the repeat customer is far from becoming an endangered species, but you do need to do everything possible to ensure that relationships with your customers don’t end at the point-of-sale.

Central Maine SCORE mentor Ralph Tuttle points out, “You need to give your customers something of extra value if you want them to return. Look at your business like a customer would. What could you be doing better, and what is your competition doing better?”

Start by anticipating your customers’ needs. Think ahead to what the market will demand in the coming months and determine how you can address those demands. Also keep abreast of trends that may influence your customers’ purchasing decisions.

You can also gain insights into customer needs simply by asking and — more importantly — listening. Too many businesses take it upon themselves to advertise the next big thing without considering whether their customers want it or not. And while everybody wants a good price, they want a good value even more.

Tuttle recommends adding a personal touch that “can forge a stronger bond between you and your customers. Casual conversations can reveal important information such as birthdays, professional accomplishments and family events that you can recognize with a card or other low-cost token of appreciation.”

It is also helpful to regularly share news about your products or services. You can do this on your website or by an e-newsletter. Just be sure your customers want to be on your mailing list.

Finally, make sure you deliver what you promise. “Too many people offer hype and then don’t follow through,” Tuttle says. “Delivering a product or service that disappoints is the fastest way to lose your customers.”

Your local SCORE chapter office provides resources and materials to improve or start your small business. For more information and an appointment to meet with a volunteer mentor, contact Central Maine SCORE at 782-3708 or at [email protected], or contact the Auburn Public Library for an appointment with a volunteer mentor. In Oxford Hills, call 743-0499; in Rumford and Mexico, call 364-3123. Or contact SCORE at

This column is provided by the Central Maine SCORE chapter.

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