Let’s Do It Again! What Causes Repeat Business

If you are willing to do this 3-minute exercise with me, I can help you overcome the hidden hurdle to getting repeat business. Are you up for it? Great.

You may travel for business like I do and find yourself in different cities on more than a few nights each month (if not, imagine that you do for this step). What you are out of town, what’s your go-to place for dinner? Of the group of dining establishments that come to mind, select one which you’ve brought business associates to for the purpose of this exercise.

Really arrive at an answer before going further, even if you’re skimming, because you’ll get much more out of the ideas if you have a specific restaurant for your own process. We will return to your favorite in just a moment – for now, imagine that a stage magician has just asked you to “remember your card” so you can recall your restaurant at the later on.

eggplant-paresean

For me, whether I’m entertaining clients or have time to catch up between two days of a senior leadership retreat, one of my top go-to places is Maggiano’s, the purveyor of delectable treats from Little Italy. When I am in one of the two dozen cities where Maggiano’s has a restaurant, my travel coordinator has added the contact info with phone numbers and map links into my iPhone Address Book as well as my online itinerary, so it is easy to call and get map directions. If we’re hosting, reservations are made along with airline and hotel reservations. From the crispy fresh green salads to the eggplant parmesan aroma that can caress your taste buds while you’re still in the parking lot to the unfailingly competent and courteous staff, it’s true that by experience, I need only the slightest opportunity or provocation to rave about having a great experience at Maggiano’s.

By now, you’ve made the connection that you want your business to be like a Maggiano’s rather than any number of restaurants that I could have named. (If you take away just one point from reading this far, know that you can have others evangelizing about your business, just like I’m doing in this article.)

Think for a moment what would disqualify a restaurant from a customer’s desire to return? Bad food, bad service, bad atmosphere are the obvious ones. Let’s dig a little deeper to some of the factors that make this restaurant extra-special for me and others who have the same preferences and needs. As mentioned, I travel for business so that was an important criterion. By endorsing a restaurant publicly, it has to be better than “not bad;” it really has to be outstanding, and hit that mark consistently over a period of time. Service is a crucial factor when I bring senior management teams and VC-funded business owners out, so the establishment’s training and mentoring program must be top-notch to produce consistently satisfying experiences.

Now, how about your restaurant? Remember the last visit. Was the food outstanding for you and others in your party? Do the management and servers make sure that each customer point-of-contact is satisfying and represents their brand standards well? Were you thanked for coming in by the server and/or others? Do they have a system for reminding and/or rewarding you to return, such as a loyalty club, eNewsletter, or engaging social media?

Now, how about your business? Let’s stipulate that you deliver a product, service, or solution that’s notches above “good enough.” Otherwise, start your improvement campaign with your deliverables. Then, do as Maggiano’s and perhaps your competition, does: deliver consistently, ask customers to come back in appropriate ways, measure the effectiveness of your repeat business/reorders, and show appreciation for choosing to do business with you.

Repeat business is more profitable because the acquisition costs are minimized. Repeat business has a shorter sales cycle for the provider. With professional services, in particular, relationships are already established. Repeat business is typically a better experience for the buyer, as well, since knowledge gained with former engagements can be leveraged by the provider for even better quality, fit, or use needs.

The least desirable situation at a restaurant is a floor of empty seats with a full staff at peak hours. You have an equivalent “nightmare scenario” for your company, which repeat business can alleviate if not prevent entirely. If a restaurant gets this important concept, then why not your business?

This article was first published on LinkedIn Pulse.