It’s hard to believe it’s almost 50 years since Simon & Garfunkel released “Keep the Customer Satisfied”, but never have the words of the title been so true as today – especially with our moribund economy.

By Guy Whitcroft

As so many studies have confirmed, selling to existing customers costs a fraction of finding new ones (20% of the cost is a popular estimate), so isn’t this where your primary focus should be, and isn’t making more sales to existing customers all about having happy customers?

Keeping customers happy is about ensuring they have a great experience with you, that they can get the products they want when and where they want them and at a fair price. It’s worth noting here that if the experience is right, along with availability and location, the price is often a lesser consideration.

Just look at Amazon as a great example of this – the company today is worth more than three times what Walmart is at nearly $1-trillion, while being less than half its age (it’s just 25 years old), having revenues of just under half of Walmart’s, but last year surpassing it in profits.

Yet Walmart is typically cheaper than Amazon in most product categories, showing how the lowest price can be trumped by experience and convenience.

So how do you keep your customers coming back for more?

It’s really about making the interface with your business as easy and pleasurable as possible. You might only be selling “big iron”, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore a mobile online presence, for example, any more than somebody selling consumer goods.

After all, we’ve all become used to being able to research anything online, get support online and so on – and mobile is critical in a time when work and leisure times are increasingly blurred.

Consider a few stats (yes, they’re from the US, but we will follow these trends, so it’s better to be prepared now):

82% of Internet users have shopped online with a mobile device.

35% of all US consumers only use a mobile device when shopping online.

53% of smartphone users buy from company-specific apps, and conversion rates from mobile apps are three times higher than from mobile sites.

What’s more, mobile is set to double from worldwide sales of around $1,8-trillion last year to some $3,6-trillion in 2021.

When it comes to customer service, online is growing strongly too – although voice in various forms is still the most preferred channel at 39%, other online methods are not far behind, with the combination of live chat, online self-service and social media totalling 30%, and email – which can be considered a form of online service – being preferred by 20% of people.

And of course, whether you like it or not, the growth of social media means your customers can express their opinions of your service to a global audience very quickly, so you need to ensure you’re monitoring social platforms and responding very quickly to any adverse remarks.

It’s certainly much more complicated to keep your customers satisfied, but those that get it right will reap rich rewards in sales and profitability. Just ask Amazon.


Guy Whitcroft is a 45-year veteran of the IT channel covering southern Africa, the Middle East and the UK. He is now based in Cape Town and consults, coaches and mentors to businesses of all sizes. He can be contacted at