Most businesses do a relatively good job of responding when a customer calls with a question or a problem. It may take a few hours (or days), but you get your question answered or your problem solved.

As a customer, you may even applaud the quality and timing to your response.

But being reactive is only half the battle when it comes to developing lifetime relationships and retaining customers for many years to come.

My recipe for customer retention is to be proactive — that is, to call them before they call you. You don’t wait. You follow-up after the sale and after your product is delivered. You follow-up to make sure everything lived up to their expectation.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Instead of waiting for them to call, you follow-up after the sale and again after your product or service is delivered so you can hear directly from them that “everything is great, 100% or better!”

Just as I include delivery after the sale as a step in the sales process, your proactive follow-up call (and all follow-up calls) is also a vital part of your sales process.

Notice I’ve been recommending that you call them; not email them. Speaking personally with someone (a customer or client, even if you leave a voice message) is far more powerful than corresponding via email or mailing a survey.

While it’s possible to read between the lines of an email, it’s much easier to listen between the lines — to sincerity, honesty, hesitation, disappointment, unanswered questions, and so on.

Being proactive and practicing proactive communication in the form of telephone follow-up is one of those things that supports to creating and maintaining exceptional experiences for your customers. From my experience, an exceptional experience is vital part of client retention.