About two years ago, I hired a pest control company to come to my home and eliminate a bug problem.

I was thoroughly pleased with their customer service, professionalism and rapid resolution of my situation. The service exceeded my expectations and I would have gladly referred the company to anyone with a similar need.

Recently, I decided to begin a maintenance pest control program. I wanted to use the same company which had performed so well for me the last time, but I ranEren DÃÂ/ThinkStock into a problem: I could not remember the company’s name.

I had originally shopped around to find the company from amongst several of the recognizable businesses in my area. All of the names now sounded familiar and I did not remember which one had actually come out to do the work.

The original company did nothing to help me remember its name and contact information. Even though I was pleased with their work, I was willing to invest only a limited amount of time and energy to seek it out. I could find neither the invoice nor the credit statement from the previous job. Out of frustration, I finally called another company.

The pest control company that is now profiting from my long-term service relationship is doing a fine job. The original company lost a satisfied customer simply because it failed to help me remember its name.

It takes more than a good job

Many companies operate with the belief that if they perform good service, past customers will automatically return to use their service again.

In theory, this may sound reasonable, but in reality it does not always work out so well. Assuming customers are able to do this without help proves to be a costly mistake. It is important to help customers with this process.

Service companies need to assume responsibility and make it easy for customers to repeat and to refer others to their business. Getting new customers is only part of the marketing process. Keeping them loyal and helping them remember to tell their friends is also vitally important.

Tools to help them remember

Provide your customers with additional ways to find your name and telephone number. An inexpensive yet powerful tool is your business card. The original pest control company I mentioned earlier failed to leave even one of those.

Leaving business cards should be standard policy. If you leave two or three extra cards at the home, consumers normally get the hint that this is intended to make it easier to pass on referrals.

A refrigerator magnet, a labeled bottle of spot cleaner or a jar opener would make a great tool to aid a customer in finding your company information. Find a company that specializes in promotional items for this purpose. Choose items you think consumers will keep and be able to find when they need your telephone number.

Stay in touch

Implement a consistent follow-up system and you will have one of the most proven marketing investments on your side. A good system builds loyalty, increases the frequency and size of repeat jobs, improves consumer-perceived value and enables more referrals. 

The most fundamental part of a follow-up system is a reminder card. This tool helps customers remember when they should call for their next appointment.

Without your help, consumers will go much longer between appointments than they should. These cards should list your contact information, making it easy to reach you. It is reasonable to send the first reminder out to announce the one year anniversary of the last cleaning. If there is no response, subsequent reminders should be sent every six months. 

If you want to maximize your customer loyalty and referrals, you will need to utilize a more elaborate follow-up plan. Consistency in the delivery of your materials will help you to achieve the greatest impact. 

A good system combines education, reminders, expressions of appreciation, humor and simply saying, “Hi.” Special offers can be provided, but if the consumer senses that everything you send is just another advertising piece, they may start to ignore your messages.

Newsletters, post cards, “Thank You” cards, holiday cards and flyers are often used to build follow-up systems.

It doesn’t take much

Assume consumers are busy and have a lot on their minds. Carpet cleaning and your company name are not generally thought about much between appointments.

Left to themselves, many of your customers will not be able to contact you when they need your services again.

If my first pest control company had made any of the above attempts to help me remember who they were, I probably would have been able to remember their name.

Since they made no effort, they never rose above the crowd of their competitors in my mind. They impressed me with their good work, but that was not enough. I needed help remembering their name.

How are you helping your customers?

Steve Marsh is the creator of the Be Competition Free Marketing Program. He is a 30-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an IICRC-approved instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. Marsh is a marketing and business consultant who provides a turn-key program for attracting better customers. For more information, log on to www.BeCompetitionFree.com.