You Have No Business Without Customers
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Dealing with people can be difficult.
Have you ever worked retail?
In a restaurant?
If so, you know what I mean!
Some people think they’re special.
The “I spend $X here!” attitude.
Like it grants them special privileges.
Some folks just have a hard time communicating.
There are people who are quick to demand of you, but take forever to comply with requests made of them.
Others you may say “haven’t got a clue”.
A few are just bullies who like to cause a scene and act superior to everyone else.
Almost all companies, large and small, seem to be concentrating on improving the bottom line by implementing cost reduction strategies.
Sadly, it appears that many are neglecting perhaps the most important aspect that clients expect: exceptional customer service.
You Rarely Hear About Good Customer Service
It’s quite true…unless there is some incentive to leave feedback of any kind, good customer service usually goes unrecognized and unrewarded.
While good customer service hardly every gets recognized, poor customer service gains recognition everywhere you turn:
- The person at a retail store asking to speak to a manager as the result of interaction with a disinterested associate,
- A poor tip left at a restaurant due to slow or incorrect service,
- The forum post born out of frustration from being on hold for what seems like an eternity before getting a live person,
- The simple conversation between friends complaining about the lack of planning and service available at the mall on a Sunday afternoon.
The customer may not always be right, but it is the employee’s job to make every effort to try and make every situation right.
It is no secret that happy customers are repeat customers, and that one bad experience left unresolved can drive a customer to a competitor (and they sometimes leave even if a resolution is found).
Recognize What You Do That Customers Hate
The key to retaining and even growing a customer base is superior customer service.
Yet, time and again companies seem intent on neglecting this most important component:
- extended hold times and difficult to navigate telephone menus,
- poorly trained or even incompetent representatives (every employee represents the company),
- outsourcing jobs to countries with poor phone line reception or poor grasp of the English language,
- unwritten or hidden policies, and
- even ignoring customers altogether.
Any one of those instances or a myriad of others will drive away business, and perhaps worse cause the customer to spread the word of such a distasteful experience.
In an age where news can spread like wildfire, the last thing a business needs is to be bad-mouthed.
A bad experience can be relayed before the event even has a chance to unfold in its entirety thanks to mobile tech.
News of the event can be across the country or even halfway around the world via blog or forum postings.
Upper management can receive word of a truly bad experience from the customer almost immediately through an e-mail.
There are numerous ways in which such events can be publicized by even the most “insignificant” of customers–and there are businesses that do view customers in such a manner based on the amount of money spent or the number of repeat purchases.
Combating Negative Customer Experiences
The keys to retaining and growing a customer base are simple and do not take much effort to implement:
- Train company representatives in all aspects of their duties as well as other duties they might be required to undertake
- Instill a culture of “customer-first”, whereby each customer is treated as the most important person at that particular moment
- Encourage company representatives to take the initiative to resolve potential problems before they are allowed to develop
- Empower employees to take corrective measures (within reason) in order resolve customer issues immediately
- Make it easy for customers to contact the company in the event of an issue arising and ensure that the representatives are equipped to deal with those issues
It is not a cost-intensive or difficult process to ensure that customer service is a top priority.
In fact, it may be as simple as giving the customer a warm smile and showing appreciation for their business.
It shouldn’t be too hard considering one simple fact: we are all customers at times, so we know how we would expect to be treated.
It only makes sense to place yourself on the other side when dealing with a disgruntled customer yourself.
And, above all, let them know that they are valued and desired because, without the customer, there simply is no business.
5 Easy Ways To Lose Customers
Customers are the lifeblood of any business.
It’s not important enough to acquire customers, though.
You have to work on attention to customer retention too.
Here are a few stats from a Zendesk customer service study:
- 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service
- 86% are willing to pay up to 25% more for a better customer experience
- 95% of customers share bad experiences with others
That’s some pretty important info to think about.
It shows that how you treat your customers has a huge direct impact on your business.
Unfortunately, plenty of businesses suck at making customers feel comfortable, important, or even relevant.
It’s important to remember that “customer service” isn’t specific to calls to a helpline or employees in a retail environment.
“Customer service” encompasses everything related to interactions with customers–website visits, emails, phone calls, and in-person interactions.
Here are 5 specific ways that are very common among businesses that lose customers due to perceived poor treatment.
1. Make It Hard To Find Or Get In Touch With You
Nobody likes having to work in order to give you their business.
Quite frankly you should be making it impossible for them to not find your info.
Not having a website or a poorly designed website lacking a contact page (or any contact info for that matter) is a great way to accomplish this.
So is having a generic free email address that has nothing to do with the business which makes it more difficult to remember or associate with you.
Being without a fax is understandable, but not having a phone number at all is inexcusable.
What’s even more frustrating for customers is having your contact info, but never being able to reach a live person.
If you have a phone, you need to answer it.
Plus these days, every business needs a social media presence.
If for nothing else, your presence needs to be known to the world and make it increasingly easier for others to find you.
If you don’t care about losing out on acquiring new customers, keep doing any (or all) of those things.
2. Take Forever To Respond
People don’t like to feel as if they don’t matter or are being ignored.
By doing this, you are putting that very assumption into their heads.
How long does it take to respond to an email?
Return a phone call?
How about a message on social media?
All it takes is a minute or two.
An email saying something like “Hi, I got your message, but things are crazy right now. I’ll get back to you by the end of the week.” shouldn’t be such a hindrance as many people make it out to be.
Simply responding even if time is short or you don’t have an answer, will let them know you haven’t forgotten or aren’t neglecting them.
And remember, these are people who want to give you their money.
But go ahead and keep people waiting forever to hear back from you.
It’s not like there are other businesses they can turn to which will treat them the right way.
3. Lie, Cheat & Steal
Give them some song and dance about why you didn’t take their numerous calls.
Try to sell them on the reasoning behind your inability to do something as simple as answering their e-mails.
Portray yourself over as something you aren’t.
Just don’t take responsibility for your actions (or lack thereof), be transparent, or most of all, be upfront.
Waste their time.
Take their money.
Don’t do anything at all while taking their money.
That’s a sure way to drive away business.
In this day and age, virtually anything can be found about anybody, so keep things shady if you really want to drive people away.
4. Fail To Deliver
Do you promise the world to potential clients even though you know for a fact that you would have a hard time backing up those claims?
Do you have a problem saying “no” to new customers even if you know your plate is overflowing?
People want to think they are #1 in your book, and both of those tell a much different story in customers’ minds.
What else can you do to lose customers?
Coming up short on guarantees.
Overreaching on promises of service.
Not meeting deadlines (some people just cannot work within a timetable, and you know who you are).
Providing less than quality work.
All of these are failures to deliver on your end.
Broken promises lead to angry customers.
Angry customers become former customers.
Former customers tend to talk a lot about their bad experiences.
That should definitely accomplish the goal of losing customers.
5. Spam People Relentlessly
One of the most delicate things when it comes to customers is trust.
They want to be sure that you aren’t selling their personal info.
They also want to be sure that you aren’t disclosing information about them.
Sure, a lot of businesses rely on email or text marketing for customer acquisition as well as retention.
But the other side of that coin is knowing where the line exists that separates informative and spam communication.
Sending messages every day is almost certainly crossing that line.
Once a week?
That’s toeing the line.
Biweekly or monthly?
That’s probably the safest option.
You have to be careful to balance the frequency and kind of information you send out to people.
How would you feel if a company breached your trust by abusing its communication privileges with you?
You definitely don’t want to get overzealous and be viewed as a spammer, which will cause a huge trust rift.
That’s a surefire way to push customers away.
The bottom line is quite simple.
Follow these 5 rules of thumb, and you will be guaranteed to not only lose your current customers but potential clients as well.
People do talk and word of mouth is a strong way to affect business, whether in a positive or negative manner.
Just look back at the beginning of this article for proof.
Remember, without customers, there isn’t a business.
5 Ways To Create Loyal Customers
According to Wikipedia, the definition of customer retention is the activity that a selling organization undertakes in order to reduce customer defections.
A company’s ability to attract and retain new customers is not only related to its product or services but strongly related to the way it services its existing customers and the reputation it creates within and across the marketplace.
I’ve encountered very few companies who actually live up to that definition.
But as a consumer, it only takes a little bit of effort to make me a happy customer.
We’ve already covered how to lose customers, so…
Here are 5 ways you can improve customer retention and make me a lifelong fan.
1. Find Out What A Customer Really Wants (aka Listen)
I can count on one hand the number of times a company has asked for my opinion or feedback about a product.
Normally they only care to listen once there is a problem, and by then it’s almost too late.
How can they know what I really want or need if they don’t have the time to engage me as a customer?
By taking 5 minutes to ask me what I’m looking for and really listening, a company can (and has) completely win me over.
A little goes a long way.
2. Immediately Respond To Complaints And Questions
We can all spot an automated response or message to a problem, pretty easily.
I’m actually pretty shocked when I get a real person to address my issue, even if it’s just to say they will get back to me soon.
An immediate response to my request or other feedback is a surefire way to make me a loyal customer for life.
Take it one step further by hedging any problems in the first place.
By fixing a complaint before it even happens, a company shows they aren’t just interested in making money.
3. Make A Personal Connection
Social media isn’t going anywhere, so as a business you might as well deal with it, accept it and capitalize on it.
There are no super tips for making money on Twitter or Facebook, all you need to do is be SOCIAL.
And I’m not talking about just spamming me with your latest product every 5 minutes.
Create social engagement and get people involved.
I’ve met several companies through social media and have really connected with the face behind the brand.
I feel these representatives are truly engaging and interested in my success.
In return, I want to do business with them.
4. Admit To Mistakes And Accept Responsibility
Most of the time I don’t care who’s at fault or what happened, I just want the problem fixed.
But I do not like to be blamed for an issue that was clearly not my fault.
Businesses are run by humans, and humans make mistakes.
Accept responsibility and work towards finding a solution.
With blogs, Facebook accounts, and the Internet in general, consumers have multiple media platforms to express their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).
As a company, you never know who you’re serving, and losing that person’s business might have a bigger effect than you realize.
You can create a loyal follower or a vocal enemy.
5. Go Above And Beyond
This is a fairly simple idea but it can have profound effects.
The car company BMW, for instance, has a very special way of thanking their customers.
If you purchase one of their vehicles, you can receive the Century BMW VIP Performance Driving & Tour package, a $2,000 value!
This package includes airfare or train transportation, hotel accommodations, a personalized tour throughout the factory in Germany, and a manufacturing plant.
At the end of the day, you can pick up your vehicle and drive a victory lap around the museum.
Now, THAT is some serious customer service.
After an experience like that, I’m sure all of us would become BMW drivers for life.
As customers we just want to be treated with respect and that our opinions matter.
We work hard for our money and try to spend it as wisely as possible.
Great customer service skills are quickly being forgotten but it doesn’t take much to keep buyers happy.
All it really takes is to act as you care, show your face behind the brand, listen and be engaging.
As a customer, how would you recommend people treat–or not treat–people who spend their hard-earned money with them? If you’re a business owner what do you do to make sure your customers know they’re appreciated and welcomed?