If you're a business owner or manager and are already convinced about the merits of providing better service to increase customer loyalty, here are some practical ways you could actually do this!
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- Smile. Seriously – the reason everyone says this is because it works. Even when you're on the phone. Put up some post-it notes to remind you (you'll probably enjoy work more too if you smile more!)
- Remember customers names. Use a database to jog your memory or make it a game between staff as to who can remember (and use) customer names the most. This is a habit that might take a couple of weeks before it feels natural – try it out, it works.
- Be a good listener. Encourage customers to talk about themselves and share what's going on. Then refer to it later to demonstrate that you actually heard them!
- Ask customers their opinion on something. People love to feel important, so ask them what else they'd like to see on the menu, or get their input into the design of your new business cards.
- Give loyal customers advance notice of a special offer or new products. Let them know that you value them and thought of contacting them first when you've got something new to share.
- Share customer stories publically (with their permission). Showcase your clients' new hairdo and state something nice about them on your Facebook page, or feature your clients' house and mention how clever they were with the design or some other feature.
- Give them something unexpected. Provide another round of coffees on the house, give them a bottle of carpet cleaner (if you've just cleaned their carpet), or leave a bottle of wine (if you've just helped them move house). This will be remembered far more than the standard service they engaged you to do and is going in increase the liklihood you'll get repeat business and referrals from this customer.
- Follow up. Check in with your customer to see that everything's ok. If you're a tradie, call to make sure everything's still working the way it's supposed to, if you're a masseuse, call the next day to see how they felt (you could even ask if they'd like to rebook for a couple of weeks time).
- Ask for Feedback or a Review. Similar to asking for their opinion, customers feel valued when you ask for their feedback – and this actually increases their satisfaction. Plus, if you can get that feedback in a public forum (like a review on WOMO), you'll get far more mileage from each customer.
- If something goes wrong or the customer is not happy, OVER-CORRECT. We always say that the real test of a business is how they react when something goes wrong (which happens to even the best businesses). So don't hold back. Give them something even better than they'd originally ordered. Use Express Postage. Apologise. Get your best person out to see them pronto. Or after-hours. Basically, go over-board on service to demonstrate that the problem was definitely something out of the ordinary. If handled correctly, problems are actually a great chance to turn unhappy customers into raving fans.
- Provide a generous Guarantee or Returns Policy – and stick to it! Offer to do their hair colour again if they don't like it. Give them free postage on returns. Guarantee their taps won't drip within 12 months or you'll fix them for free. You might occasionally incur the cost of fulfilling these guarantees but the increased customer patronage you get will far outweigh this cost.
- Say Thank You. Remember, every customer has choices and they chose your business – so be grateful! Say a sincere thank you and let the customer know how much they mean to you. Or, send them an email the following day. It doesn't have to be long – just make it sincere and it will have a huge impact.
- Show your staff Customer Service is important. Praise them publically when you see them do a good job. Discuss customer service in meetings or company emails. Provide customer service training to your staff – even (maybe especially!) if your business operates in a field not known for customer service. Here's a Customer Service Cheat Sheet you can use.
- Treat Staff Well. Ultimately it's your first line people that will determine the level of service your customers receive. So if they're not happy, engaged and fully supportive of the business your service will suffer. If you've got staff, remember to build a supportive culture, regularly sit down and discuss their goals and how you can help them achieve those, and address any issues that might be stopping them from doing their best work. You might even want to try adding some small perks – flowers in the office, a day off for their birthday, a car park for the week for the top performer, a monthly lunch, etc.
- Be a Real Person. Let customers in a little on the more personal side of you. In the right context, tell them about your family, the reason you started the business, what you love about it, what your goals are and more. Encourage staff to do the same. This will increase the relationship your customer has with your business and increase the liklihood they'll stay loyal. Think of your customers are future friends!
- Respond Quickly. Put business policies in place to ensure customers are not left waiting. For example, answer calls within 3 rings, return all calls within 24 hours, return emails the same business day, greet visitors within 30 seconds of them entering your store, provide a quote within 48 hours, etc.
- Over-Communicate. If the product your customer is waiting for still isn't in stock, call or email to apologise and let them know you're still working on it. If appointments are running late today, call and let them know to come 1/2 hour later so that you don't waste their time. Sometimes it can feel like it's over the top, but much better to over-communicate than under-communicate.
- Build a Community for your Customers. Make customer feel like their transaction with you makes them part of something bigger. Use Social Media to allow customers to interact with one-another. Post photos of people using your products in your store on online. Join them up to a value-added membership program (eg parenting tips, gardening tips, organic juicing tips, etc). (At WOMO, the businesses on our Happy Customers Program join the WOMO Business Insiders group on Facebook where they can discuss marketing and customer service issues with us and with each other.)
Pick a couple and get them implemented!
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