Make 2014 your best business year ever and start by improving relationships with the people that count. Saeema Salim tells you how to provide outstanding customer service that will amaze your clients
Gone are the days when the catchiest jingle and the glossiest brochure were the best way to attract people. The whole business panorama has fundamentally changed. The present and the future belong to the digital world. Customers are now better informed and more powerful. They know what they want, and demand variety and the liberty to get what they want from anywhere in the world via online trading. The growth of digitalisation and technology has psychologically prepared today’s customer for higher expectations and an anticipation of excellent customer experience.
Outstanding! Superior! Excellent! This kind of praise from a customer means that you have gone beyond the normal expectation. It also means you are raising the bar. Anybody can simply provide a service, open the door to a business and invite people to come in and give them money. However not everybody can be a star. A star stands out from the rest and consistently ranks above all others when it comes to the kind of service you provide to your customers. Moreover, a star’s customer service superiority lies in the way the service or product amazes the customers. We are living in a fiercely competitive climate, so here are the three magical words that can make the difference: “Wow your Customers”.
Wow your customers
Amazing a customer is what we are supposed to be doing. Amazing can be anything that attracts a customer and influences a customer’s decision to buy our products and services. We must capture our customers. You do not need to crash land – no need to offer crazy discounts, big budgets or luscious publicity stunts with gigantic banners, balloons or flashy suits. Being amazing is not hard to do. You only need to put the right effort in the right place.
Keep your customers
Let us begin with the golden oldie. It costs five times more to win a customer than it does to keep an existing one. The key to any successful business is a sturdy customer base. If you can ‘wow’ your customers they will bring you repeat sales. Keep on satisfying and amazing them and you can be sure your resources are being used wisely. It is as simple as squeezing a lemon.
The challenge comes in when you are prospecting for new customers. This is an essential part of any business, but amazing your present customers should be your number one priority. This is because, regular customers:
- Are habitually less sensitive about price – they appreciate the big picture;
- Are more likely to be interested in any additional products or services;
- Will happily recommend you to others;
- Take less of your time and money to retain and please.
Actions speak louder than words
Make your customers’ happiness your top priority. Larger corporates may well spend millions on advertising to tell customers how much they care about them, but quite often are found lacking (due to cuts in budgets) when it comes to good personal customer service.
You can amaze customers by genuinely caring about what they think and giving them what they need. One of the best ways to breed this sort of culture is to lead by example. Everyone has a role model to follow. Your employees could see you as their role model. As a leader, your obligation is to make sure your staff are all well conversant with and well versed in your customer service policies and show that you care about the minute details. Some of the skills that you need to instil into your employees for a better customer service are:
- They should be great listeners to respect the customer;
- They should have effective communication skills;
- They should know how to manage their emotions and remain calm when handling customers;
- They should have the ability to manage expectations of customer complaints;
- They should maintain a good body language as they speak to customers over the phone;
- They should be ready to learn from their mistakes;
- They should be able to analyse problems, negotiate and persuade.
Get a ‘wow’ website
We have all visited those websites that make it just too hard! You cannot immediately tell what the company does, you cannot find the product information you require and you have to keep returning to the homepage to try and find what you need. It makes you almost lose the will to live. Sometimes, infuriatingly, you have to fill out an online form and then find that it is four days before you get a response. By that time, you already have found what you want anyway – on a competitor’s website.
Here are some quick tips to give your website the ‘wow’ factor:
- If you are not a web designer, call one over for a coffee. The designer’s input will help you achieve a site that is easy to navigate, using design layouts and colour themes that best suit your business and your brand;
- Reading from a screen is different to reading from a page – huge chunks of content just don’t work. Create subheadings and break the content down to bullet points with short, readable sentences to create easy-to-read web copy – and make sure the grammar is up to the mark;
- If your site has more than a few lines of text, outsource to an expert who can optimise your content – they will research and include keywords that will appeal to both search engine robots (to obtain a higher search engine ranking) and to your human website visitors;
- Think from your customer’s point of view – why are they visiting your website and what do they want from it? Tell customers about who you are, what you do and how they can get in touch with you. Give them a reason to visit your site and they will choose to stay.
A picture speaks a thousand words – what is your logo saying about your business?
Your logo should capture and reflect the essence of your business – and what makes you unique.
Unless you are a graphic designer, a homemade logo and branding set might communicate that you are not serious about what you do or sell. If the logo looks old-fashioned and lacks quality, think about what that reflects about the rest of your business.
If you are unsure about where to begin, take your ideas to an expert designer or a branding consultant who will guide you in figuring out what is best and worst for your business identity. Besides its design and colour, the logo should portray an unforgettable image in the customer’s mind.
Better business cards
Business cards are a widely used, and yet underused, promotional tool. Think about how you use your business card. Is it just the source of your name and number? Does it contain a list of your services? Is there a place to write appointment times or scribble product specs? Here are some ways to make your business card work better for you:
- Get it professionally designed, so that it matches your other promo material;
- If you’re always writing on the back of it (appointments, product details) get the front laminated so you don’t end up with streaky scribbles;
- Give your card a purpose, to embody and reflect the professionalism of your products and services. It can be in the form of a bookmark, an event ticket, a note card or a sticker;
- Put something useful on it. Famous quotes, a map to find you, a list of services offered or your opening hours.
Send a card
Greetings cards never go out of fashion. Why wait for Christmas? Would it not be amazing for your customers to receive a branded birthday card with a nice birthday offer, a card to acknowledge the anniversary of their store inauguration or a Valentine’s Day card to say how much you love their patronage? You don’t have to wait for an occasion. If you made a mistake, and have since remedied the situation, a ‘Sorry’ card in the mail along with a swift simple ‘make-up’ offer will help rebuild bridges. If you haven’t heard from a regular customer for months now, tell them you are missing them with a card. When a customer helps you out, or if you just want to let them know you appreciate their business, send an old-fashioned Thank You card.
Ask for feedback
Sometimes it’s easier to assume that your customers like everything you do. They’re buying your products and using your services: they must like it, right? In order to amaze your customers, it is important to ask them what they think of your service and to listen to what they say. This will enable you to realise where you are going wrong and seek room for improvement. Here are simple ways to get feedback from your customers:
- Email/Internet surveys: if you have a mailing list or regular contacts, you can create an email or Internet survey. Many sites can let you track responses from your own questionnaires. Don’t be a spammer, and be aware of spam regulations before you email;
- Paper surveys: these are similar to online surveys, but, using the old-fashioned pen and check boxes, you can pop a customer care survey in your next delivery, or let your customers pick up one from your premises on their next visit;
- One-on-one: ask your most important customers if they can spare a little time to provide some detailed feedback. Develop a standard list of questions to ask all your summoned interviewees so you can compile the results easily. This could be time-consuming, but offering them refreshments and beverages would diminish the burden. That way you can compare the results and draw informed conclusions.
Don’t be scared of getting both positive and negative feedback. Your customers will be grateful and pleased by the value you give to their opinions. You will come across lots of ideas, but which ones will work best for your customers depends on how unique your product or services are and how differently you present them. Remember your customers are also unique and hold different perceptions. Ultimately, you need to try to adapt your efforts to their needs and go that extra mile to keep them happy. They will be amazed in the long run.
The power of video
Folk are watching more videos online and on mobiles than ever before. Producing a professional two-minute video is a powerful way to sell your business. The most important part of creating it is to make sure that the content is useful to your audience as well as being visually attractive and professional. Research and write the content carefully, starting with a powerful introduction and finishing on a strong conclusion.
Try using http://fiverr.com or simply use iPhone Video Hero. It’s both cost-effective and time-saving, but seek advice from professionals if you feel out of your depth.
The Power of a blog
Blogs aren’t just for teenagers looking to spread their angst. Professionals use blogs as a way to get their expertise noticed, to give customers advice, and to keep their websites fresh and interesting. Blogs don’t need to be long, or personal. Some of the platforms you can use are WordPress, Blogger, and Tumbler. Find out where your customers are hanging out. Connect with them via regular Blog posts and social media – build up a following on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and GooglePlus, and be active. Establish your expertise by use of words and impress customers. And finally, remember to listen to your customers – they will teach you a lot.