Monthly Archives: January 2014

All change please

It’s about to be all change in the Cooper household.

View from Devils Punchbowl

My husband is retiring this Friday.

I have mixed feelings about this; on the one hand it gives much more flexibility to do things together, but as I spend much of my working week working from home I also realise this is going to be a huge distraction!

In fact this week I’ve already been seduced into going for a lovely long walk in the beautiful sunshine at Devil’s Punchbowl. I can see my blog post and articles getting fewer and further between!

This change in circumstances has made me think about customers and how changes can impact their long-term loyalty.

It’s all too easy to assume that someone’s change in circumstances means that they’ll no longer remain a customer. That might well be the case if we don’t treat them any differently or we remain rigid in what we offer. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Let me give you couple of examples relevant to my husband.

He is a keen sailor but currently only gets to his sailing club at weekends. He’s also up to now only ever raced (what I consider to be) very sporty boats, and not necessarily suited to the over 60s! Does this mean that he won’t be going sailing anymore? Absolutely not. But what it has meant is he’s changing the class of boat he sails and instead of just sailing weekends he’ll now sail in the week too. So in fact has effectively become a better customer than he was before.

For the past 30 years he’s had a company car. Various makes and models including Peugeots, Audis, Volvos and BMWs. 30 years. That’s given him a lot of opportunity to work out who gives him the best customer experience. And now it’s down to him to foot the bill out of his own pocket naturally he’s chosen the make and dealer that looked after him the best, offered the best value and created the most trust.

So what can we learn from this for building customer loyalty?

 

Lesson 1

Never assume customers will forget poor treatment or a poor customer experience. Most customers have long memories! A poor experience some years ago with one of the main car dealerships made us vow never to buy a car from them. At the time as a company car driver, the sales team simply weren’t interested as they weren’t personally going to benefit. The result was a damaged reputation for the whole brand. And I bet if we walked into that same showroom today with £30k to spend on a private purchase they’d probably want to bite our hand off….  Too late, the damage is done.

 

Lesson 2

Don’t assume customers will never want to make a second or third purchase. As you’d expect all Clive’s home office kit will be returned to his employer. This means new phone, computer, printer etc, but starting from scratch to find where to buy. Can the same be said for any of your customers? Once they’ve bought once do we forget all about them? Stay on their radar so when the time comes for a repeat purchase you’re still front of mind.

 

Lesson 3

Customers’ priorities, expectations and needs change. How well do you adapt?  Engage with them and listen to what they want. I’m not saying you need to be all things to all men, but if you’ve already got their loyalty and trust, don’t throw that all away; be receptive to changing demands. What’s changed in their world that’s shifted their priorities, re defined what they want, altered how they want it, or influenced when they want it.

 

Lesson 4

Levels of influence and buying authority change too. Someone who might not be in a buyer today might be your perfect customer of tomorrow. And of course these days everyone has the opportunity to influence others through the power of social media. So treat everyone with the same respect, whether it’s a customer’s receptionist, a passing pedestrian asking for directions or a student asking for some help with their studies. That scene in Pretty Women comes to mind just now, when Julia Roberts, shopping in hand returns to the store where she’s been snubbed by the shop assistants, highlighting their ‘Big Mistake!’

 

Lesson 5

Timing is everything. Your services or products need to be available at a time that suits your customers, not just when it suits you. Having your team go for lunch at your busiest time of day, not opening till 9 when your customers want to call you at 8, getting back to customers when you promise, keeping them informed of progress. Being without a car for 3 months simply wasn’t an option, nor was keeping the company car. So knowing a delivery date was important. If you can’t come up the goods to meet the customer’s deadlines say so. If you can, give them the confidence you can and the reassurance you will.

 

In summary: Trust takes time to establish, but a second to lose. Be consistent with your customers, even when things change.


What do your customers remember most about their customer experience?

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me… last impressions

A truly Memorable Last Impression

What’s the very last thing your customers see, hear, smell, taste or feel as they leave.

What will your customers remember most about doing business with you as they drive off into the sunset?

Whatever happens in the last few moments of their transaction will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression.

It could be the bill, and whether they see it as value for money. It might be the wait to part with their hard earned cash, or the way the payment is acknowledged.

It might be the attitude of the last person they speak to on the way out or in your car park. The offer of help (or not) carrying items to their car. It could be the route to the car via your backdoor, the view behind the scenes you’d rather they didn’t see; or a visit to your toilets, which might not be as pristine at the end of the day as they are at the start.

What’s the last conversation they hear as they leave? Is it all genuine smiles and sincere thank yous, or do they get to hear the back stage gossiping and gripes? Or the complaints about how busy they’ve been and how tired they are, or about how poor your payment process because of the slow internet connection which is why they’ve been kept waiting.

Do they feel appreciated and that you’re sorry to see them go?  Or are you unintentionally making signs that you’ve other more important things to be getting on with? The equivalent of impatiently looking at your watch or getting the hoover out! It may not be obvious, but letting them know you’re running late, that you’re relieved it’s home time or closing time, showing signs of rushing them out of the door or off the premises.

Any one of these could influence your customers’ lasting impression. The one they remember as they drive away, when they get home, or next time they’re thinking of doing business with you….



 

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Give Little Unexpected Extras to enhance the customer experience

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love sent to megift

A totally unexpected little extra

Delivering what you’ve promised is a given.

But giving Little Unexpected Extras goes beyond that. It doesn’t have to be massive – going the extra mile is good, but just going the extra inch or two can make a difference (and still leaves you with more in the bag to pull out next time!)

Simple things such as getting back to people quicker than anticipated – speed always impresses, including something you thought they’d like just because you know it’s their favourite (the fact you’ve remembered this will of course earn you bonus points), gift wrapping or packing something with a personal touch or greeting because you notice it’s for a special occasion, including something extra just because you think they’ll appreciate it due to the weather, time of day, who they have with them, etc.

All these are unexpected (and spontaneous) extras – all of which are tailored to the individual and situation. So make your ‘extras’ relevant, well timed and personal.

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Add value for your customers

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love sent to me…making it happen

A problem solved

Solve your customers’ problems as an opportunity to add value.

Be proactive and be one step ahead of your customers by offering them things they want. This involves listening and responding, but also imaging what else either complements what you offer, or what’s the next logical step – even if they don’t know they want this yet.

It’s a bit like buying your child an electric guitar for Christmas and the shop suggesting you might also like a set of headphones so you can cut out the sound of the relentless practising. In this case it’s a win-win as you make an extra sale too, but it might be something you offer as part of the package, as added value.

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Give your team the skills to deliver great customer experiences

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to meteam

A Trained and Trusted Team

 

Nothing frustrates a customer more than being told by a member of staff that they don’t have the authority to make a decision or approve a simple request.

Even more so when the only person who can make the decision is nowhere to be found.

Your customers expect consistency irrespective of who’s on duty…

Give your team the authority they need to make decisions based on their role and individual strengths. Give them license to inject their personality into how they converse with customers. If you’ve recruited the right people, you should be able to trust them to adopt their own approach, and assuming they know the result you are aiming for it allows scope for creativity too.

Empower everyone in the team to make their own personal recommendations and suggestions to customers as they see fit to meet the customer’s needs; it’s always the personal touches customers remember.

Encourage everyone to spot opportunities to do something out of the ordinary for your customers that leaves them feeling they’ve received extraordinary customer service. And give them the confidence to add their own little touches of magic to wow your customers.

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Enhance your customers experience – save them time

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me

Some spare time!clock

Anything that saves your customer time will add value.

If people have to queue, make this as painless as possible. Can they be doing other things whilst queuing which will save time once they get served – filling out forms, reading information that might help with their buying decision? At the very least being kept informed of progress and seeing the queue moving.

Review all the touch points on the customers’ journey – where can time be saved; waiting for web pages or images to load, phones being answered more quickly, keeping on top of orders so purchases can be dispatched quickly.

A minute here, and a second there may not seem much individually, but add them all together and you might save your customers considerably time.

Do customers ever have to repeat information they’ve already given, double back to access things they need, or duplicate processes, which not only waste their valuable time, but take more effort on their part. Even if these are industry norms can you be the first to break the mould and do things differently?

But…

Bear in mind, if your business is for entertainment or recreation, you don’t want customers to feel rushed, so apply time savings sensibly and appropriately;

Never compromise quality for speed.

And never use it as an excuse for staff members to cut corners or make mistakes. It’s a fine balance. Test and review and tweak accordingly.

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Great customer experiences need great systems

IMG_0244On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me

A system!

Is your business like the seven Swans are swimming, all serene on the surface, but chaos behind the scenes?

To deliver the same consistent level of great customer service and customer experience you have to have systems in place, otherwise no two days will be the same and no two customer experiences will be the same.

To build trust you need to ensure each customer’s second, third, or 30th visit is at least as good as their first.

Review your customer journey regularly to be sure to deliver on every occasion. With regular customers this means continuous improvement, as they will have set expectations, which we need to strive to exceed on every visit.

Have systems for your team to follow to deliver this, whoever is on duty…. Not just your exceptional employees, even your average ones should be able to deliver outstanding service every day.

Your aim should be for Consistency +1%.

Simple things delivered well will always be better than trying to be over sophisticated and delivering it badly.

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