Category Archives: Customer loyalty

Butts, Brand and Buyers’ Remorse

So what might cigarette butts have to do with your brand and buyers’ remorse?cigarette butt

Well bear with me on that.

Wouldn’t you agree that your brand isn’t what you tell people it is; it’s what the customer perceives it to be?

The other day as I was returning home a liveried delivery van (i.e. the name of the company was blazoned across it) was parked outside my house, making a delivery – sadly not to me – but my neighbour. It preventing me from turning into my drive, but that was fine; it’s a narrow road and we accept it’s difficult to park without blocking the road. So far nothing remarkable.

But as the driver came out from my neighbour’s drive before stepping back into his van he dropped his cigarette on the ground (to the entrance of my drive). I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned a cigarette butt it just another form of litter. He obviously didn’t seem to think so because as I got out of my car and handed him back his still smouldering cigarette butt he seemed somewhat shocked!

So what has this to do with brand and buyers’ remorse? The van was from a well-regarded white goods company who spend a small fortune on advertising and building their brand. But what did this driver’s actions leave me feeling about their brand and their attitude towards customers? Even though I wasn’t the customer the power of referral and recommendation is undeniable.

And as I recounted this tale to my neighbour – and whereas I didn’t intend to leave her with any buyers’ remorse – inevitably she was not impressed (and maybe even a little embarrassed).

As we said earlier, your brand is it what you tell people is, it’s what the customer experiences.

 

But it’s not down to us

One of the ‘excuses’ I often hear from businesses is that it’s down to a third party provider and they have no control over it. But just think about this. These suppliers could be your customers’ very first impression or very last impression. The two most critical points of your customers’ journey, so doesn’t it make sense to get it right.

For example:

  • You outsource your IT or your telephone answering service. How often is your website or call to your office the customer’s very first touch point?
  • You work from serviced offices. How often is the grumpy security guard or miserable disengaged reception desk the first physical point of contact?
  • If you outsource your cleaning, how often do your customers encounter your cleaners? (And bear in mind how often the toilets become the first or last port of call!)
  • If you are a hotel and you outsource your leisure or spa facilities, how influential are these in determining your guests’ overall experience?
  • And if you deliver anything to your customers, be it white goods, printing, or engineering support, how often will this be the very last touch point and lasting memory of your business?

 

So how do you control these?

When appointing your subcontractors choose businesses that are compatible with your customer service values and can demonstrate their ability to meet these.

Find out what they actually do to meet these. What systems do they have in place for when things go wrong?  How good a role model for customer care is the person you deal with one a day to day basis? What do their other customers say about them? Is there any evidence of customer service training?

For example, some of my clients ask me to provide them with information for their sales proposals so they’re able to demonstrate to perspective customers how they take customer service seriously.

Just the other day one of my clients asked for extra copies of some of the training materials I’d produced for them so they could share with some of their customers and prospective customers.

Set criteria and KPIs/SLAs for your subcontractors so they know exactly what’s expected of them, what’s acceptable behaviour and what’s not. Ensure you have ways to measure these, don’t just assume they are living up to them. Ask your customers for feedback or carry out mystery shopping exercises where you can.

And if things are not going according to your standards nip it in the bud, unless they are aware they’re falling short they’re unlikely to change.

(And of course if they need some help on their customer care you know where to send them! J)

By the way… as we’re talking about cigarettes… one last point I’d like to add.

What image do your own team give customers when it comes to their cigarette breaks?

Is your customers’ first sight of your team seeing them puffing away outside your building? Worse still do customers (or the general public) have to fight their way through a haze smoke to get to your front door?!

I’ll leave you to reflect on that one.

We all know it’s a hassle switching suppliers or contractors, but don’t leave your customer’s experience and your brand to chance.

 


Lessons in Loyalty

Happy  Anniversary

This week my husband and I have been celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.

So I’ve been reflecting on the lessons we can learn from a successful marriage that can be applied equally to a successful customer relationship, ultimately leading to customer loyalty and retention.

5 themes immediately came to mind.

1. Show you care

Taking time to listen (and showing you’re listening) not only demonstrates your interest, but also helps identify what’s important and to clarify expectations.

Recognise others might have different priorities, interests and needs and understanding what these are makes it a lot easier to achieve a win-win.

This might involve problem-solving and frequently requires a degree of flexibility. We all know digging in our heels or sulking gets us nowhere!

 

2. Keep things fresh

Add an element of surprise, spontaneity and the unexpected. Providing of course it’s a pleasant surprise! I often talk about adding GLUE – giving little unexpected extras. These work equally well at home as they do in business.

 

3. Don’t take them for granted

Remember to show your appreciation for even the smallest gesture and say thank you. Keep your promises even if it means doing something that seems insignificant to you. If problems arise nip them in the bud so they don’t fester.

And own up to mistakes and admit when you’re in the wrong. Yes, I know this can be tough, but it certainly earns you brownie points when you do.

 

4. Let them know you’re thinking of them

When you’re not together stay in touch, and stay on their radar. Whether it’s a letter, birthday card, email, or simply a text, it lets your loved one (or customer) know they’re still important to you. Or maybe you spot something that is perfect for them and give it to them saying “I saw this and thought of you”.

 

5. Celebrate

Join in when they want to celebrate, even if you’re not quite in the mood! There’s no better way to dampen someone’s enthusiasm (and potentially sour a relationship) than failing to share in their moment. Find a reason to ask them to share your celebrations too. And simply have some fun together.

 


Do your customers feel appreciated?

thank your customers

 

It’s estimated that over two thirds of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is probably the number one reason businesses lose customers.

So when speaking at a professional services group members meeting this week I was surprised by their reaction to the idea of saying thank you. To them this felt uncomfortable.

But how you say thanks is less important. It’s the fact you do something – anything – to show you appreciate your customer choosing to do business with you over and above all the other people or businesses they could have chosen.

What do you do to say thanks to your loyal customers so they feel appreciated?

Here are 5 things you could be doing if you’re not already…

1. Simply saying thank you

The easiest way to do this is of course is a sincere thank you in person.

But depending on the nature of your business and the value and relationship with each individual customer you could follow up with a simple thank you message.

By this I mean a personalised physical thank you note. Some think in this web based age this is out dated; but how would your customers react to receiving a handwritten personal note in the post, rather than another bland email clogging up their inbox?

It might be more appropriate to say thank you to a whole team of people. I’ve yet to find a team who doesn’t appreciate a special treat they can share in the office over coffee.

If your relationship is an ongoing one find an ‘excuse’ to make a thank you gesture. An anniversary, perhaps; a proud moment; moving house; or even to mark a special date in your own calendar, such as achieving an award; launching a new service; etc.

Which brings us nicely onto the next item…

2. Exclusivity

Give them privileged access to services, events, information or facilities which are only available to existing or your most valued customers, and not available to new customers. The more exclusive the better!

How does it make you feel when you see promotions offering special deals for new customers that aren’t available to you as an existing customer?

Make your loyal customers feel valued and special. Think of it like a members club, that delivers real benefits to members.

3. Remember them

Not only addressing your customers by name (although don’t under estimate the impact of this, especially when you aren’t expecting it). It’s also about remembering their preferences.

Do they have any particular likes and dislikes; special requirements, or preferences?

Do we know their important dates? How do they take their coffee? Remembering simple details will always be appreciated.

Record personal details and any special requirements so the service they receive is consistent whoever attends to them.

4. Ask for feedback

I know I’ve already mentioned this recently on this blog, but I’ll say it again…

Never take your regulars for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve any shortfalls quickly.

Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations.

Face to face will always win over a questionnaire.

Ask customers what they like and what (if anything) disappoints; learn from this and continually improve. Customers appreciate you asking for their opinions as long as you follow through.

Keep them updated to demonstrate you’ve been listening. What better excuse to invite them back to show the changes you’ve implemented?

5. Show you care

Be attentive to your customers’ individual needs and specific circumstances. Listen, engage and take time to show your genuine interest in them.

Take every opportunity to give spontaneous and unexpected little extras that they won’t get from your competitors.

These may be totally unrelated to your products or services, but simply something you know they’d appreciate. They’ve mentioned something in passing they love, but can’t’ get hold of it; they have a problem in some other aspect of their life, but you happen to see something you think might help; you know it’s a loved one’s birthday and you happen to have something you think they’d enjoy…

Pay attention to detail, be consistent, do that little bit extra when needed, so your customers always feel appreciated.

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I’d love to hear what do you do to say thanks to your loyal customers?


How to get your customers spending more and thanking you for it

Vector value added stamp

One way to grow your sales is to increase the spend of each of your customers, be that on each occasion they visit or buy from you, or through repeat business. They’ve already bought from you so they now know you, hopefully like what you have offered them, and by now they’ll be able to trust you. So you already have a relationship.

The challenge is we (and our team) often feel reluctant to “Upsell”. We don’t want to be pushy or be seen to be manipulating customers into buying something they don’t want.

But just think about it for a moment….

How would you feel on Christmas morning when your child (or grandchild) excitedly opens their new toy and wants to play with it right now. They turn to you and say “But Daddy, it’s not working”. You then see those words “Batteries not included”?

Imagine the disappointment!

Or you buy them that electric drum kit they’ve craved for so long, and all they want to do all through the holidays is practise on it…….. And at the point you are about to pull the plug on it (quite literally) a friends says “But didn’t you get them a set of headphones too?”

…If only someone had suggested this sooner.

Rather than feeling uncomfortable about someone trying to sell you something you didn’t want or need you’d probably be frustrated or even annoyed if they hadn’t suggested the additional items such as the batteries or the headphones.

So instead of thinking “upsell” think in terms of “adding value”.

Sometimes this will lead to an extra sale, but as long as it as it adds value for the customer they are unlikely to mind you making a suggestion.

Three easy ways we can add value:

  • Pre-empt typical questions or problems our customers need solving. Think about what they might want or need, offer alternatives and suggestions for offers and deals that might complement what they’ve ordered
  • Make personal recommendations: customers love getting the insider or local knowledge based on your experience and what fits their situation or tastes
  • Remember them and their preferences

Adding value is not just about the potential sale today; it’s about giving the customer a better all round experience. It might simply be exposing the customer to other options he or she may not have considered previously, giving them something they might have forgotten to order, or never even thought of.

It’s a longer term strategy which could lead to additional business at a later date.

What to promote

So in order to do this effectively the first thing is to determine which are the products or services you wish to promote. It obviously makes sense to be promoting high profit items, but there can be a danger in using this as the only criteria.

Unless what you are promoting is perceived as value to the customer, it’s unlikely the sale will be achieved, and does little to build your customer’s loyalty or trust. It’s also important to distinguish between high selling price and profitability and appropriateness to meet the customers’ needs.

For example upselling to a more expensive bottle of wine when it does not appeal to the customers tastes, or upselling an annual admission ticket to someone who doesn’t live locally and is unlikely to make use of it.

You end up with an unhappy and disgruntled customer. So a very short term gain on your part, and hardly likely to lead to a naturally loyal customer.

Spot the opportunities

Look at all the situations that lend themselves as an opportunity to add value – not just in everyone’s own department – but across all areas.

Know your audience and review the buying patterns of your most profitable customers; what types of things do they frequently buy together?

Put yourself in their shoes; what might be a logical accompaniment for the main thing they are buying (in the same way those batteries are a logical purchase if you’re buying a toy that runs on batteries).

  1. At theatres – a programme for tonight’s performance, an interval drink, limited edition souvenirs
  2. For salons – when being pampered for a special occasion, would they like to get their nails done whilst having their hair done, or take home a special lotion to complete their beauty regime
  3. For hotels – options on accommodation – room upgrades, special packages, champagne in rooms, recommending quiet times for spa or fitness centre
  4. In the restaurant – bottled water, suggestions for starters, accompaniments, side orders, deserts, desert wine, specialist coffees, after dinner drinks
  5. Gift items or jewellery – optional gift wrapping, gift cards
  6. Visitor attractions and museums – upgrading to annual tickets, access to exclusive areas, invitations to special events, cross promoting concessions’ facilities such as the café.
  7. At the bar or cafe – premium beers, tapas, home-made cakes with their coffee
  8. Follow ups – Does your service warrant an ongoing programme of sessions for best results, e.g. therapies, sports lessons, beauty treatments

I’m sure you’ll have many more specifics for your own operation.

Think ahead and try to anticipate things your customers might appreciate.

For example if a customer is buying a gift or to treat someone for a special occasion think ahead to what else they might be looking for such as gift wrapping, or card, champagne, flowers, celebration cake, etc

If what you provide involves the great outdoors and braving the elements what else might your customers need or want so that their experiences aren’t marred by bad weather? Having appropriate wet weather gear, hip flasks, and umbrellas are just a couple of things you might think of making available.

Even if you can’t offer all these yourself can you team up with other local businesses to make everything nice and easy for your customers?

Tell your customers

Don’t rely on telepathy for your customers to know what’s on offer! Have other products on show and give plenty of information on other services. And let customers know why this might be a good idea for them.

Ensure you and your team are able to talk confidently about each of the products and services available. You can’t sell something you don’t understand.

Allow your team to experience all the products and services first hand – this will not only make them more memorable, there will be more willingness to promote if they are confident to talk about it, and it will certainly be easier to evoke emotional appeal through vivid descriptions of feel, taste, smell, if they’ve experienced them themselves.

It’s also about timing. If you’re offering something that needs time to enjoy or savour, there’s no point telling them about it just as they are about to leave.

However, it’s always going to be easier to sell something of lower value at the end of the ‘sale’. Take for example when you buy a new suit, and you then get offered a shirt to go with it. The price of the shirt by comparison is small, so it’s an easy sale. Done the other way round has a very different result.

Judge your customers and when is the ‘right time’. For example in a restaurant selling desserts – ask too soon and people say they are still too full, and go straight on to coffee, ask too late and they have gone off the idea, and want to head off home. So it’s sometimes a fine line.

Train your team

Demonstrate to your team the importance of offering additional items to add value for your customers. Allow them to practise: for example how to ask open questions to identify customers’ needs and how to respond and make suggestions.
It’s all very well knowing what to say, but you know how sometimes when you come to say something the words just don’t trip off the tongue as you might hope!

Let your team practise in a safe environment, based on different scenarios.

And most importantly give them authority to look for opportunities and make suggestions and personal recommendations.

It all adds up to giving value, and making sure your customers don’t leave without their batteries….


Stay in touch with your customers

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Radar

Tip #10

Stay in touch

Providing you’ve gathered contact details it’s easy to stay in touch via email to let customers know what else is happening in your world and ensure that you stay on their radar until such time they’re ready to buy again.

The more you can personalise this to your individual customer preferences the better.

For help with this see 10 top tips for getting started with email marketing

 


Say thank you

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to meenvelope and note

Tip #5

Say thank you

In the same way you’d thank a friend or relative for their Christmas gift, a simple verbal thank you or even better a thank you note is always appreciated by your customers. And an added bonus, it helps you to stay on their radar.

It’s one of the simplest ways to get your customers’ attention and to make them feel special.

It not only shows your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by.


7 Customer Care Strategies to Woo and Wow your Valued Guests

 

We all know it’s far easier to get more business from our existing customers than it is to rely on a constant stream of new business. But unless we have a strategy and infrastructure in place were leaving a lot to chance.

Here are “7 Customer Care Strategies to Woo and Wow your Valued Guests to Add Value so you Keep Them Loyal and Coming Back for More”, as presented at the Institute of Hospitality CPD event in London on Tuesday evening.


Are you trying to get more business the hard way?

Getting more business the hard wayLast weekend we took a break to Istanbul. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know that like so many tourist areas you have to run the gauntlet to get through the mass of eager restaurateurs, carpet sellers and ceramics stallholders.

The trouble is they’re all just trying too hard to get our attention without even considering that we’re simply not interested.

And even if we were there’s no knowing what they supply will meet our needs. And so far there’s simply no relationship, no trust and no reason to choose them in preference to all the competition.

As it happened we weren’t in the least interested in looking at or buying carpets. However I do love ceramics and would have been tempted to look at some of the beautiful pieces on offer, but I was too scared of getting pressured …so I simply steered clear.

We were of course interested in eating! But rather than taking a gamble on our first night we asked our hotel for a recommendation. Interestingly when we approached the recommended restaurant it was the only one on that street where we didn’t get the sales spiel from the pavement.

On our second night we went to a restaurant in another part of the city which we would never have found had our hosts not been there before. It was tucked away in the most unlikely of buildings, on the top floor with fantastic views across the city, and food to match. We got the impression it was one of those places to be seen, but it certainly didn’t achieve such a following by accident.

On our final night we took the easy option and returned to the restaurant we’d been to on our first evening. The food had been good, there was a great atmosphere and they’d looked after us well. There’s no reason to suggest we wouldn’t have had just as good an experience in any of the others, but we knew we could trust this one, and as we had our hosts with us we didn’t want to take a chance. So that one simple recommendation had earned that particular restaurant two visits and introduced 4 new customers in the space of 3 days.

If we think about it, it’s a similar story whenever we are touting for new business. If we approach a prospective customer we’ve no way of knowing they have a need for what we sell right now, and even if they do they don’t know that what we have to offer is a good match, there is no relationship, no trust and no particular reason to choose us in preference to any of our competitors.

Compare this with asking for additional business with our existing customers. They already know us, and we know that they’ve had a need for what we sell and may well have further needs in the future. They’ve already had experience of our product or service, and hopefully they like what we offer and if we’ve done a good job they’ll trust us too. Just like the two restaurants in Istanbul.

So how about devoting some of the energy we put into creating new business into fostering a longer term relationship with our existing (and past) customers? Keeping the relationship going, keeping contact, reminding them of what we have to offer and why they chose us in the first place, introducing them to what else we have available, asking them to share in our successes, taking every opportunity to stay on their radar so it’s us they think of first when they’re ready to buy again or asked for a recommendation.

It might take a bit of effort, but it certainly beats pouncing on every passer by just on the off chance!

For more articles and resources www.naturallyloyal.com


A Ray of Sunshine

I wasn’t in the best of spirits when I boarded the train home from Manchester yesterday. I’d already been kicking myself I hadn’t booked a taxi from my client’s premises as when I left it was pouring with rain; so naturally there wasn’t a cab in sight.wet and windy

Arriving at the station with only minutes to spare I decided it was quicker to walk the stairs than stand stationary amongst the crowd on the escalator; only to catch my heel near the top of the stairs and watch my suitcase skedaddle down the steps as I lay on all fours!

Minutes later we were pulling out of the station and as the PA announcements started I wasn’t paying any attention….

That was at least until the shop manager broke into the verse! This was a Virgin train, and so maybe he’d been inspired by the Virgin safety video (if you haven’t seen it, take a look below). Well, it certainly got everybody’s attention.

It was a little ray of sunshine on a wet Thursday afternoon.

Now, I’d have to admit if he’d said the same thing as we left every station it could have got a little tedious. But he didn’t. Every time he made a new announcement he came up with some other witty repartee.

So by then I was curious to see whether or not he could deliver all he promised! I wouldn’t normally make the walk through six or seven carriages for the sake of a cup of tea, but I was now intrigued to meet Damien.

I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. Every single passenger who walked through or stopped at the shop while I was there was greeted with a big smile and friendly banter. Service was helpful and swift. And what’s more he made suggestions and recommendations so I’m positive his sales increased as a result.

The mere fact I felt compelled to write about this proves this made a memorable customer experience. And this had nothing to do with Damien’s skills to make tea or handle cash. It was all down to personality and attitude.

So if you want to give your customers a little ray of sunshine, focus on recruiting people with the personality and attitude. You can teach the rest.

….. and here’s the Virgin safety video – a refreshing change don’t you think?

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