Tag Archives: building 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.

 


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.


Why are we waiting?

Let’s face it; none of us like to be kept waiting.queue

We always think of the 101 things we could be doing instead. Whether it’s waiting in a queue, being put on hold, waiting for a slow internet connection or waiting for a meeting or delivery, any of these situations can try our patience.

So why do businesses think it’s acceptable to keep their customers waiting?

We’ve all experienced being put on hold and told how “your call is important to us”. Unfortunately it doesn’t make us feel any better! Queues and being kept waiting are never going to be popular with your customers. But do what you can to minimise the impact.

 

Give customers a choice

If there is a delay, does the customer wait, or do they opt for something that doesn’t involve waiting? That might of course depend on just how long they have to wait. When we are put on hold if we’re told we are 2nd in the queue we are far more likely to hang on than if we’re told we are 10th.

So let you customers know – is it expected to be a 2 minutes wait or half an hour? Being honest (and not making false promises and under estimating) allows to customer to make an informed decision. If you need to put someone on hold, ask them first if this is OK; don’t just assume they’re happy to hang on.

How many times have you waited in for a service engineer or delivery that then doesn’t materialise? If you say a parcel will be delivered or the engineer will call between 12 and 3 make darn sure they do!  Better still, narrow that window down to an hour, or less.

At the very least give notice if you can’t deliver your promise.

Being kept informed is not about making excuses!  It’s about keeping the customer informed of the situation and giving them options…

 

Prevention is better than cure

Start by monitoring your busy times. If you know when your peak times are adjust your staffing accordingly (ensuring appropriate training is given to anyone who is redeployed to ‘help out’).  I’m still amazed when I go into places that are inevitably busy at lunchtime only to see staff going for lunch at their peak times. Crazy! You wouldn’t expect restaurant staff to have their break at lunch time so why would any other business dependent on lunch time trade do so?

If you know you experience peaks and troughs of activity triggered by events such as the weather, road conditions, publicity, news coverage – whatever it might be – monitor it and prepare for it.  Even if you don’t have enough space, equipment or outlets to serve more customers at any one time, but you can at least have people on hand to deal with any queries, printing out bills or acting as ‘runners’ for those dealing with customers.

If you have self-service areas, or payment machines, help speed up the process by helping customers; you can avoid the time it takes them to read instructions, which might reduce your transaction time by half, thus reducing queues.

Do customers ever have to repeat information they’ve already given, double back to access things they need, or duplicate processes, which not only wastes their valuable time, but takes more effort on their part?

Just because this is how it’s always been done, isn’t a good enough reason to do it that way!

Do you give customers accurate information so they can get to speak to the right person first time around? Or do you have some generic phone number that takes customers through 5 (or even more) options before they can even get to speak to a human being? Give them a direct number next time so as a valued customer they can jump the ‘queue’ to go directly to the right person.

And it should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway…) stick to agreed times for meetings. Whether this is a one to one meeting or an event involving many people, if you’ve agreed a meeting time or kick off time, stick to it.

 

Make use of waiting time to save time elsewhere

If people do have to wait, make this as painless as possible. Can you divert people from queues to other options to achieve the same result? Cut red tape and open up alternative channels where you can.

Can customers 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, processing payment? At the very least being kept informed of progress and seeing the queue moving.

I’ve just heard about our local county show. It’s a highlight for our local town and as the weather was good families turned out for a fun day out. And although this should have been a bonus for the organisers it backfired. Why? Because of the way they failed to manage the queues.

A ‘jobsworth’ security guard with no empathy for the waiting visitors. Who took no responsibility for action, just blaming the organisers (indirectly his employer). No suggestion of diverting to another entrance with shorter queues. No one taking cash payments from people in the queue to speed things up. No coordination, so visitors had to join another queue to pay their admission.

Net result? Visitors giving up and going home. Or at best fed up and disgruntled once inside. Hmm, and I can bet those people would have spent a whole lot less once inside, will be reluctant to go next year, and have probably told all their friends and family. (How do you think I got to hear about it?)

Such as shame as I know how much heard work went on behind the scenes to make this event a success.

 

Alleviate the pain

You can even use the time to entertain, so customers don’t feel put out at all. I’m not suggesting anything like the awful music we often get subjected to when we are put on hold, TV screens in every corner or worse still the sales pitch we get. No, I’m talking about genuine entertainment! Something that appeals to your customers’ tastes, even if this isn’t your first choice!

Make waiting time a pleasurable experience by offering your customers something to distract from and compensate for their wait. The least you can do is offer refreshments.

For example, my husband was kept waiting over 20 minutes the other evening when he checked into his hotel room. All this time he stood at the reception desk, while they sorted out their system (a system incidentally that wasn’t very efficient as they’d already lost his booking, despite having an emailed confirmation…. But that’s another story!) Couldn’t they have offered him a seat as a minimum whilst they sorted it out? Better still a drink after his 4 hour drive to get there. Not a good start to the customer relationship.

If refreshments aren’t a practical option, what can you do to that is relevant to your business? A small token gift, just to say we appreciate your patience.

And if you’re now subconsciously thinking you couldn’t afford to do this every time someone has to wait; it’s time you reviewed your customer experience. Waiting should be the exception, not the norm. (And compare this investment to the cost of losing the customer altogether.)

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.  And if people have been kept patiently waiting for even a few moments, at the very least acknowledge this and thank them for their patience.

 

Save your customers time and effort

In the same way that anything that wastes time for your customers can be an irritation, anything that saves your customer time will add value.

Why not have an express service, line, process, phone number, etc. for your existing loyal customers. Make them feel special and valued. Even for new customers who are time poor, introduce a quick option that saves time – at a premium price if you need to – you may be surprised how many take you up on that.

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.

Even if the way you do things in your business are “industry norms” can you be the first to break the mould and do things differently. Look at what Metro Bank are doing to change the norms in banking, for example.

However, remember you don’t want customers to feel rushed, so apply time savings sensibly and appropriately.

Never compromise quality for speed.

And don’t 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.

 

 

 

 


Do you ever fall down at the final fence?

What a waste!

You’ve had a fantastic time. You’ve been well cared for, attended to with fantastic hospitality. Your meal, stay or day out was wonderful, the atmosphere was relaxed and all your friends and family have had a good time.

But then it all turns sour. It’s time to go home and suddenly no one is interested. You want to pay, but nobody wants to take your money! You take a visit to the loos and wish you hadn’t. You’ve lost your gloves and want to report it to lost property, but cant find anyone. You were told about membership to get your entrance fee refunded but there’s no one to be found, so you think “forget it!”.

Has this ever happened to you?

More importantly has it ever happened to any of your customers?

One of the most important determining factors in prompting a positive lasting memory and potential repeat visit is what happens in the very last few minutes of the customers’ experience.

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

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.

How about when the boot is on the other foot – they are the ones in a hurry or ready to leave, and we keep them waiting to pay their bill or check out. That’s not the best impression to leave with a customer when they have to wait to part with their money, but it might be the one thing that puts a damper on an otherwise great experience.

What’s going on behind the scene that’s not quite what you’d like your customers to experience? Are your toilets as pristine at the end of a busy day as they are at the beginning? (Just reflect on how many of your customers make the ladies or gents their last port of call before setting out on their journey home.)

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.

What’s the last thing they see on their way to the car park? Particularly if there’s a sneaky short cut via a rear exit.  Is it the chaos of a back office, the cluttered cleaning cupboard or the over flowing bins, or even your team having a crafty cigarette by the back door?

What do they see or feel in the car park? How secure do they feel if it’s dark? Is the level of service consistent with everything else, or is the last person they see a grumpy car park attendant or off duty team members fooling around and letting the side down?

Everything your customer experiences during their visit up to this point might be seamless and perfect.

But…

It’s those last few moments which influence the end result – how they feel, what they say, and what they do as a result of their visit. So don’t let it all fall down at the final fence.


Who’s talking about you behind your back?

‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’

Oscar Wilde

So what do you do to get your customers (or your team, suppliers or joint venture partners) talking about you?

There’s nothing like a glowing review, testimonial or referral to endorse your business. Pick up any research on advertising effectiveness and you’ll see word-of-mouth at the top of the list.  But they won’t say good things about you unless you meet and exceed their expectations.

 

Give people a reason to talk about you

Everyone has an expectation these days for good service. So if you want to get people talking about you and ultimately give you great reviews or referrals, constantly look for ways to go the extra mile to impress your customer and make it really difficult for them not to talk about you.

Do something exceptional. Identify the things that are of perceived high value to your customers but minimal effort or cost to you so you can give added value. Do something to give people a real reason to talk about you. It’s the exceptional and unexpected that gets you noticed, remembered and most importantly brings you repeat or referral business.

It’s certainly the personal touches that can make an average encounter into a truly memorable one.

What is there that makes your offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others? Show your appreciation of their business and well as providing a memento that reinforces your relationship.

Your personal touches might not be pre planned, but as a result of being attentive to your customers’ needs. Train your staff to listen and be observant to what customers say or are looking for.

Customers love personal recommendations. And they love honesty. If they’re not sure what they want, find out about their needs, tastes, preferences, and tailor your recommendations. Share the ‘insider’s’ view, your personal favourites, what other customers tell you about their experiences or choices. Give your own tips, advice, and suggestions to help them make an informed decision, not the one that will make you the most money!

What is the very last thing that happens at the end of their visit or stay? How genuine is the farewell? How sincere the offer of help if they have problems? Identify the little finishing touches that you can give customers at the end of their visit to leave them with that wow factor.

Don’t be tempted to just copy what your competitors are doing. If you know what’s important to your customers you can start to tailor what you do to meet these needs.

And as you can’t be there all the time, give your team authority to do something spontaneous if they see an opportunity to enhance the customers’ experience.

Whatever your business, reflect on what your customers remember most about their experience with you? What happens in the last few moments of their visit will undoubtedly influence their lasting impression. Leave your customers with that little touch of magic that will stay with them for weeks, months or even years to come. So when someone asks them of THE place to go for that special occasion, fun day out, or indulgent treat it’s you that comes instantly to mind.

 

Create a social media buzz

Once you’re confident that people are saying the right things about you, get some of it in writing, so instead of just telling their friends they tell the world!

I personally still love an old-fashioned guest or visitors book for people to write their comments. But of course these only get seen by you and your other customers so encourage them to get the message further afield. If you’ve had a glowing comment in your visitors’ book, start off by asking if they’d be happy if you use that as a testimonial on your website. (And it adds even more credibility if you can get a photo of them or even a video!)

Then encourage them to get the word out there on social media. TripAdvisor is the obvious place to start, but encourage them to get talking about you on other social media networks which are most suited to your target audience, be that Facebook, twitter, etc. Again even better if they add photos tagged with the name of your business or other key words.

But please make it easy for them. Give them the link to your page rather than leaving them to hunt it down for themselves, because the chances are they won’t.

 

Get referrals

Referrals go one step further and are a great way to build your customer base – if a person comes to you as a result of a referral, you don’t need to go out and find them. The person who made the referral has already experienced what you offer and will do the selling for you.

And, even better, referrals build loyalty with the people who recommend you – they will want to be seen to stand by their referral by continuing to come to you themselves.

But referrals, just like reviews, won’t always happen unless you ask for them.

The obvious people to ask for referrals are your existing customers. Focus on those customers who are your ‘perfect customers’ as the people they refer will be a better match to your preferred type of customer (people generally know and mix with other people like themselves).

Think about other people who know you well enough to recommend you. This might include colleagues, suppliers, your own team and others in your network. This will be easier the better they know you and when they fully understand the extent of everything you offer.

 

Make it easy

If you don’t ask you don’t get.  So ask customers (and others in your network) directly who else they know who may be interested in your promotions or forthcoming events.  The sooner you do this after they have stayed or visited the better. This is the time they are likely to be most positive about what you delivered.

The way you ask for referrals is key. If you ask:

“Do you know anyone who might be interested in receiving details of our promotions?”

you are likely to get  Noor at best  I’ll think about it.”

But if you ask a specific question, for example:

Who else do you know who is celebrating [their birthday, wedding anniversary, retirement …] in the next few months and may be interested in our [all-inclusive weekend breaks, wine promotion…]?”

“What other groups are you connected with who love..[ walking, cycling, floristry, local history….., etc]  and would be interested in our ….[exclusive programs, off season tours….]?”

 

Creating a simple referral form that you include with the bill or at the end of their visit can encourage existing customers to make referrals. Make this prominent, and offer incentives for them to give you names.

Maintain relationships with your customers, even if the likelihood of more business with them personally is limited. They are more likely to refer you to friends, colleagues or others if they have had recent communication from you.

Even if a customer only visits you once, remember, they have a network of friends and colleagues who may also be your ideal customers. The lifetime value of one customer can be their connections to other customers, too.

 

Reward reviews and referrals

If someone gives you a glowing review take the trouble to say thank you. Set up alerts and notifications so you can track what and when people are talking about you.  It demonstrates to others that you appreciate the feedback and don’t just take it for granted.

And if someone gives you a referral as an absolute minimum ensure that you thank them in person. Don’t wait to see if this actually leads to business, as what you are looking to reward is the referral process. The more referrals you have the greater the likelihood of gaining new customers.

Consider what other tangible incentives you might give that are of high value to the person making the referral, but at a low cost to you. Just ensure that the cost of the incentive does not outweigh the value of the referral. The nature of this incentive will obviously depend on where the referral came from, and what they’ll appreciate. Incentives don’t need to be cash; but they might include such things as a gift, an upgrade or bonus with their next visit, an invitation to an event, or an offer unique to your business.

 

Follow up

Once someone has gone to the trouble of giving you a referral the very least you can do is follow it up. Immediately.

Once you have a referral system in place, keep track of where and how you’re getting successful referrals. This will enable you to find out what works and what doesn’t, so you can refine the process.

 

Summary

So remember:

  • What are you doing to deliver exceptional customer service to encourage great reviews and referrals?
  • How do you make it easy for your customers to get the word out there to your perfect customers?
  • What systems do you have in place or need to set up to generate referrals?
  • How will you recognise and reward those who give you reviews and referrals?

Creating Loyalty with Exclusive Offers

Don’t you just hate it when you see that a company where you’ve been a loyal customer offers exclusive deals that are available to ‘new’ customers only? What happened to rewarding loyalty?!

I’ve had two just this week, and although I can see the reason they do it, all it does it makes me want to look at their competition to see who can match their offer. This is not the answer to business retention.

There’s always a cost to the acquisition of new customers and not just from the loss of income from the special introductory prices.

Make your loyal customers feel special by putting together bonuses, deals or events which are exclusive to them. This demonstrates your appreciation of their custom, as well as potentially prompting additional business.

Add value to attract attention, set you apart from the competition, and stimulate further sales.  Give people an incentive to try something new, buy something different, or make a return visit.

Allow existing customers to ‘Try Before You Buy’ to encourage them to try something new or entice them away from a competitor for a product they don’t normally buy from you, with no risk to them.  Hold taster events for your new offer or service, and invite existing customers to try out your latest facilities and experience what you offer first-hand, or invite them to bring a friend or customer with them for free next time.

By the way, this is a great way to get feedback too before you take a new product or service to market.


Coming up smelling of roses

I love my little convertible at this time of year and being able to drive around in the Surrey and Sussex countryside with the top down and taking in the fresh air and hearing the birds sing. There is a downside though – it means you don’t have a buffer between you and some of the not quite so pleasant countryside smells, such as the field of cabbages not far from where I live! Or the smell of farm waste being spread in the fields.

You might well think that the subject of smell is an odd choice for an article. But smell can be very evocative and if used positively can help to create the right emotions in your visitors, guests and customers. When I worked in Paris my boss there always wore a particular perfume and to this day almost 35 years later (oops, I’m giving away my age now!) whenever I catch a whiff of this perfume it always takes me back to where I worked.

The same of course could also be said about the wrong type of smell in creating negative feelings for your customers. Even the subtlest hint of a smell can sometimes be enough to send out the wrong message. The trouble is that if we are around the smells the whole time we become oblivious to them and stop noticing.

 

The fresh air

In most situations ‘fresh’ air  is a good thing. And who doesn’t love the smell of freshly cut grass or the sea air?

But when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction do your customers get a whiff of the sewage farm, the local gasworks or traffic pollution. Obviously you can’t control these things but you might go some way to minimise the impact. How you position or screen your terrace or outside sitting area. Is it worse on some days than others?

Do you need to warn hotel guests who want to leave their windows open if you know that when the wind is blowing in that direction? Is there an option or other alternatives when you’re downwind of the offending smell?

 

Your property

If you have outside space making the most of this will not only be pleasant for your customers but also potentially attract the right type of wildlife. A well-stocked garden with a mix of plants that have a fragrance, not just during the day, but come to life in the evening – such as honeysuckle. Or the use of herbs which might be used in the kitchen too.

Compare this to the smell of dustbins or an extractor fan pumping out kitchen fumes directly into areas where customers will need to walk to access the building or while sitting outside. Think about where you place your smoking area. As a non-smoker one of my pet hates is being prevented from sitting outside because the whole area is monopolised by smokers (apologies if you’re a smoker; I hope I haven’t offended you!) or having to walk through a group of smokers to get from A to B.

 

Inside

Estate agents used to say that when you’re selling your house to put some fresh coffee on and bake bread! Well having walked through the supermarket today and past the bakery section I can certainly vouch for the fact that the smell of freshly baked bread does wonders for the appetite!

But what happens when the cooking smells aren’t quite so fresh? When beer or food has got trodden into the carpet leaving the lingering odour. Whenever I smell air freshener I become suspicious as to what it’s trying to cover up. Check your rooms too; mildew, evidence of guests smoking, smells wafting up from the kitchen can all mar a guest’s stay. If you own a pet is it allowed to enter public areas and leave a smell that you probably never notice, but your customers might well do.

Be careful with flowers too. A big vase of lilies can give a dramatic effect, but as the blooms fade the small can become over powering, and not a good match for food or drink (not to mention the risk of pollen on cloths).

What lingering smells do you get from your cleaning materials? If you have hard top tables, do your table sanitizers leave a sickly clinical smell? And what about the detergents used in public toilets. Being taken back to my school days is not a good marketing tactic. Anyone else remember that smell of Izal?

 

Clothes

Obviously in the hospitality industry personal hygiene is key and we’d probably be very quick to pick this up on any of our team. But what about smokers? If you smoke you are probably completely unaware of the smell that lingers on your clothes and those of your team. But for a customer being served food by somebody who smells of smoke can be completely off putting. I used to share an office with someone you smoked, and I’m not joking – I could smell her coming down the corridor after she’d been for a cigarette.

Be aware of the inappropriate use of perfume and aftershave. What might be fine for a night on the town may not be suitable for those serving food or drink. And in the same way I can always detect the smell of my former boss’s perfume, it doesn’t take much for it to become irritating or off putting.

So why should you care about any of this?

In hospitality we are about creating emotions and making people feel welcome. Being exposed to a smell that offends or even repels people doesn’t achieve this end, and in fact if anything is likely to either turn people away, shorten their stay (and spend) or at the very least make them reluctant to return. Not the best strategy for building customer loyalty.

So get out there, enlist the help of someone who won’t have become oblivious or desensitised to any of the smells and ask them to experience the full customer journey. Someone who won’t be afraid of being brutally honest to tell you the truth if something stinks!  And make sure you come up smelling of roses!

For more articles and resources https://www.naturallyloyal.com/products-resources/

 


What’s Usain Bolt’s relay baton got to do with customer loyalty?

Jamaican hero Usain Bolt was eventually given back the baton that he and his team-mates ran with to win the Olympic 4x100m men’s relay on Saturday night. It was quite understandable that he’d want to keep a trophy as a reminder of the record breaking race. 

Do any of your customers feel the same about their experiences with you? Are they freely given or unintentionally denied the opportunity to take away anything as a memento of their visit?

What will your customers remember most about their visit to you? What is there that makes your establishment or offer unique, that they might want to take home or share with others, and help build customer loyalty?

Could you offer any of the following either as a gift or as additional sales? Convert your renowned menu or signature dishes into a recipe book, package your hand-made petit fours into a gift box; offer birthday or celebration cakes for customers celebrating special occasions; offer a hand-tied flower bouquet for anniversaries or special occasions; homemade bread, marmalade or other preserves and chutneys; sell luxurious bathroom accessories, robes with your logo, and toiletries. A win-win, the guest has something special to take home and you get an opportunity to ensure they remember you long after they’ve left, and prompt potential repeat business.

Getting personal

Identify the little finishing touches that you can give customers at the end of their visit that will leave them with that wow factor. This might be picking up on an earlier conversation you’ve had with the customer that enables you to give them a personalised memento of their stay.

For example, they raved about a particular dessert so your chef has written out the recipe for them and where they can find the unusual ingredients (or even given them a sample to take home if that’s practical). They’ve been away on business and missed their wife’s birthday, so you assemble and gift wrap a selection of your luxurious toiletries for them to take home. They lost something on a day trip and you manage to source a replacement for them before they leave. They’ve been coveting a plant in your garden so you pot up a cutting for them and wrap it up for a safe journey home. The kids took a shine to a particular toy, game or book, so you pop it into bag for them to take home (or a least source where they can buy it from when they get home).

Be flexible

If they’d like to take their desert home in a goody bag because they are too full to enjoy it, then let them. They ask you about your luxurious robes; why not let them buy one at cost, and gift wrap into the bargain? They didn’t manage to finish that book they borrowed from your ‘library’.

Lasting memories

Give them something as a memento that’s good enough quality that they’ll want to keep it as well as relevant to your offer. It might not be something they’ve experienced this time around, but whet’s their appetite for their next visit.  Cheap and cheerful might hack it the budget market, but is this really how you want to be remembered?

Pass it on

Are your guests away from loved ones, and want to take a gift back home? What do you do, have or use that is unique or unusual and reflects your brand or identity? Homemade preserves, gifts made by a local artist or craftsman that reflect your location, branded toiletries…

Mementos and small gifts provide the perfect way to get your name out there to others. It’s far more subtle than asking someone for a referral, but in effect this is what a well targeted gift can do. This might be in the form of a tangible item, or could be a voucher or exclusive offer.

Even having information about what you do and what you offer to pass on to friends, family and colleagues with some sought after snippets of information or tips is better than nothing to pass on to others.

Show your appreciation

Mementos might provide a great opportunity for increasing sales, but don’t be so hell bent on this that you’re never prepared to give anything away. A small items as a gift is the perfect way to say thank you for their custom, and provides that element of surprise, and builds loyalty. Obviously this needs to be in line with your margins, but even something as small as a print out of the ingredients of their favourite cocktail or the recipe of a dish they asked about, printing out directions for their onward journey, or a kids’ car goodie bag or entertainment pack for the journey home.

And if nothing else, a simple – hand written if it’s practical – thank you note after their visit will keep you in mind for their next visit or when recommending to friends and family.  Remember to leave the door open for repeat business.

 


Engage with your customers and make them feel valued

Look at me!

I don’t mean this in a ‘look at me, aren’t I wonderful’ way. What I mean is, ‘Oy, look at me when I’m talking to you!

Yesterday I overheard a market stall holder moaning about the lack of business. I was buying from him and therefore providing him with some of that precious business he was so anxious to secure.

But rather than look at me, engage and give me his full attention, he carried on his negative conversation with his mate next door. Even when I asked him to find something for me he continued with his moan. Needless to say I cut my buying short.  Did he want my business or not? Not only did he fail to make me feel valued as a customer, he lost out on additional sales there and then by not listening to what I was asking for.

Hardly surprising he didn’t have much business. I certainly shan’t be taking mine there again….

Sadly we see this all the time, customer service staff continuing their personal conversations in front of the customer, and worse still when actually ‘serving’ the customer. I put the word ‘serving’ in inverted commas as to me this is not serving at all.

OK, rant over, but does this ever happen in your business?