Tag Archives: Customer feedback

Handling Complaints

question mark with speech bublesI’ve had a month of complaints! No, not in the way you might think… But helping a number of clients establish the best way to handle complaints, whether that be through staff training, gathering feedback to establish the cause or establishing systems to prevent them in the first place.

It seems counter intuitive, but as a business we should welcome complaints! WHY?

Because the alternative is we’re left not knowing when the customer isn’t happy.

Obviously prevention is better than cure (and you can read tips on prevention in a previous post right here).

But of course you’re not always able to pre-empt problems and won’t be able to avoid all complaints. Accidents happen, things get missed or events occur that are totally out of our control. So what can you do to lessen the impact on your customers’ experience and limit the potential damage to your customer relationships and your reputation?

Aim to spot problems as early as possible. Listen and observe. You can often sense there’s an issue long before you get told directly. And of course it’s far better to resolve a problem there and then than have a negative review posted on line.

Empower your team

Give your team the skills and authority to deal with complaints as they happen. Encourage them and train them how to ask for feedback and just as importantly how to respond when they get complaints or negative feedback.

This is far better for the customer because it gets a quicker solution, far better for the team member because they’re able to deal with it which gives them pride, and far better for you because it means you don’t have to always been involved. This doesn’t mean to say that don’t want to hear about complaints particularly if there are common recurring problems that need to be resolved.

Don’t assume because you’ve told people how to do something they will be able to just go out and deliver it consistently.  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.

Agree with them their levels of authority so they know just how much leeway they have in offering the customer/guest compensation, and at what point they may need to involve a manager.

Observe how your staff handle complaints and give them feedback after the event on what they did well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

It’s all too easy when we hear of a complaint to blame someone in the team for the problem. Put the team first and they’ll reward you with avoiding problems.

 

Here’s a little 5 stage checklist you may find useful in customer service training on handling a complaint effectively irrespective of the cause.

I use this structure when training and together these form the acronym LEARN which is easy for team member to remember.

The way you handle the situation is what your customers will remember and if you can go above and beyond to resolve the problem, even when it’s down to a third party, customer error or even an act of God, it’s your resolve of the situation they’ll remember, not the cause.


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?


Accept the gift of feedback

12 days of a customer focused Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…question mark with speech bubles

 

Tip #1

Accept the gift of feedback

Never take your regular customers for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve shortfalls quickly. Listen and observe so you can avoid any problems before they arise.

Your customer feedback is a gift. It gives you the chance to learn and put things right so seek customer feedback whenever you can, ideally first-hand. Listen and ensure you understand the feedback before responding and acting on it.


What irritates customers?

What irritates you?Why?

A couple of weeks ago the Sunday Times ran an article on what irritates hotel guests the most. I have to say it brought a wry smile to my face as nearly everything mentioned I’ve experienced myself.

But it’s not just hotels that can get the simplest of things wrong. Are you ever left puzzled and wondering why on earth a business does what it does when it has a negative impact on the customer?

What are the things that most irritate you when you are a customer?

I thought I’d share with you my top twelve most irritating practices. Forgive me if this comes over as a bit of a rant, but do you know of any businesses that are guilty of any of these? Maybe, as it’s the season of goodwill you might like to let them know so they can do something about it!

1. Road to nowhere

Hiding their postcode away on the website or worse still having a postcode that won’t work in helping you locate them. Yes, it might be an accurate postcode used by the Post Office, but 99.9% of people who are looking for a postcode will only wanted it to help locate them, not to be sent round the houses or to a back entrance.

What comes up on Google maps and satnavs for your postcode?

2. Everything’s out

When you ask a member of staff for something and all they can respond is ”Everything we have is out” doesn’t actually answer the question! It’s as good as saying “I don’t know and don’t much care”. Don’t they know what they have in stock?

Why would any customer want to go searching if the answer is no, and if the answer is yes for goodness sake help us find it!

3. Impracticalities

What I mean here is when something just can’t perform the tasks for which it was designed.

For example in a hotel room when the kettle is positioned so that it can’t reach the socket without having to rearrange everything on the table, or even putting the kettle on the floor so the cord reaches the socket. Worse still having moved said kettle and going back to your room later to find it moved back to its old position, so you have to do it all again.

Does your layout or process make it easy for customers and if they ask for something to be changed do you oblige or go back to your ‘standard’?

4. Look but don’t touch

You know in clothes stores when jumpers are all beautifully folded but you can’t see what they are really like without picking it up and feeling awkward in case you ruin the display?

Same goes for leaflets or useful info that’s all pristinely laid out.

Do you encourage customers to browse, or make them feel awkward?

5. Packaging

Taking delivery of a package that has so much tape on it it’s impossible to open it without taking to the knife and running the risk of ruining the contents inside as you do so.

Why are we so obsessed with so much packaging?

6. Do I need new specs?

Typefaces which are far too small to read. Small type on menus in romantically lit restaurants, working out which is the soap and which is the hand cream in the toilets without having to put your glasses on, business cards which require a magnifying glass to read the contact details…

Same applies online; dark fonts on a dark background (often the hyperlinks) that are all but invisible, log in areas or page menus tucked away in small fonts.

Have a thought for us oldies! As we get older our eyesight gets weaker so it’s not a good idea to rely on the views of trendy young thirty somethings!

7. Your call is important to us

It’s bad enough being put on hold, but when you’re not even asked first of all if you’re prepared to wait, and then left with atrocious deafening music. Even worse when you’re told “Your call is important to us”.

What do your customers get to hear when they are put on hold?

8. How much is it?

The saying goes “If you have to ask the price you probably can’t afford it” comes to mind when you can’t find a price tag. Why do some businesses insist on hiding the price away so you have to hunt for it leaving you wondering if the above statement is true?

How visible and transparent is your pricing?

9. Now where?

When you’re involved in a business day in day out you know where to go or what to do next. But of course customers are not so familiar.  We like guidelines and good signage that tell us where to go or what to do next.

How clear is it on your website what step to take next, or when arriving at your business which way to go?

10. Premium numbers

The whole concept of being charged a premium to call a business when I’m the customer is beyond me, yet how many businesses only list a number which if not premium from a landline will certainly be premium from a mobile.

Worse still not listing a phone number at all and making me go through web forms to make any kind of contact which of course is dependent on being online.

How easy is it for customers to contact you directly?

11. That’s not in my script

A script might be fine as a guideline. But when it’s followed to the letter irrespective of your responses, you may as well not bother.

Do all your team listen and know how to respond appropriately if they get an unexpected response from the customer?

12. Not delivering what’s promised

Stuff happens and there are times we really can’t deliver what’s been promised. But not letting me know till the last minute leaves me high and dry with fewer options.

How well do you keep your customers informed if you’re about to miss the target …even if it’s because you’re waiting on them for an answer…?

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So these are some of the things that most irritate me.

How about you? What are the things that bug you when you’re the customer?

p.s. The chances are that if any of these things irritate you, there’ll be things that irritate your customers in your business.

And if you’re not sure?

Two things you can do…

  1. Have everyone in your team (including you) experience as much of the customer journey as possible AS A CUSTOMER.
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  2. ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS directly for their feedback. What little things can you do to make it a smoother, quicker or all round better customer experience?

It’s more than just a questionnaire

checklistYou know that moment when you ask someone for their feedback or opinion and they say one thing, but you hear from their hesitation or in their tone that they think something different?

Well, that’s the beauty of face to face feedback.

So often when I discuss with clients how they gather customer feedback they refer to a questionnaire, be that online or a physical document.

There’s no doubt the feedback you gather from customers can be so valuable. Without it how do you know what’s working and what’s not, and how can build on the good and put right the not so good?

So gathering customers’ feedback via some kind of questionnaire is surely better than nothing…

BUT, and this is a big but, it’s a far cry from direct face to face in the moment feedback.

Why?

Here are 7 reasons you might not want to rely solely on questionnaires for feedback

  1. If you don’t know about any issues until you get back the questionnaire, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be too late to resolve things before the customer leaves or ends their relationship with you
  2. Whilst you’re still blissful unaware of any issues other customers continue to be affected in the same way
  3. It’s too easy to ignore a questionnaire.  It’s an interruption, often overly long winded and there may be little incentive from the customer’s perspective once the moment has passed
  4. A questionnaire can’t cover every conceivable aspect of your service (or if it does it’ll be way too long and likely to get the customer to abandon it half way through) so it’s easy to miss things that are important to your customer
  5. There’s often a time lag so the facts get forgotten or distorted: negative experiences get amplified and positive ones diluted in the customer’s mind. Likewise you’ve forgotten the specifics which means following up becomes more time consuming as there’s invariably a lot of back tracking to be done
  6. Your customer has had the chance to tell others before telling you (and we all know these days that’s not just one or two close friends!)
  7. Finally to my mind the biggest drawback, the feedback you receive is impersonal and one way, so loses those all-important subtle nuances you get when having a face to face dialogue.

So with so many fundamental flaws, don’t just rely on questionnaires – get out there and ask your customers directly what they think and how what you can do to make their experience even better.

We have to accept though that sometimes that feedback isn’t forthcoming, or it’s impractical to get to hear everyone’s feedback right away. That’s when we need to be keeping our ear to the ground and listening to what our customers are sharing amongst themselves.

As an example this weekend I was trying to register for my Boots Advantage card. The system refused to accept my temporary number, and when I tried to call the number printed on their leaflet it was out of date! So, no prizes for the customer experience to this point.

But, when I sent them a message via Facebook, I had a reply almost straight away. Was this just luck? Maybe, but stop and think for a moment just how many businesses are being talked about every hour or every day on social media – whether that’s Twitter, Trip Advisor or any one of hundreds of others.

So with so many how do you keep tabs? As a minimum set up Google Alerts for your name and business so you know when you’re being talked about. Although you won’t get instant feedback you can set this up so you get notifications as they happen, daily or weekly. Now if you wait a week to find out it’s too late!

But depending on your business you might choose to devote time and effort to monitoring the platforms most used by your customers, so you (or one of your team) can respond in the moment. Of course this means resolving customers’ queries and / or complaints. And what better way to appease a disgruntled customer than picking up on their post, thanking them for their feedback and responding straight away when they’re least expecting it.

But customer feedback doesn’t always equate to negative feedback. Think how often your customers say great things about you, share photos, even let their friends (and YOU) know they are coming to visit you.

What a fabulous opportunity that gives to engage with your customers, share their enthusiasm and create positive word of mouth.

So whether it’s in real world or virtual world, don’t hide behind a form or bury your head in the sand: ask, listen and act on your customers feedback

 


Say thank you!

 

Thank YouOn the second day of Christmas  my true love sent to me

…. a thank you

I’m sure you wouldn’t dream of not thanking a friend or relative for the gifts they gave you at Christmas.

But what of your customers?

If you’ve not done so already, now might be a good time to show your customers your appreciation of their business over the past year, show them that you value them and use this opportunity to show you care.

If you’ve not already been in touch with your customers over Christmas do something for them now.

Say thank you for their business, ask for their feedback, and reward their loyalty. What can you offer them that’s exclusive to your existing customers; a ‘members only’ access, previews, special privileges, fast track options to save time, or deals to save money? You only have to look at the high street sales today to see how everyone loves a good deal!

Even better if you can personalise this to your customers’ preferences and interests.

Don’t wait till the New Year, do something right now while everyone else is sitting back.

It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time when others waste time”  Henry Ford


Stating the Blindingly Obvious?

As a customer, don’t you find it infuriating when the systems don’t work? confused

Doesn’t it frustrate you when the system doesn’t follow through on its promise?

Doesn’t it confuse you when you follow the steps you’ve been asked to, only to reach a dead end?

I’m sure we’ve all experienced these emotions, and it’s what was happening to me last week when renewing an insurance policy.  So does any of this ever happen to your customers?

Here are my thoughts on 5 things to check in your business to ensure all your dots join up….

Now you might think I’m stating the blindingly obvious, but if they were that obvious why do so many of us encounter these situations as a customer?

 

1. Check the instructions you give your customers are clear

If you want them to call you, is the phone number obvious, when is the best time to call, what department or person do they ask for when they get through. If your office is only manned at certain times of the day, let your customers know this so they don’t have wasted calls (and even if they do call ensure your recorded message states when you are available).

If you’re leaving a message for someone to call you back all of the above applies, but in addition call from a number where they can do call back, rather than having to write down your number. And if you can’t avoid calling from a withheld number (although why you’d want do this always baffles me) or have to give a different number to return your call please state it clearly, not gabble at 100 mph so they have to listen to the message 10 times to get the number right.

If you want them to email is your email address obvious, and if they need to go online is the link obvious (including which page on your site they need to go to)?

Include the same information in all correspondence – if customers know they’ve seen the info somewhere, don’t expect them to go back and hunt through all you’ve sent them to find the relevant email, letter or document.

 

2. Web addresses and links

We’re all familiar with the Error message. Take customers to this point and it’s all too easy to give up and go elsewhere….

Customers really don’t want to have to pick up the phone once they’ve started to process or search online, but it might be the only option if they reach a dead end.

Check links work and do actually take you to the right page on your site (or others).

Bear in mind if you’re referring website visitors to third party sites they might update their site without telling you, so do periodical checks.

Work through all the steps. Are the next stages always blatantly obvious? You might know what to do next or where to click, so ask someone else who is not so familiar to test out all your web navigation. And if you’ve problems with your website, please have the courtesy to tell your customers rather than continuing to direct them to a link that does not work (yes, I know this sounds obvious, but this is exactly what happened to me on Friday!)

 

3. How user friendly is your automated phone system?

Are all options covered? If you allocate specific numbers for different departments, do these go directly to that department or do they all end up with the same long list of irrelevant options?  What about your existing loyal customers; can they get directly through to the relevant person allowing them to bypass the automated options?

 

4. Be consistent

If you ask your customers to do one thing one way in one context, keep this consistent throughout, so you don’t confuse your customers.

One example that particularly comes to mind is the terminology you use. If you have industry jargon explain it if you need to, but then make sure your definition stays the same throughout. If customers need a passcode or membership number or a login, ask for it in the same way each time and maybe remind people of the format. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember 101 different sets of login details, but if I reminded of the format, such as it’s a 6 digit number, or a memorable word, or my email address I can usually work it out. When I can’t work it out is when it’s referred to as a password at one point, then a memorable word elsewhere, or a user id at one point and my email address somewhere else.

 

5. Look at your systems regularly

Look at your systems regularly by tracing your customers’ journey, looking at everything from your customers’ perspective. Involve your team in this process; they spot things you won’t, particularly if you ask them to review processes they aren’t directly involved with; they’ll see things from a different perspective.

Train your team to spots glitches, to listen to and acknowledge customer feedback, and give them the authority to put things right. It’s often the simplest little things that aren’t so obvious to the customer (or have simply not been thought through on our part) such as: who to speak to on arrival, where to pay, what to do with discarded packaging (nowhere to put spent teabags in hotels is my real bugbear!), where can I park, etc, etc.

 

If you get asked about these things or customers get it wrong, it’s not that they are stupid…. It means you haven’t made it blindingly obvious!

Join me on my next webinar monthly webinar on Thursday 8th August.  This month I’ll be sharing 6 simple strategies for inspiring and engaging your team to deliver outstanding customer experiences.

For more information and to register go to  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7501525083855089920

 


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?

Have you written all your thank you letters yet?

As many parents know at this time of year you often have to nag relentlessly to get your children to write their Christmas thank you letters.

But have you been setting the right example? Have you written to everyone who’s given up their time and money to do business with you either over Christmas or over the past year?

I have to confess I’m not a great one for sending Christmas cards to business contacts. Let’s face it, your Christmas card probably gets lost in a sea of other cards leading up to Christmas.

But sending something after Christmas; after the turkey’s being eaten, the tree’s come down and the cards have been binned, sending something of value to your customers is more likely to get to your customers attention and have longevity.

And I’m not talking here about bombarding people purely with a multitude of offers and promotions showing how desperate you are for business during the quieter months of the year. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t tell them about what’s coming up but do it in such a way that makes them feel appreciated.

Say thank you

Send something that shows you appreciate their custom. As a minimum this might be a simple as a broadcast e-mail to everybody on your mailing list, or homing in on those who have booked Christmas or seasonal events with you. Particularly think about those people who have been guests of your existing customers, maybe as part of a party and who have visited you for the first time.

But maybe you want to do a little bit more for your special customers; those that have been your perfect customers and you’d like to see a lot more of (and the chances are they’ll know lots of other people just like themselves, who they might be inclined to tell about you), the organisers of events, anyone who has made referrals that’s brought you extra business over the year, for giving you a glowing testimonial or review, or simply because they put their trust and faith in you to deliver something extraordinary for a special occasion.

A simple personalised thank you note will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by – especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. There’s nothing quite like something sent by good old-fashioned snail mail with a handwritten signature (and not on stuffy, formal business stationery) to get someone’s attention.  Even better, if the whole message is handwritten on a hand-picked greetings card. Try to find a card that reflects something about that particular customer.

Some think in this web based age this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?

Ask for feedback

A follow up thank you is also a great opportunity to get feedback too. Ask them about their experience and whether they’d do business with you again. Did it meet or exceed their expectations? Ask for specifics such as what they enjoyed most and any ideas, comments or suggestions they have to make the experience even better. If they’ve had a good experience prompt them to post feedback on review sites appropriate for your business such as TripAdvisor.  Make it easy for them by providing a link to the review site too. And don’t forget to thank them again when they give you feedback. Even if it’s not all glowing and what you want to hear, wouldn’t you rather know about it so you can put it right?

Rewarding loyalty

You might choose to show your appreciation with something more tangible such as a small gift, an exclusive offer for themselves or a friend, or maybe even relevant and useful information or tips that’s relevant to your business and customers’ interests.

The law or reciprocity means that if you give something to your loyal customers you are setting the stage for them to do something for you in return. Whether this is repeat business, a referral or maybe a testimonial, any one of these will add benefit to your business.  So the more you can do to show your appreciation the greater the chance of staying on their radar and of them remaining loyal to you.

Mark key milestones in your relationship: thank them when they’ve been with you for a year, and on each subsequent anniversary, when they’ve concluded a big event, when you’ve worked with them on a big project or programme or when they’ve just upgraded to a particular level of service.

When enough is enough

One of the things I get asked about most with e-mail marketing is how often can you contact customers without annoying them. Well you certainly don’t want to be branded as a spammer.

I read this comment on TripAdvisor for a hotel only yesterday

“A nice hotel, friendly staff, breakfast ok, ……..  BUT: since I spent 2 days there I get mails and mails and mails about everything and nothing. I asked them twice to delete my data but nothing happened and they lavish me with newsletters.”

Not really the sort of thing that you want to get.

So three lessons here:

  1. Give your customers something of value; something that they really want to read or receive (and if you don’t know what this might be, try asking them)
  2. If you’re going to be sending a series of messages (supposed to a one-off thank you or confirmation) always seek permission and include a way to opt out if they choose
  3. Have a full proof system in place to ensure people are taken off your mailing list the moment they ask you to

Remember, a customer is special and the aim is to build a loyal relationship.

And of course thank yous don’t just happen at Christmas, but whenever a customer has had a choice, but chose to do business with you.