Tag Archives: customer retention

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….


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

 


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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Little hinges swing big doors

Some years ago I was fortunate enough to interview one of my mentors – Peter Thomson, and he shared an expression “Little hinges swing big doors”. I was reminded of this today when I learnt that it is NHS Change Day.

It really doesn’t take much to make quite a marked difference to someone’s perception or to a customer’s experience. In fact I’ve been following a discussion on LinkedIn over the past week where other customer service professionals have been sharing their thoughts on the little things that destroy the customer experience.

As the list is growing it’s obvious that these are often seen as potentially insignificant things, even done absent mindedly, but to the customer they can make or break the customer experience. And when two or three of these are added together can make a massive difference to the degree of trust and long term relationship.

What struck me from the discussion is just how much is down to the interaction and engagement of the team. Subtle things that take seconds. Such as that initial eye contact as soon as someone walks in, a genuine smile, looking organised and ready for business, using someone’s name, remembering someone’s preferences, the tone you use when saying hello or saying thank you, the use of I, you or we, the use of a positive language. All adding to that first and last impression.

Of course the quality of the product itself will have a bearing, but get these basics wrong – these little hinges – and you have to work a darn site harder on the other stuff to ensure your customers’ experience is a 5 star one.



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


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.

 

 

 

 


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.