How do you grow a new small business? One way is to always put your customer first. Follow these six tips from a pro.
By Bob La Loggia
A good customer experience can make or break your business. Customers are vitally important to your brand, your business, and your bottom line. This may seem obvious, but it is an area of business that is easy to overlook. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. You must continuously put thought into how your customer’s experience has been, how you can improve it, and how you can take their feedback into account.
Here are some tips to help make sure your customer always comes first:
1) Learn the right level of communication
Have you ever signed up for an online service and been instantly bombarded with emails? Chances are you will quickly start to ignore them and eventually unsubscribe. It is a mistake to think that any customer wants to hear from you constantly. By over-communicating, you can actually hurt your relationship with your customer.
By the same token, don’t completely leave them alone either. A good rule of thumb is to communicate with every customer once or twice per month. A newsletter is a great tool to accomplish this goal. But, you have to keep it simple. Provide a summary on something new in your company, a link to a blog post and include a relevant or interesting tip. Less is more. You only have their attention for a couple minutes, so keep it simple and meaningful for your customer.
2) Avoid making assumptions about what your customer wants
This seems to be one of those common lessons that even the most seasoned businessperson has to learn over and over again. You’ve heard the old adage that you should never assume you understand the needs and wants of your customers. Well, you’ve heard it many times because it’s true. You must consistently communicate with customers and ask them what they want. Listening to your customers is incredibly valuable, and you will undoubtedly be surprised by what you learn.
3) Make it easy for your customer to do business with you
What is the level of service you expect from a doctor, an accountant, or other service provider? Do you expect for your appointment to be on time? Do you expect a hassle-free experience? The answer is probably no. Isn’t that ridiculous? Your customer shouldn’t have to wait 20 minutes for their appointment to start or fill out a mountain of paperwork once they arrive. These friction points affect the customer experience. And, in today’s saturated marketplace, they affect your ultimate business success. Actively look for ways to eliminate nonsense, hassle, and inefficiency. When you make it easy for your customer to do business with you, the customers are happy and your bottom line is happy as well.
4) Make your customer feel special
You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that people like to feel special. Every customer wants to feel like you care about them. This doesn’t have to be a difficult process. It starts with your first interaction with your customer. When you greet them, look them in the eye, smile, reach out your hand and tell them that it is a pleasure to meet them and that you are looking forward to working with them. When this type of interaction is genuine, your customer can’t help but feel special. Be creative and put thought into other unique ways to ensure your customer feels special throughout their experience with you as well.
5) Provide an easy method for capturing suggestions and feedback
It is important that customers have a way to give feedback, whenever they are ready to provide it. Offer an online portal for suggestions and feedback. An email address is not good enough. A portal allows you a way to easily view the data you collected. In addition, an online form also allows you to create specific questions to target areas that may be of concern. Make sure you inform your customer about your online portal and ask for feedback. When you send out your newsletter, include a link to the feedback form.
6) Don’t rush the good-bye
Your last interaction with your customer is what sets the stage for the next time you meet. Don’t rush the good-bye. Pushing someone out the door is a great way to ensure that you will never see him or her again. Talk with your customer at the end of their appointment, ensure they had a good experience, maintain eye contact, and tell them that you look forward to seeing them again.
About the Author
As a veteran start-up entrepreneur, Bob La Loggia has been championing innovation and new business models for more than 20 years. As CEO and founder of Appointment-Plus, a leading web-based scheduling software for small, medium and enterprise businesses, Bob has created an environment where customer service is paramount and creative ideas thrive. For more information, visit appointment-plus.com