In today’s competitive marketplace, businesses are ramping up efforts to get new customers in the door or calling on the phone. But the key to increased profits and a better share of the market isn’t necessarily getting more customers—it’s keeping them. And what is the key to keeping them? Making them feel important and letting them know that you appreciate their business. This holds true for any business, no matter whether you are a retail outlet that sees thousands of customers per day, or if you provide a niche service that only corresponds with clients through phone conversation and email. Here are six ways to express your consumer has your attention.
1. Treat Them as Though They Were Your Only Customer
Today’s consumer is a lot more self-aware than you might think. They aren’t just looking for the best price—they are looking for the best service as well, and if they can get great service, they won’t mind spending a little more. To ensure that you notice your customers, make them feel welcome, whether they are walking into your store or calling you on the phone. The tone of your voice, or that of your employees, is important. You don’t want to sound unmotivated, as though you’d rather be anywhere else. Customers will pick up on that, and their first impression (a negative one) will have already been established within about ten seconds.
This doesn’t mean that you should hound them either. Motivation and a friendly greeting is one thing—badgering them and following them around the store dispensing rehearsed sales information or pressured sales tactics is quite another, and will likely cause your customers to turn tail and run, regardless of a great sale or service offer.
2. One Happy Customer is Worth a Lot More Than You Think
Customers and clients are bound to have complaints at some point, and how you deal with those complaints can make a big difference in the future success of your company. Instead of getting defensive in the face of a complaining customer, do your best to listen to the customer’s complaint, and then do everything you can, within reason, to accommodate that customer. A customer who leaves happy is likely to come back. A customer who leaves unhappy isn’t, but is likely to tell others about their negative experience, turning away more potential customers.
With today’s technology, thousands can quickly see a bad review of a company, and there’s no telling how bad the repercussions may be. In contrast, a good review can also be seen by thousands, instilling brand recognition in a positive way. Of course, you might not be always capable of taming an irate customer, but even just listening and attempting to make some sort of amends will go a long way towards making your customers feel noticed.
3. No Robots
Try to train your salesmen to think objectively, instead of having them just read lines from a script or recite a sales pitch in a monotone voice. Consumers know when a customer service representative is reading from a script, and while a script can be a valuable guideline for employees to follow, reading it verbatim in response to every consumer question or complaint strips it of all emotion, and leaves the consumer feeling undervalued, underappreciated, and un-helped. Even if you are unable to solve a customer’s problem, taking the time to engage them in a friendly manner shows them that at least you do care enough to notice the customer as valuable.
4. Customers First! Everything Else Second
A rule many tend to forget, and employees sometimes ignore. Never keep the customer or client waiting if at all possible. And if you must have them wait, engage them to let them know that you notice them and will be with them in a moment, instead of making them stand there with the pretense that you are ignoring them. Customers don’t want to be kept waiting while employees are on personal phone calls or chatting with other co-workers, and clients that are paying for your services certainly appreciate a timely response.
If you manage a store where employees must regularly engage in customer service duties, it might be beneficial to have them attend a training seminar that teaches them how to improve their customer relations and better communicate with the customer.
5. When You Notice Your Customers, They Notice Your Brand
Brand loyalty is what keeps customers coming back, and the way to establish brand loyalty is through customer incentives. This can be anything from great service and helpful recommendations to targeted marketing techniques, such as shopping rewards and discounts for loyal customers. Kohl’s Department Store is one excellent example of this: Kohl’s customers receive notices via mail or email of specials sales and discounts all throughout the year. By providing good service along with special sales incentives, Kohl’s has established their brand firmly in the minds of hundreds of thousands of consumers.
Many other stores and businesses practice the same marketing techniques, and consumers have become more aware of this. They will weigh their shopping decisions carefully amongst the many stores also offering discounts or special sales, and the choice may come down to which store or business provides friendly, more professional service. Which business sees customers as people, and not as dollar signs?
6. Value Your Customer’s Opinion
Want to better engage with your customers and increase sales? Listen to them. Distribute surveys through email or on small cards at the checkout counter, and to ensure a response, provide customers with a discount or other incentive for filling out the survey. Ask them what you are doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and what improvements they’d like to see, and definitely what can be done to make their shopping experience more rewarding.
About the Author: Valerie Cecil is a research coordinator, marketing specialist and writer for Outbounding.com. Her work allows her to investigate many topics, ranging from online consumer relations to effective communication in the workplace. Her hobbies include kayaking, watercolor, and doing marketing work for www.retailpackaging.com.