It's holiday time and many, many consumers are shopping. Even people that don't like to shop are shopping. Today’s shoppers are demanding and have lots of choices. They don’t have to do business with you; they can go to your competitor any time they want and/or shop online. They can also ruin your reputation with the click of a mouse. Years ago, prior to the internet, disgruntled customers might tell their friends and family members about a bad customer experience. Today, disgruntled customers can take out their smart phone and ruin your reputation by posting damaging information and videos in real time.A few weeks ago, I was going to visit an Orange County restaurant in Central Valley that I hadn’t been to in a few years. Before I made the reservation, I decided to check out Yelp. People use Yelp to search for everything from the city's tastiest burger to the most renowned cardiologist. One Yelp review about the dirty, sticky rug and cockroaches in the dining room was enough to make me change my mind about that restaurant.
Building customer loyalty takes time; it’s all about building relationships with customers so that customers will continue to do business with you and tell their friends about your organization. Building customer loyalty makes good business sense. Building relationships is very different than processing transactions. Anyone can learn how to process a transaction; it takes genuine care and a bit of initiative to build customer loyalty. Here are a few generic things that you can do to build better relationships with your customers.
Smile, it makes you look like you are enjoying serving the customer.
Address your customer by name. Don’t assume that it is okay to refer to your customer on a first name basis, start with Mr. or Mrs.
Introduce yourself to your customer and tell them that you are there to assist them.
Keep track of your customer’s purchases, services, likes and dislikes.
Give your customer something without expecting anything in return. A complimentary appetizer if you are in the restaurant business, a complimentary car wash if you are a car dealer, a free haircut if you are a barber, a complimentary repair if you fix items. Offer to carry items to the customers car.
Be polite. Use please and thank you.
Say hello and good bye.
Thank your customers for their loyalty.
Create a clean, welcoming environment. Make sure the customer isn’t ignored. Don’t bother them, but do assist them.
Pay attention to details. When a customer purchases an item from a luxury retailer, the item is packaged beautifully.
Follow up with your customers. Call them and ask how them how everything is.
Compliment your customers. It’s so easy to give someone a compliment and doing so just might make their day.
Send a hand written note card thanking your customers for their loyalty.
Be professional. Dress and speak professionally at all times. Last week, I visited a doctor’s office. The Physicians Assistant walked into the examination room and she had a hole in her tights. It was the first thing I noticed and she did not make a good impression.
Be present. When speaking to your customers, give them your undivided attention. If you are interrupted by someone else, apologize to the customer and tell them, I will be right with you.
Anticipate your customer’s needs. Certified Public Accountants get in touch with their customers months before the April 15 tax deadline. Physicians send out letters reminding their patients of follow up procedures. Often, the letters go in the trash. What would happen if the physician called his patients instead?
If you are in the retail business, walk your customer to the merchandise instead of saying it’s in Aisle 24.
Have inventory available. Customers hate to wait.
Open up more registers on the front end. Retailers never seem to staff the front end appropriately.
Make every purchase easy and convenient for your customers.
Go out of your way for your customers. Can you go to your customer’s house? Extend your hours for your customer?
Pay attention to your customer’s family; remember their names and important events.
Become a conversationalist and know when to chat and when to listen. The one who speaks the most learns the least.
Offer exceptional products and services and make them available. When Apple introduced their Apple Watch in 2015, it was made available in very few locations worldwide. Customers who wanted the watch, loyal Apple customers, had to pre order the watch and wait months for the Apple Watch to arrive.
Be competent. Your customers will have questions, be prepared to answer their questions or at least know how to get your customers the information they want.
Apologize when you make a mistake. No one is perfect and you will make mistakes. It’s usually not a big deal as long as you apologize immediately. In certain industries, like healthcare, a mistake can be a big deal.
Be honest, genuine and sincere. No one likes to do business with a phony.
Share coveted information with your customers. For example, if your customer wants to purchase an item that is going on sale the next week, tell him about the upcoming sale.
Have great, smart processes and continually improve your processes. I love the way restaurant servers in Europe swipe your credit card through a hand held machine while they are standing in front of the table. Your credit card never leaves your sight.
Eliminate broken processes. If something doesn’t work, fix it. You will know when a process is broken because your customers will complain.
Provide simple invoices that are easy to understand and payment options.
Have a great team. If a hair stylist is great but the receptionist is a grouch, the customer won’t be WOWed.
Train your employees. An inexperienced, unskilled employee will probably not WOW your customers and it’s not their fault. You need to teach employees how to WOW, Disney does a really good job at developing their cast members and teaching them how to exceed customer expectations. You will never, ever see Snow White taking a cigarette break or checking her smart phone when she is working.
Create a WOW culture. Take care of your employees. Disgruntled employees will not WOW your customers. When you hire great people and create a motivating work environment, those employees will build relationships with your customers.
Be proud of your organization. Create a compelling brand that attracts customers. Whole Foods has done a really good job of branding themselves as “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” and consumers want to go there.
There are a number of organizations that get it. They consistently WOW their customers. Many of these organizations are also listed on Fortune magazine’s list of The 100 Best Companies to Work For. A few of my favorites are Marriot, Wegmans Food Markets and American Express. When you treat your employees well, those employees will turn around and great WOW experiences for your customers.