The business climate of the 21st century is ever evolving. The traditional business strategies that worked just fine in the days of the boomers just will not cut it in today’s business atmosphere.
The divide between business and customer is no longer a hard line; customers are getting more involved in the formation of policies and strategies employed by 21st century businesses. They have – like it or not – become indirect employees.
Businesses that have thrived in this dispensation have embraced the new dynamics of business-customer relationships. Customers also recognize this trend and continue to capitalize on it. They realize their non-monetary value to businesses is no more completely defined by the amount on their receipts.
This gives them serious say in the success or failure of your business as they have grown a sense of entitlement. Now customers want more than just a receipt and a complimentary message.
It does not matter how wonderful your product or service is. If your customers feel unsatisfied with the way you treat them they will look somewhere else. And by that I mean that they will take their business to your competition (just in case you were wondering).
It is obvious to every serious business owner that it cheaper to satisfy and keep your customers than to get new ones
If you would rather focus more on setting up marketing campaigns and online ads alone, I have news for you – you are toast and so is your business. Focus, instead on doing everything to maintain your customer base and yes, this involves more than having a product/service that requires repeat buying.
Do you want your business to be among the startups that fail before they even get to start?
Then follow these strategies to satisfy and keep your customers coming back for more business.
Under promise, over deliver
This one of the oldest tricks in the business handbook, still a lot of businesses have not come around to implementing it. When you tell customers exactly what you will do for them, you put yourself and your business at risk of not delivering as expected.
Giving yourself some margin for error in the way you run your business can be the difference between getting good customer reviews and having your business picketed online.
Let us say for instance that you run a courier service company. If your company can deliver a package to a customer in say 3 business days, tell him/her that you can deliver in 4 or 5 business days. This way when the customer gets the package in 3 days, you will have one very satisfied customer on your hands.
Besides allowing you a margin of error, this strategy helps you lower your customers’ expectation so that you can satisfy them with minimal effort.
2. Offer customizable products or services
In your business, as much as is possible, do not use a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Every customer has an image in his/her mind of exactly how they would want their product or service delivered to them.
Customers will always prefer a service that feels like it caters to their individual needs to something that feels mass produced. Therefore providing them efficient personalized experiences is a sure way to keep them loyal to your business.
If for instance you run a shoe business, create a platform on your website where customers can craft/build their own shoes. They should be able to change the color, leather type, size, design pattern etc. Companies such as Nike, BMW, Hyundai and Toshiba have implemented this strategy, and it worked for them.
A 2013 survey by Bain & Co. found that 25 to 30 percent of customers want to customize their purchases. The report estimates that if 25% percent of online foot sales are customized, it would generate annual revenue of $2 billion.
3. Add a personal touch to your appreciation
It might be customary for an over the counter employee to say ‘thank you for doing business with us’ after serving a customer.
But is this enough? It seems everybody is doing it.
As much as you can, send a thank you email to all customers immediately after they transact with you – it makes them feel valued. Do not EVER start an email with “Dear customer”. You will have one less customer to worry about if you do (no, that is not a good thing). Use the customer’s first name; it makes the mail have a personal feel.
It is even better to send hand written thank you notes from the business owner, telling the customer how much you appreciate their business. If you have a very large customer base, this may be hard to implement across the board. In such cases, you can reserve the hand written notes for your long-standing customers.
4. If there is a problem, fix it immediately
Whenever a customer complains about a problem with the product or service delivered to him/her, make immediate steps to resolve the issue.
The last thing a complainant wants to hear is the ‘it is not my department’ line. If the customer makes the complaint directly to you, it is your responsibility to make sure the customer leaves with a positive impression of the company. It does not matter if it is your jurisdiction or not, or if you are the business owner or not.
If you cannot handle the situation, do not just refer them to someone else; take them to the person yourself, explain the situation and keep abreast of the development. This personal touch will make the customer feel valued.
5. Set a standard that devalues your competition
Running your business to near perfection such that you always meet your customers’ every need creates loyal customers. It also creates a level of expectancy in their minds that you should make sure you always meet. In short, it creates a demanding customer.
What this means is that if for some reason your customer were to go to your competition, they would expect, no, demand the same standard of service that they were used to getting with you. If the competition does not meet the standard, it reinforces in the customer’s mind that they made the right choice in you.
So offer a level of service such that the competition finds your customer not just demanding, but maybe a little bit unreasonable too!
6. Remember special occasions
Customers feel more at home with your business when they feel your interest in them goes beyond your monetary transactions.
Make it a duty to remember their birthdays, wedding anniversaries, remember Christmas, Hanukkah and any other holiday that they subscribe to. Send them cards and gift items (within reason) to show that you share in their celebration.
Never use one message for all customers’ cards (birthdays and anniversaries). You will lose them as customers the next time their celebration comes around and you send the exact same message again!