This guide will help you transform your business – if you take action.
Customers are the lifeblood of every business as business owners we all want our customers to like us, buy more from us and keeping returning to us week after week, month after month, year after year and recommend us to friends and colleagues.
The experience you give to your customers determines how much they buy, if they return and if they recommend you. Thus customer experience has a direct impact on the growth and profitability of every business on the planet.
Our fourteen steps below will help you start to transform your business into a customer centric business and put customers at the heart of everything you do.
Lets get started.
1) First impressions count.
Being greeted by happy cheerful, positive people will form a great first impression. Statistics show that a large percentage of buying decisions are made within the first few seconds of us interacting with a business. Ensure your team know how to greet customers, whether face-to-face, over the phone or over social media channels. Your customers perception of your business will be formed by the impressions these ‘front line’ team members give.
Make sure your business premises are clean and tidy. Nothing puts customers or potential customers off more than cluttered, untidy or dirty work environments. Regardless of whether you are a car workshop or a dentist surgery there is no excuse for your business premises not giving a great first impression.
2) Be helpful.
It always amazes me how difficult some businesses are to deal with. They give me a hundred reasons for not doing something rather than helping me, as a customer, to solve my problem. Dealing with these businesses is a struggle, like walking through treacle. Even if I end up buying the product or service I will probably never recommend that business to someone else and I will always be on the hunt for alternatives just to escape the shackles of unhelpful service.
3) Be responsive.
Did you know that the average response time of a B2B company to a new lead / sales enquiry is 42 hours (lead response study from hbr.org based on USA data)
Even more shocking, according to the same study, is that 23% of companies never responded to a new sales enquiry at all.
Yet according to data from insidesales.com between 35% – 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.
Responsiveness matters. It helps with a positive first impression, shows you are serious about servicing not just current customers but potential customers, shows you are a professional well-managed company and it is just the right thing to do.
How can you expect an organisation to trust you with their projects if you are tardy at responding to a new enquiry?
Being responsive is not just critical for new business; you have to be just as responsive for current customers. They are the lifeblood of your business. They will be the ones that recommend colleagues and friends; they are your fan base. If you are not responsive you lose the fans, you lose their custom and you lose the chance of referrals. Even if you can’t resolve customers issues immediately, you can respond quickly. Acknowledge their issue. Show empathy and prove you are taking the enquiry seriously and will work on it as soon as physically possible. Most customers are reasonable in their expectations in terms of the end result, but expect quick acknowledgement of the enquiry so they have a comfortable feeling.
Make responsiveness a priority in your business. It will lead to increase in sales and customer retention.
4) Put your customers on a pedestal.
It’s the customer that matters. Not your business. We see it all the time. Every bit of news or collateral some businesses produce is all about them. This tells me a business is in it for themselves.
It should be all about your customers. How you are servicing your customers, solving their problems, fulfilling their demands. No one is really interested whether you have moved to bigger premises or won the sales person of the year award. What they are interested in is how you can help them.
Make your customers the people you look up to. Put them on a pedestal, they are the ones paying your bills. Make your business about your customers and not about your business.
Don’t get me wrong businesses must profit, and grow and win awards, just don’t make it your primary ambition. Your ambition should be happy, content customers that are true advocates for your business. Do that and the rewards and recognition will follow as a matter of course.
5) Be accountable.
Accountability is the single best way to impress customers. Do what you say you are going to do by when you say you are going to do it. It’s that simple. Nothing impresses people more than a fulfilled promise, especially from a business.
Be accountable for ensuring you follow up on every request. Use modern day software tools to make the process easy. Share the responsibility across the team. Above all don’t let the customer down. This simple one act of following through on everything your business says it is going to do will have the single biggest impact on the loyalty of your customers.
6) Know your product.
Imagine trying to buy a new car but the sales assistant knowing nothing about the car being sold. Would you buy from that person / business. Probably not.
Your business exists for a purpose. You are striving to be the best at what you do and solve issues for your customers. You need product / service knowledge to truly be the best in your field and keep customers coming back. If you can explain why certain products or services are best for a clients needs, how your products or services directly relate to the customers problems or needs and can answer (or get answers) to any questions a customer may have you will have more probability of winning more business and retaining your customers.
In some industries it is very hard to be an expert on everything you sell. Think about an electrical retailer, it would be impossible for any one person to have detailed knowledge on every product sold. You can though have member of your team trained in different areas of expertise and all other team members can collectively draw on the expertise of each other to service the customers needs better.
You don’t have to be a genius on all things but you need to have a basic level of expertise that will satisfy the majority of customer enquiries and be able to have the resources to hand to help you get quick answers to questions that you can’t answer straight away.
7) Know your customers.
You don’t need to know every customer by name that is not the aim. What you do need to know are the profiles of your customers. The average demographics. The type of issues they face, the type of products they need and enjoy.
If you don’t know the profile of your customers, it is really hard to formulate pricing for your product or service, a marketing plan, sales targets and quotas.
Think about buyer personas – who are the different types of people that usually buy from you? What gender are they, what age group are they, what are their likes and dislikes, what are their hobbies and interests, where do they interact online? Built up this knowledge over time and it focuses your marketing, sales and customer service efforts in the right places and helps you to be high on your customers radar when they are making purchasing decisions.
8) Know your industry.
Product knowledge is critical but industry knowledge is important too. You need to know how your products and services fit into the wider market you are servicing. What is your USP, why should a customer buy from you rather than your competitor, what are the plus points of your competitors offerings compared to yours? (Knowledge in advance allows you to have the correct responses if your customers ask the question).
9) Empathise with your customers.
We have all done it. A customer rings up with an urgent issue, needs to be resolved today – world is falling apart etc. etc. and we sit there and scratch our heads as to why this issue is so important and why it must be done right this second.
What we all fail to do in those instances is to understand the position the customer is in. We don’t know why this is important to them. It may be because of a deadline their boss has put on them, or one of their customers, or they could be preparing for a critical presentation – we just don’t know.
So we need to show empathy, we need to understand the issue from the customers’ perspective. To us it may be a small change that can go to the back of the pile – to them it could mean winning new business vs. losing new business.
Take the time to really understand and empathise with your customers, understand their needs, wants and desires. It will help you and your colleagues put things in perspective, help you prioritise your workload and above all it will mean you are putting your customers needs first. This leads to loyalty and trust and loyalty and trust leads to happy customers that come back to you time after time and recommend you to all their friends and colleagues.
10) Invest in training.
Investment in training is one of the single best things you can do to improve your business, create that WOW affect for your customers and improve your staff moral. Having a team that is continuously learning and developing ensures that your business stays one step ahead.
Invest in training around your product and developing your team’s knowledge of your product. Invest in training your team in customer service principles. Invest in sales training. The return on training investments is usually large over time.
A knowledgeable team is infectious. Your team will be loyal and have a thirst to keep learning and keep servicing your customer base. This impacts how your business is viewed by your customers and makes them want to do business with you. You become the go to place for information and knowledge in your market. This builds trust, trust builds loyalty, loyalty builds referrals, and referrals build sales, sales means growth.
11) Don’t neglect your website.
Don’t forget your website. Almost every new customer that is thinking of doing business with you will first look for you online. Ensure your website creates the impression you want for your business.
Keep it updated. Keep it informative. Keep it simple and easy to navigate. Make it easy to find your contact information. Keep it fresh and modern looking. Keep it in sync with your industry and company values.
12) Embrace social media.
Like it or not your customer service is now a public show. The uptake of social media across the globe has meant that almost every interaction you have with a customer can potentially be shared with the world. Take social media seriously. Even if you have a customer that is disgruntled in an offline situation it only takes a few minutes for them to pull their smartphone out of their pocket and tell the world.
Be active. Respond to comments on your social media profiles. Watch for mentions of your company name or brand names on social media and respond accordingly. Deal with negative feedback promptly with decisive action that puts the customer needs above your own. Every business makes mistakes; it is how we deal with these mistakes that separate an average businesses from great businesses.
Embrace social media. See it is as another opportunity to engage with your customer base. Give them what they want, help them, answer questions where you feel you can help. Join groups, be proactive. It only takes one helpful comment from one customer that could lead to landing large contracts or winning big sales.
13) Actively listen.
Listening makes all the difference. Too often we get so caught up in our businesses that we forget what really matters, why we started our businesses in the first place. We forget it’s all about our customers. It’s all about listening to what they want. Really listening.
Take a step back and really listen to what customers are saying, what questions are they asking you, what are their real problems, what would they really like to see? Every bit of feedback is an opportunity. Even if you don’t or can’t act immediately, acknowledge that you have listened and heard your customers voice and have empathised with their situation. Take what your customers tell you and try the theories or concepts out on more customers or potential customers — if the ideas have traction and can deliver a return for your customers and your business add them to your plans.
Above all make sure your customers know you have listened to them. Send them quick update messages. Inform them of progress. It only takes one idea to revolutionise a business and showing you listen and care will go a long way in terms of gaining trust and loyalty.
14) Get feedback.
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” a wise man once said.
How do you know if:
- You are creating the right first impression with your customers?
- Your business is seen as helpful?
- If your customers think you are responsive?
- If your customers think they are important or not?
- If your customers think you are accountable?
- If your customers think you know enough about your products or services?
- If you listen to customer needs, wants, desires or problems?
The only way is to ask. Leverage the power of customer surveys and more in depth feedback via Mystery Shopping Programmes. Analyse the results. Take action where you need to and repeat the feedback cycle often.
Don’t get complacent. Don’t think you are the doing the right thing for your customers be sure.
Putting your customer at the heart of everything you do will have immediate and remarkable benefits to your business. The key thing is to take action. Use the points above as part of your to do list, take action, measure impact and tweak your approach accordingly.
Let us know how you get on, and of course if you we can help in any way, please get in touch – we would love to hear from you.