Five Ways To Earn Your Customers’ Trust

‘I trust you because your customer service is great.

I trust you because your product is good quality and reliable.

I trust you because I know I can get in touch with you if I need to.

I trust you because you clearly value my custom and I feel special.

I trust you because I like you.

I trust you because you keep me updated with news and ideas or products.

I trust you because you don’t always want to just ‘sell’ to me.

………said the happy customer to the customer-centric, modern day business.

If you have loads of customers who are saying the same thing to you, stop reading. You’re clearly aware of what sort of marketplace we live in in 2016. Otherwise read on!

It doesn’t matter what business you are in, if you have customers, this year you will be prioritising trust. ‘Trust is earned, not given.’ We know the mantra and we also know its value. And yet many businesses are still operating under the illusion that the customers are out there and that business will arrive at their door, till or webpage as if by magic.

They won’t.

This is the age of the customer. Google the phrase ‘customer-centric’ and you’ll have enough blogs or articles to read until 2017. The customer is in the driving seat. Your customer will know all about you, the good and the bad, and will know all about your competitors. Your customer won’t hesitate to seek out the best deal or offer and will use reviews, social media and referrals to assess your credibility. Your customers’ opinion of you will be based on data, whether accurate or not. Your customers’ reaction to you will be emotional.

According to Forrester Analyst Anjali Laito, “Emotion is often the primary factor influencing customer loyalty and the strongest driver of customer retention, enrichment and advocacy”.

One thing will drive your customer back to you and keep them close – TRUST.

“The most credible advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. For that reason, it should come as no surprise that more than eight in ten global respondents (83 percent) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family. But trust isn’t confined only to those in our inner circle, as two-thirds (66 percent) say they trust consumer opinions posted online—the third-most-trusted form of advertising.” — (Nielsen, 2015 report )

If your customer trusts you, they will love you. If trust is there, you will have earned an advocate, a raving fan and a lifetime supporter. Trust is a belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of….; it is an expectation of faith and consistency. That expectation is not granted as a ‘default’.

If you’re not using trust in customer service as a competitive advantage you are missing out. A perfect example is the new car industry. My neighbour recently spent over £30,000 on a new car. The car’s due date was postponed twice. Finally, he got the car and just the car. He drove out and did not hear from Range Rover again. He has his eye on a BMW for next time.

His daughter recently spent £10,000 on a new car. She picked it up on the due date and had to move the delightful cupcake and ‘congratulations’ card from the driver’s seat to drive away. One week later she received a phone call from Hyundai asking how she was enjoying the vehicle.

Total spend on earning the customer’s trust and loyalty? Probably around £2.00 and ten minutes of time.

So what do you do to earn your customer’s trust?

Five tips for becoming trustworthy:

  • Trust is earned, not given. Don’t expect your customers to magically hand it over, trust is earned over time. Maintain a relationship with your customer, even if it’s just an occasional email or newsletter, stay in touch.
  • Customers don’t trust words, they trust actions. Be consistent, provide backup and aftersales care, offer assistance if they need it. Be approachable.
  • Trust is earned through honesty; ALWAYS be transparent and clear and never make promises you can’t deliver on.
  • Trust is fragile; trust is easy to break, easy to lose and one of the hardest things to get back. Make sure that whatever your customer service strategy is, you have the ability to deliver.
  • Trust stems from knowledge. Ask your customers how they feel, what they want. Show them you want to get it right. If you don’t know what your customers want, it’s hard to give it to them.

Trust is sometimes forgotten or overlooked in the business/customer relationship. But in this customer-centric age of social media and online reviews, trust is the golden ticket to loyalty, repeat business and greater profits. What do you do to earn your customers’ trust?

Deborah Winchester

Have You Got A Mayday Button?

Those of us who walk in the customer’s shoes each day of our working life are feeling pretty smug right now. The stage is well and truly set for a customer-centric world and we are, of course, embracing it with open arms.

Most decision makers in business are aware that customer experience must now be a top agenda issue, although these decision makers are often still using antiquated or ineffective tools (often in-house) to measure their customer service offering.

Fortunately, business leaders are also now recognising the urgent need to prevent poor service. The cost of poor or substandard customer service is enormous and given society’s desire to broadcast the good, the bad and the very ugly to the world via social media, the cost to any business could be fatal. The saturation of social media can mean that your business name could be spread across the world in a matter of hours if you fail spectacularly in the customer service arena. The most famous examples that spring to mind are Twitter and the ‘Bendgate’ scandal (The iPhone 6plus bending in your back pocket) and YouTube’s ‘United Breaks Guitars’ (a very disgruntled guitar owner wrote a song about United Airlines damaging his guitar in transit). Whilst large companies like Apple and United can survive such negative media, can your business? Even without social media, people talk. A bad experience encountered in your environment can mean the loss of loyalty of that customer and his seven friends, and their families and their contacts, etc.

Customers are now very firmly in control and their voice will only become louder as the marketplace responds to their demands which are often amplified to the ears of the world. Customers now expect to get results at a tap; immediate, pain free solutions are not just desired but expected. If an order, purchase or expectation doesn’t go to plan, customers expect an immediate solution.

Some businesses are now embracing social media and using a multi-channel reach to engage with customers and to show their dedication to excellence in customer service. The battle is on to provide unique and customer-pleasing services to make their customers’ lives easier:

  • Nationwide Building Society now has a dedicated social media team and has just launched a Facebook page to answer questions and promote its products.
  • In the US, Jeans Online and Lamoda now have a delivery service where the courier will wait 15 minutes whilst you try on the products then they will return unwanted items. No more printing off returns labels, trekking to the post office and often paying for the return postage.
  • The Amazon Mayday button connects Kindle Fire HDX tablet owners to an Amazon customer service representative via webcam. Among tablet owners, 75% of customer service interactions occur via the button.
  • Spotify and Apple music offer immediate, live access to any song you could think of (for a monthly membership fee); you’d be hard-pressed to find a teenager with a CD collection these days!

Those businesses who continually think like the customer, and devise solutions and gimmicks to appeal, are the businesses that will continue to delight their customers and retain loyalty. Loyalty equals repeat business – repeat business equals increased profits.

To be viable in the future marketplace, businesses must use big data to create a truthful acknowledgment of who their customer really is and be proactive in all relations with them. Embracing customer intelligence and social media will not be enough if companies hang on to the premise that it’s all about the product. Customers want more. It’s not about the product. It’s about the relationship you create with your customer and only then is it about the product.

Looking at your own business, when was the last time you focussed on ‘delighting your customer?’. Using our four examples of on-trend customer love, here are a few ideas to take your business to the next level:

  • If Nationwide has a Facebook page, it must be time you did. What is your presence on social media like? Do you know what social media platforms your customers are using? Have you asked your customers where they find their information about products or services that are relevant to them? How do you update your customer database on new developments, products, services, occasions etc.?
  • I have two teenage daughters both of whom I know would exclusively use the online jeans delivery company who waits while they try the jeans on. When the millennial generation want something they want it NOW. And they want it without complications. With this ability to ‘bring the range to you’ who wouldn’t be happy? We all have busy lives; we don’t shop as we used to. What have you done in your business to make your customers’ lives easy? Think about it from their point of view, walk in their shoes. What obstacles do they encounter and how can YOU help to overcome them?
  • A mayday button on your tablet? An immediate response at your fingertips? This technology makes Siri seem a little ‘last year’. What’s your mayday button like? How can customers contact you if they need to? Are your phone numbers correct and visible? Will your phone be ANSWERED? Are your hours limited to 9 to 5? Your customers don’t live in a 9 to 5 world – it’s a 24/7 landscape in 2015 so how will you meet your customer queries?
  • Spotify, Apple music and Amazon provide digital downloads of music, video or TV to your fingertips immediately. Digital platforms have the technology to deliver. Fingertip control makes a customer’s life easier as mobile devices become a standard part of our morning dress code. What can you do to be present on your customer’s mobile device? An App, a link to a blog or newsletter, photos of your environment, product or services sent out. Be present, be visible and be relevant.

If you haven’t prioritised your journey into the world of the customer, you may be missing the boat and missing the profits. The market place is changing so rapidly you cannot afford to dismiss Facebook or Instagram as a fad. The way information reaches our children is vastly different to our own experience. It’s not a case of being ready, it’s a case of being ready to be ready – to embrace the changes that will emerge over the next decade. Take a walk in your customer’s shoes today, then think about ways to delight, surprise and provide for them – they will reward you with their loyalty

Why Eight Out Of Ten Is Not Good Enough

This is the age of the customer. Yes, the customer is king, queen and ruler of our retail landscape. I remember decades ago when my purchases were made on one of two determiners; was the product or service that I required within actual driving distance or, was it a price I could afford?

In the 21st century marketplace of online shopping and efficient delivery systems, driving distance rarely matters. Sure, the product has to be affordable but it’s usually a choice of 20 or 200 providers. My choice as a consumer is like a web of bottomless options and vivid, ‘in-your-face’ demands for attention.

As the market shifts from a transactional to a relationship economy, it is no longer enough to just sell the product or service you offer; it’s about building a relationship, fostering a rapport and making your customer feel special. This is not news to many business leaders, particularly those savvy enough to have put the customer at the heart of their business for years.  It comes as no real surprise then that one of the key findings in the July 2015 report from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) reiterates exactly that; a long term focus on the quality of relationships with customers is critical in ensuring your business thrives in the current economy.


The report shows a three-year trend of a very strong link between customer satisfaction, sales growth and market share. The simple fact is, those businesses with the most satisfied customers have outperformed their competitors.

The latest UK customer satisfaction report also highlights a rather frightening statistic for many businesses who assume their customer service is good. Good is not enough. Great is not enough. Outstanding is what is required if your customer service is to translate to profit.

Joanna Causon, Chief Executive of ICS, states that:

‘……..(in terms of customer satisfaction) organisations need to be aiming for a nine or ten out of ten rating if they aspire to build sustained and trusted customer relationships.’

Smart businesses now place the improvement of the customer experience at the top of their agenda. Reducing costs, increasing profits, advertising, staffing matters and the other priorities that each business faces are all dropping down the list to clear a space for the most important factor; does my customer feel special? Special enough to come back, special enough to invest more time and money with me, special enough to become a fan and rave about me to others, special enough to lock into a lifetime of loyalty?

Businesses need to understand, far more than ever before, how customers think and behave. The customer focus should permeate ALL levels of the business. Customer service is an attitude not a department. We know this, we are taught these mantras every day, but are we really offering outstanding customer service? I mean outstanding in the eyes of the customer, not outstanding in your view!

The ICS research shows that many companies are still not thinking this way yet, and therein lies your opportunity to stride ahead and reap the rewards (profits!).

What do you need to do to achieve that magical ten out of ten in customer satisfaction? When was the last time you reviewed your customer service from the customer’s perspective? Have you made the mistake of settling into last decades’ golden rule of developing good customer relationships? Good is not enough.

The five tips below should set you on the path to full marks.

Fast-Track Five Steps To Loving Your Customer.

  • Identify Who Your Customer Is

Who IS your customer and what do they really want? If you don’t know your customer, how are you going to offer them what they really want? Use exit surveys to establish how your customer felt about their experience at that very moment.

  • Involve The Customer

Ask for their views, their feedback, their ideas. Use feedback tools, hold focus groups, have customer days with free tastings, samplings, services or community based events.  At the start of May, Morrisons announced plans to roll back self-service checkouts in favour of staffed express tills after listening to their customers.

  • Have A Customer Loyalty Programme

I recently changed brands simply based on the fact that my preferred choice didn’t have a loyalty programme. Admittedly, once I’d analysed the tangible benefits of the competitors’ loyalty programme it didn’t equate to a huge saving or bonus, but it’s about how I felt. I feel special, valued and rewarded when there is a loyalty plan. I will, therefore, remain loyal to that one brand.

  • Use Social Media

You might not like it but your customers do, especially the millennials. Highly successful marketing campaigns are now run frequently on social media. Many attractions and small businesses have active social media accounts which they use to publish news, updates, new developments, products or services or offers. The top channels most big brands are leveraging for customer support are Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn. The younger market is addicted to Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

  • Be Impressive.

Be seen to be an effective leader in your field. Be trustworthy, be high profile, be responsible. Advertise your most loyal supporters, publish a newsletter, hold charitable events. You can’t fake credibility. You have to own it.

If you trawl the web you find millions of articles on why customer service matters. Until now every business has, periodically, reviewed their customer service to make sure it is good.  But in the savvy consumer age we now live GOOD is no longer enough and GREAT is just passable. If your customer service is to translate to real growth and profit, EXCEPTIONAL should be your goal. Ten out of ten should be your norm.

Let us know if we can help with true feedback on what your customers REALLY think.

‘Unexpected Item In Bagging Area!’ or ‘Hello, How Has Your Day Been?’

Know Your Customer

Wagamamas was the lunchtime destination at Bluewater on the weekend for my daughter and I. We knew we would be guaranteed a speedy, healthy meal.

When we were handed the menus on arrival we were also given a Qkr! Brochure with information on how we could pay our own bill at the table, on our mobile phone, in our own time! Very handy I thought, no more waiting around to catch the team member’s eye and ask for the bill. No more waiting for the bill to be placed on the table in readiness for my card or cash. No need to wait whilst my payment is processed and no more frustration if the pay terminal decides to ‘go slow’. How very convenient! It took some time to download the app and add my credit card details (now that I’ve downloaded it the process will be far quicker in future). Then magically my bill appeared on my phone. I was given the option to tip and from then it was a simple tap of the finger to pay my bill. All without even one word to the team member.

Conveniently the bill is stored on my phone, a very handy feature for those who need to reconcile their accounts.


I liked this new development. I felt in control and I was glad to avoid the sometimes-lengthy payment process. But as I wandered away, looking over my shoulder in case someone sprang on me shouting ‘You haven’t paid!’, I felt a little invisible, a little irrelevant. I felt like I had consumed the product and then I was left to my own devices; a rather impersonal transaction that was replicated hundreds of times throughout the day. It made me consider the usual process. Often, whilst the payment terminal is in the hands of the team member, I have been asked ‘did I enjoy my meal?’ Sometimes, the team member would strike up conversation about the weather or my day. On many occasions in the past I have shared a laugh and a pleasant interaction with the team member and often I have left a restaurant with a smile on my face. This time, I snuck out furtively with no words spoken.

An article in today’s newspaper discusses the real value of self-service ticket machines at train stations (Neil Tweedie, Daily Mail). How convenient are the Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) if they present you with too many choices and not enough explanation as to what would be the best solution for you? Due to the fractured network of rail systems in the UK, the differentiation between peak and non-peak prices and the complex ticket types themselves it would appear that the many of the tickets actually sold via TVMs are overpriced or completely invalid! Perhaps it’s best to join the lengthy snake of a queue so you can actually say to the face behind the Perspex window “What’s the cheapest way of getting from London to Brighton…?”

Even when I visit my doctor’s surgery I can now register my attendance at a touch screen check-in point with no words spoken.

And then there’s the self-service checkouts in retail. I would prefer the ‘Unexpected Item In Bagging Area’ mantra to at least be spoken with an undulating French accent or perhaps in a calm and soothing hushed tone with gentle chimes echoing in the background…….. instead of the robotic, 1960s headmistress style we usually receive.

So in our world of self-service and automated everything, are we happier? Are we grateful to scrape back a few minutes of time whilst sacrificing eye contact and a smile? Finger tip convenience or genuine customer service? If you are keen to add a personal touch and maintain an outstanding level of customer service, you must consider ALL elements of the customer journey.

Some suggestions that are guaranteed to make a difference:

  • Make it simple and make it easy!

Technology is wonderful but don’t lose sight of the fact that your customers want simplicity; make it easy for them.

  • Price is NOT everything

Train your staff to smile, to engage, to interact. (Over 80% of customers would pay MORE for a product or service to ensure superior customer service.)

  • When things go wrong, admit it and spend time in ‘recovery mode’

Thomas Cook spectacularly failed at this recently. Sharon, the mother of the two British children who died on a Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu in 2006, flew out to Corfu with her partner immediately after the tragedy. On her return flight home she was seated on a normal flight home, watching happy families file past her to their seats. The bodies of her children in their small coffins were then loaded onto the hold in full view of the passengers. A customer-care failure at the critical level by anyone’s standards.

  • Offer MORE

Teach, advise, support and communicate with your customers. Hold workshops or sessions where your customers can engage and experiment. Have charity or fundraising events – be seen as a CARING and SIGNIFICANT part of your community (with sales possibly becoming an exponential by-product).

  • Delight your customers
    Be cheerful, be bright, be the polar opposite of those self-service machines. Offer something special. People like surprises and a little personality goes a long way. Think of some unique ways to create a priceless connection with your customers. Read more about delighting your customers in our blog:
  • Be ever-present
    Apparently the number one fear in the mind of the twenty-something is FOMO (fear of missing out)! So, expose yourself! Be cross-channel with your brand; use social media, use email marketing, use loyalty programs. Be on your customer’s mind. They are much more likely to return.
  • Mobilize your experience
    Whilst there is a blurred line between self-service and the use of technology, there is no denying that our younger generations want and respond to mobile customer experiences. From mobile banking to content updates from the BBC news, customers want mobile access to your brand. And it’s not just the younger generations. In May of this year Google announced that more searches were being made on mobile devices than on personal computers in the U.S. and in many other countries.
  • Create the circle of trust for your customers
    Many customers begin their customer journey amongst their circle of trust. Make it easy for customers to communicate their trust. Build customer loyalty programmes, have real and virtual forums. Capture customer feedback. Listen, respond, and do what you say you plan to do – just like any good relationship.

There is no avoiding technology and, often, ‘ease of use’ is vital in improving your business. But at the heart of every innovation, every new venture and every new business strategy, one thing should remain at the top of the list; your customer.

Deborah Winchester

14 Steps To Create An Amazing Customer Experience

wow customer experience

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Know Your Customer

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wrapping up.

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.


Exit interviews – good or bad?

gardencentresHaving been invited to conduct some exit interviews for a local garden centre, we stopped a couple of customers to ask if they had found what they wanted and to enquire what they bought.

They said they had been intending to buy a lot of plants but had been concerned to see there were vine weevil eggs in all the pots and as a result, decided not to buy anything at all; the last thing they wanted was to take home an infestation of vine weevils.   (Note to non-gardeners – vine weevils are real pests but the larvae are the far more damaging and will destroy the root systems).

Our interviewee asked if they would be happy to talk to the duty manager. She was called over and expressed her concern and took them to see the outdoor plant manager, who explained that what they thought were eggs were, in fact, plant food granules. The customers disagreed saying they used to own a nursery and knew what the eggs looked like.

The plant manager then took them to into the garden centre and showed them the plant food being used on the plants, admitting that there were similarities but confirming that the granules were definitely plant food and not vine weevil eggs.

The customers were satisfied with this and decided to retrace their steps and purchase their original selection of plants.


  • Value your customers.  Take time to listen to their concerns and explain carefully how any misunderstandings might have arisen.
  • By ensuring these customers were happy with the way they were treated, not only were their purchases were still made but more importantly, they will tell others how they were treated.
  • Use exit interviews: without these customers being asked about their purchases (or lack of them) the garden centre would never have considered the likelihood that their plant food could have been causing these problems.   Customers, and regular ones in particular, like to be feel valued and pleased to be able to contribute ideas they may have; businesses will be surprised at the extent of information to be discovered – just by asking.
  • Use signage to tell customers what is happening in the garden centre and how they care for the plants

Call Centres – What can we learn from them?

1Whether we love or hate them, we all spend time talking to Call Centres.  I am sure we have all come across those recorded messages of press 1 for this, press 2 for that, press 3 for a bit of this and that, and press 4 for anything else.

I am also sure we have also been in the position of hearing that friendly and polite automated voice of ‘your call is important to us’. You are probably hearing this message for the tenth time after being on hold for the last 20 minutes thinking if you care, why don’t you hire more people to answer my call. The less patient among us are probably cursing this message and by now probably forgotten who and why we called in the first place!

Anyway, if and when we get to speak to a real person I find it interesting how the large organisations dramatically differ in their approach in attempting to provide you with a customer experience which will potentially make or brek your relationship with them.

A regular good experience for me is in communications with Sky. You tend to wait an age to get through, however when you do, I find that the team member does welcome you warmly, attempt to build rapport,  proceeds to listen to why you called and then go about helping you. If they need to put you on hold, they ask permission and manage your expectations by saying how long they may be. What more could you want? You are speaking to someone at the company who can help you and the majority of the time they solve your problem, in the one call.

The problem…

For the call centre leaders it’s a dilemma. They either have technically trained staff to answer and solve your query on the first call but then you have to wait longer, or have non technically trained staff to answer, who resolve your query by contacting another team in the business. This in turn leads to:

  • A lack of ownership – If you can’t speak to the experts you will have a call back while a message is internally passed around to resolve your problem.
  • A complaint – Another two weeks have passed and you need to call again as you have heard nothing. This internal lack of ownership now makes you even more grumpy. So you make a complaint. This escalates your issue and low and behold it is solved in no time at all, as it’s generally a technically trained staff member who deals with the complaint.

What can you do?

Getting the right team members at the front line can be difficult. Here are five simple tips to help you get an edge on your competition when dealing with customer queries over the phone:

  1. Make sure every customer knows who they can speak to if they have a query and the number they should call
  2. Make sure your team explain to the customer the steps that are made to resolve the query – for example, how long it will take to solve the query, what happens if the customer is still not happy with the resolution and who will be overall responsible
  3. Ensure you have an internal measurement system to track and log queries, so you can then work on the processes to eliminate future queries
  4. Once the issue is resolved ask the customer how well your team did to resolve it and then openly communicate the feedback
  5. Reward the staff members who “go the extra” mile to ensure customers have a good experience when raising a query.

Remember : A complaint or query from a customer is a gift.

By Ian Sadler – Shopper Anonymous – North Yorkshire

How do you make your customers FEEL?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”–Maya Angelou

Whilst driving into work this morning, I was trying to sum up my holiday experiences and that ever-present factor, customer service. In Cornwall, Spain and France over the past few months I have encountered some very interesting characters in the service industry, as we all do on a daily basis.

On occasions I left a store, hotel, market or restaurant feeling satisfied. On several occasions I left feeling good.

On one or two occasions I left feeling totally incensed. And on one occasion I left feeling REALLY happy. Other than the tangible factors that we can all measure, such as cleanliness, availability of products, speed of service and politeness, what is it about some experiences that make them GREAT?

Surely the answer is in how you make your customers FEEL? Only those clever people in the customer service industry are able to ‘step outside their own lives and step into the shoes of each individual customer’. A rare gift, and one quality not easily taught in an average training session.

This morning I stumbled across the following story by Kent Nerburn that I think nicely sums up my point.

Twenty years ago Kent used to drive cabs on the night shift; his customers at that time of the evening seemed to treat his taxi as a moving confessional. He tells us the story of one particular customer: an old, frail woman who Kent picks up at 2.30am.

Would you carry my bag out to the car? she said.

I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?” “It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

Kent, sensing that the woman is in need of company and sympathy, decides to dedicate the rest of his shift to this one taxi ride. He spends several hours driving her around town, past important places in her life.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

…We drove in silence to the address she had given me…

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers,” I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

(You can read the story in full at Sivasakthi Ranganathan’s blog)

Will your customers remember the 20% discount you had on offer or the fact that your produce was all labelled correctly? Will they remember that you used their name or said goodbye?

No, but it is all of those little details that add up when the customer thinks back on how the experience MADE THEM FEEL.

How do you make your customers feel? When they leave your store do they feel like they were valued?

Feelings – reactions, emotions – are not created through the offer of the week but rather through the relationships we build, the trust we earn and the time we spend with each customer.

How do your customers feel today? Do you engage your customers at an emotional level?