Brick & mortar retailers are complaining about the dramatic reduction in customer traffic. But, very few companies have a plan in place to turn a first time shopper into a repeat customer. In fact, most companies don’t have that concept, creating repeat business, front and center as a vital piece of their overall approach. Most repeat purchases are a result of either convenience, the store is in a good location or the store is offering a promotion. Repeat business is not built on a foundation of customer loyalty. Repeat business by accident is a failed strategy and missed opportunity.
I have 14 tips to create customer loyalty and get a first time shopper back. Below are the first seven. Stay tuned next week for the remaining tips. Seven more in seven days – it’s going to be your company’s lucky number!
- Use phone calls as an opportunity to invite a relationship – There is so much information on the Internet that if a customer takes the time to call your business, they want to speak to a person, not a machine. ALWAYS have an associate answer the phone during business hours and use that interaction as an opportunity to create a relationship. Don’t just answer the question in a hurry. Provide useful information and get the customer excited about visiting your store.
- When your customer asks a question, respond with, “I can help you with that.” – The word “I” is one of the shortest words in the English language and has the greatest impact. “I” makes a statement about personal responsibility. A customer has a question or concern. “I can help you with that” gives the customer hope that a person will do just that – assist and get them what they want. Help comes in many forms; the associate might have to get back to the customer, speak to a manager, or even refer the customer to a competitor.
- Tailor scripting for a first time customer – Find out if a shopper has been in your store before. That is valuable marketing intel that is free for the asking. If a customer is a first time shopper, make sure they feel especially welcomed. Envision the scenario as if you were welcoming a neighbor into your home for the first time. Think about what you would do – give them a tour, offer to take their coat, ask if they would like a drink, etc. The point is that you are especially gracious and want to make that person, a first time customer, feel especially welcome and comfortable.
- Develop a checklist of useful information – In your next staff meeting create a list that might be useful to a first time shopper. Items on the list should include where your company gets your merchandise, annual promotional sales, additional parking areas, nearby restaurants, etc. Customers appreciate additional information. It demonstrates care and concern.
- Listen for magic phrases – Whenever I conduct a mystery shop, I will walk into a store and casually mention, “I just moved into the neighborhood,” or “I have never been in your store before,” or “I looked at your website.” I listen carefully for a response from an associate. If there is no response at all or just, “that’s nice,” they fail my test. These phrases are all opportunities to engage the customer. Be responsive! “We are so happy you are here.” I’m glad you are a new neighbor.”
- Uncover the story behind the purchase – No one walks into a mall, clicks on a website or calls a customer service department unless they are hoping for something. Perhaps it is the “wow” outfit for their 20-year high school reunion or the perfect watch for their son who just graduated college. There is a story behind a luggage purchase; perhaps a trip is in the customer’s future. Again, an opportunity to engage the customer, if the customer wants to share. In my experience, most customers want to talk if asked. Uncovering the story allows for a more personalized experience to better serve and help the customer.
- Never Say No – Tell your staff never to say “no” to the customer without speaking to management. “No” kills loyalty. To a first time customer or a long standing loyal one, when they are told no, your company is also saying good-bye. Educate managers to brainstorm and come up with “yes.” Don’t be penny wise and pound-foolish.
Generating repeat business doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Creating repeat business must be calculated and have its own line in the budget. Associates should have training and time allowed for brainstorming. The associates ultimately have the connection with the customer and the most intimate insights into customer behavior in your particular store. We know it is expensive to acquire new customers so it makes good business sense to keep the ones you already have and turning a first time customer in a long time customer.
More tips will be shared next week. In the interim start implementing the ones detailed above. It will instantly give you a heads-up with your competition