Photo by Kaboompics // Karolina, CC0 1.0
We all know that customers make or break our business. Yet, a lot of companies are still in the “I am more important than customers” mindset. Which is pure hogwash? I’ll prove it to you: the next time you develop a marketing or advertising campaign, track the results. In a few months time, spend the time developing a “build goodwill” campaign. Focus only on improving customers’ experience. Then run another marketing campaign. Again, track the results and compare them with the first campaign.
I’ll bet eight to five that the second campaign’s results are better than the first run. We both know I’ll win that bet every time, too. Because customer bases do business with companies they know – companies they trust. Here are several ways to build that trust and make your clients/customers feel more appreciated.
1. Be Transparent
By encouraging feedback from your customers (whether it’s negative or positive feedback), you’re being transparent. By being open about all the ins and outs of your business – even those when you make a mistake, you’re being transparent. By willingly talking to paying customers as people and not statistics, numbers or the reason your business is doing well… you’re being transparent.
In business, transparency is platinum. All of the instances I described make people feel welcome. Largely because of this form of transparency, and open honesty is largely lacking from many businesses. You know: the type of “suit and tie” business vibes who’s primary concern is making money. Without considering the reasons why they’re making money.
When you show your transparency, you show your humanity. People respond to human-ness. Human-ness builds trust. Transparency builds trust.
However, this means being upfront about your business/product/service’s shortcomings and pitfalls. Be upfront about your business’ flaws; in a world where every single business is “the best” at something, people come to expect a load of hot air blown up them. By admitting your shortcomings, people will feel a breath of fresh honesty and feel confident about doing business with you. Because you aren’t putting on a mask or hiding anything from people. We are an increasingly suspicious generation – almost everyone is wary of doing business. Since they’ve been screwed in the past. By being upfront and transparent with your customers, you’re effectively lowering their defense shields. This is good.
By being honest with customers, they’ll keep returning. This is important (especially if you’re a Latino businessperson), as a new study reports that Latino businesses have an uphill battle when it comes to acquiring capital. The trust of customers is one way to put the odds in your favor of overcoming those hurdles.
2. Be There
Have you ever been on a date? Of course, you have. Now, have you ever been on a date with someone who checked their phone every 15 minutes? (Or worse, were you the phone-checker?) There’s almost nothing more irritating than someone who’s on the phone while you’re talking with them. (When people do that to me, it makes me feel that they don’t value my time. In those instances, I’ve walked away from them while they were yapping on the phone. Rude? Perhaps. But so is answering your phone, mid-conversation, to have another conversation.)
If you find out that your employees are doing the same to customers, stop them. Or else customers will grow increasingly frustrated with your business. I’ve taken my money from one tax accountant to another because the receptionist was busy emailing. For 10 minutes. Now, whether he was emailing a friend, a co-worker, or his boss is beside the point. As a receptionist, you’re supposed to receive customers. I respect my time too much to put up with “I’m sorry for the wait, I’ll be with you shortly.”
Like it or not: neither you nor your employees are more important than your customers. Customers are and always will be more important than the companies they give their money to. (This goes for Virgin Group, Microsoft, Apple, etc. We, as consumers, are the reason these companies are in business.) Without those customers, companies are out of business. So why not be more sensitive to your paying customers’ time, and respect them?
I’ve spoken with many managers who forgot the golden rule: no customer is obligated to do business with you. If you’ve been around the block for a few years, and have had repeat business from a customer – great! That’s wonderful. You’re really piling on that lifetime customer value. The best way to ensure they do go somewhere else is to multi-task with half a dozen tasks while you’re talking with them. Don’t do that.
3. Treat Customers Right
Starbucks’ mission statement could be “We’re in the people business serving coffee.” Because they’ve implemented many savvy strategies that focus entirely on their customers. (Which explains why there’s a thousand Starbucks in each American city. There’s even one in my Canadian hometown. It sits smack dab right across the street from a Tim Horton’s coffee chain.)
A smart way Starbucks makes people feel appreciated is by writing down names. Does McDonald’s ask for your name? No, they print out a receipt with a number on it. You wait for your number to be called on a giant screen. When it does, you go pick up your food. Take a page out of Starbucks’ industry-standard “people service” and make your interactions with customers as personable as possible. (Tim Hortons doesn’t ask for my name either. Maybe I should start going to Starbucks.)
Because it’s important to remember: the internet is at our fingertips. People talk – and all we need is one good reason not to do business with a company. On the other side of the coin, businesses that are personable and spread goodwill are the businesses people recommend. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc. There are many platforms for people to express themselves. When it comes to your business, this can be a hindrance or a blessing. Effectively outsourcing various sectors of your office to handle customer complaints is one way of making sure you receive more blessings than hindrances.
At day’s end, everybody on Earth enjoys feeling appreciated. We enjoy feeling welcomed and valued for our time, money and presence. If you, your executives, employees or coworkers make a behavioral habit of subtly making people feel like they’re bothersome or a burden, change that. An effective way for you to do that, starting today, is to send out surveys to your list of customers. Invite them to send in brutal, honest and transparent opinions regarding your company. You just may get an advantage over your competition.