1. Determine lifetime value of customers
Have you ever worked out the lifetime value of one of your customers, based on past history? Basically, what would be the sum of all their transactions at your store?
Assume that a customer visits your retail outlet once a month and spends R400. Over 12 months that is R4 800. Over two years she spends R9 600. Over five years you earn R24 000 from that one single customer.
You can put whatever figures you like into this equation to more closely reflect your store’s reality.
But the moral of the story is, look after the customer today to reap the rewards tomorrow. It’s vital to win new customers over and convert them into regular customers.
2. Enable customer feedback
The best managers care about what their customers think and make it easy for them to tell them. There is a confectionary store in Sandton, Johannesburg that lives this approach. It’s sparkling clean, and extremely well run.
Sitting prominently on the counter is a sign: “If you have any comments, please call me,” with two numbers — a landline and a cell number. The employees can’t help noticing the customers checking out the sign.
For the owner, it’s clearly all about really wanting to know what his customers think. And the staff know all feedback can be delivered instantly. So they ensure that if there is any, it’s going to be good.
Many of the most diligent supermarket managers also do this, featuring a sign at the check-out counters. “If you feel you have waited longer than you should, call 083 …..” with the manager’s cell number. I’m sure that I have seen some of these at Woolworths. Consider this for your store. I’d be surprised if anybody phones you, but it shows you care, and ensures that your staff do too.
3. Open when others are closed
One of the first banks to see the opportunity for customer-friendly ideas was Capitec Bank. They offer inexpensive basic banking services to people who might not earn a lot, and they treat them with respect and consideration.
Visiting Capitec, you don’t even have to stand in queues. You sit on comfortable chairs and are then invited to meet with a consultant.
Even their banking hours are innovative. You can go in to your Capitec branch on a Sunday. This makes so much sense because people often don’t have time to go to the bank during the week and when they do, there are normally long queues.
Long Saturday and Sunday opening hours are advantageous to the customer and that’s what it’s all about — giving the customer what they need. Consider extending your business hours — it will set you apart from your competition. If not permanently, you could have extended hours over the festive season.
Lately I’ve seen other banks picking up on Capitec’s lead — offering reasonably priced banking and longer hours. That’s the power of competition — it shakes up the complacent corporates we find in many industries.
Related: The Future Of Retail?
4. Surprise and delight your customers
Depending on what market segment you’re in, customers have certain expectations of the service they’re likely to get at your store.
A boutique is a boutique as far as most people are concerned. You stroll in, the shop assistant asks if they can help with anything, you say: “No thanks, just browsing…”
It’s kind of predictable. So here’s a great opportunity to break out of this funk by offering your customers something surprising that they don’t expect. Imagine walking into a boutique and the assistant asks you: “Would you like some tea and biscuits?”
The novelty alone would blow people away. And if the customers take you up on it, they’ll spend more time in your store and be more likely to buy.
I know of a boutique that has a section with a couch and a TV showing sport, where long-suffering husbands out shopping with their wives can relax and watch football while their lady tries on clothes. What an amazing surprise.
5. Tell them when not to buy
You’re trying to build trust with your customers. It’s counter-intuitive, but sometimes the way to do that is to discourage them from making a purchase.
Let me give an example. Have you ever been to a local garage with a niggling problem in your engine, or a light that won’t go off? You bring your car in, secretly dreading the response.
You’re half convinced the manager will call you with a quote for several thousand rands to install something complicated. But what if he calls to say your fanbelt just needed a little tightening, and you can come and pick your car up.
Likewise the lady behind the till at Nando’s who points out their half-chicken combo deal, saying, “If you want a half chicken, rather get the combo with a coke. You’ll save R10.”
Even at Woolies… Let’s say for example, you are purchasing two tins of baked beans, the cashier might tell you that you can get three tins for the same price. That’s marketing, and a customer service “wow”!
These people are actually encouraging you to spend less money. But at the same time, they are building trust. They are showing that they are not just in business to get as much money out of you as possible.
Pointing out a promo deal benefits the store and the customer, so everybody wins. Building trust makes for a longer relationship and repeat business far beyond that initial transaction.
The ‘wow’ factor
Find ways to surprise and delight your customers for repeat business.