1. Make it easy
How easy is it for your customers to access your services? Is it easy for them to pay? Can I pay for my goods by cash, debit card, credit card or EFT? By e-wallet? Do I have to come in to your shop, or can I buy online, by phone, by SMS? Do you pick up or deliver from people’s homes and places of work?
It’s always sad to see the owners of businesses standing around in their stores, waiting for customers to come to them. They should consider going out into the world and taking their services to their customers. The easier it is for people to do business with you, the more likely they are to do so.
I once worked in an office where busy staff would often order lunch from the restaurant across the road that did deliveries. This ease of doing business made the order-in option more attractive than going out, getting into your car and then braving the Sandton City food court.
I also know of someone who brings in fresh farm lamb from the Eastern Cape and delivers it to your door. Ordering is as simple as sending an SMS. People use his services because it’s easy.
So try to remove any barriers of distance, time or inconvenience that stand between you and your customers. They’ll thank you for it with more orders.
2. How to lose a customer, guaranteed
Certain staff behaviour is guaranteed to put customers off your business.
Try to avoid these at all costs:
- Clock watching. Locking your store at the stroke of 5pm, or heaven forbid ten minutes early, is a big turn-off. And if someone arrives late and you can see them at your door, serve them! The traffic will still be there in 15 minutes’ time.
- Favouring the phone. Real personal interaction is the most important kind. So never interrupt a conversation to pick up the phone. It’s rude. If absolutely necessary, ask the customer if they mind if you answer this call.
- Eating, drinking or smoking. These are lunchbreak activities, to be done out of sight of your customers.
- Poor prioritising. Serving a customer comes first. So don’t insult them by laboriously wiping your counter while they stand around waiting
- Not greeting. Say hello, and look your client in the eye. A glazed, disinterested stare just makes me want to turn around and walk out.
- Pumping tunes. You might be having a fun moment, but music that’s too loud gives the impression that it’s all about your entertainment and not my service.
- There’s hardly any context where swearing is a better idea than not swearing. While you’re busy serving customers is definitely not the time for swearing.
- Staff should be trained to be knowledgeable about your products and services. If they’re not, that’s your fault.
- Power tripping. You may have authority in the store, but don’t lord it over your customers. Scolding them or abruptly ordering them around, or being condescending is inexcusable.
- Cleanliness failures. Keep your store clean, from the entrance to the displays to the floors to the toilets. In other words, everywhere.
3. Foster loyal customers
“We must come back here!” Have you ever found yourself uttering this statement as you leave a restaurant after a delicious meal and a great experience? That is a restaurant that has nailed the essence of customer service. They have built customer loyalty.
Friesland Milk Bar in the Quigney suburb of East London makes what some say is the best milkshake in South Africa. Their double-thick chocolate shake is something everyone should experience once in their life.
Whatever the owners do to make that thing, it’s quite magical. And the mystique of seeking out the quaint little shop adds to the experience. Friesland has built a community of loyal customers who now cannot visit East London without a Friesland shake.
Related: Customer Service Success Secrets
Loyal customers will tell their friends about your store, they will start looking for excuses to visit again. They will want to be the cool person who recommends a place that later becomes a community landmark. Whether through quality service or amazing products, or both, this should be your goal.
Besides wanting your customers’ business and their money, try to put yourself in their shoes. How can you make their experience in your store as good as possible? With this approach you will soon have a core of loyal customers who can’t wait to
4. People hate waiting
Ours is a time-poor society, and we are all often in a bit of a rush. So we do want our needs met as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your customers probably feel the same way.
Instead of seeing this as an extra form of stress, why not build a time challenge into the service that you offer? Put up a sign at your carwash saying: Cars washed within 30 minutes or you pay half price!
We all know the pizza deal that promises to have your large Margarita at your door within an hour, or it’s free.
This kind of a beat-the-clock promotion succeeds in three ways.
- It attracts customers. They want satisfaction and they want it now. Someone who promises quick service will pique their interest.
- It challenges staff. Your employees will need to be on their toes to meet these new deadlines. But they should be pretty sharp anyway.
- It sets you apart. Your 60-minute-challenge promotion distinguishes you from your competition. It shows your business is serious about providing a quick service.
It’s an interesting approach, and if you take it seriously it will help you provide the best service you possibly can. And you’ll have a happy, satisfied customer. Then, when you’ve successfully handled that person’s business, do exactly the same thing with the next customer to walk in. It’s good neighbourhood marketing.
This technique helps to ensure that you appreciate your customers and make them feel appreciated too. The ‘most important person’ approach will see your customers leaving your store saying, “Wow, finally a store that gives me the service I deserve!”
5. Under-promise and over-deliver
Managing client expectations is a key part of doing business. Although it feels good to talk a great game and impress your customers when you tell them what kind of service to expect, you may be setting them up for disappointment.
If you tell your client you’ll have his suit dry-cleaned by tomorrow, he’ll probably show up tomorrow expecting his suit. If it’s not ready by then, he’ll think you’re a pretty useless drycleaner. So if it’s going to be tight getting the suit ready by tomorrow, why not promise to have it ready in a more realistic two days’ time.
Then, do your utmost to have the suit ready by tomorrow. If you pull it off, give your customer a call and tell him: “Great news! I’ve got your suit ready for you.” He’ll be surprised and impressed.
You’ve under-promised and over-delivered. By managing your customer’s expectations you’ve made him feel like he’s getting amazing service. You also haven’t put yourself under too much pressure, while leaving the door open to still deliver early and impress your client.