Virtually every entrepreneur will talk about how important their customers are.
But many are really saying one thing and doing another, mouthing the words, “we are a customer-oriented business,” but unwittingly, making it extra difficult for prospective or even current customers to do business with them.
Have customers become just a “necessary evil” to your business?
As a small business grows beyond “every customer on a first name basis,” often, the little things that made early customers love you, get overlooked or forgotten.
New folks get hired who don’t have the same sense of “customer” that earlier employees had drilled into them.
Good habits get replaced by some sloppy ones and pretty soon it’s harder and harder for customers to love you. And then the next step is they leave you.
Is this happening in your business? Well, hopefully not, but let me help you get back to being a “customer-oriented business,” where your actions match your words.
First thing is to be continually reviewing any function or process that interacts with the customer.
But go beyond the obvious sales, marketing and customer service.
Start with how customers start. First interaction. They visit your website or they call your office. What’s their first impression? A website that says, “come on in, we want to do business with you?” Or so chock full of technical wizardry and jargon that only the most technically competent prospects or customers can navigate it? When’s the last time YOU tried to use it and with what success?
The owner/CEO test is almost always the best one.
How about the phone? Answered by a person, who can direct them to whoever or whatever they are looking for? Answered before and after business hours? Or just everything thrown into voice mail hell? And how about not so obvious things like accounting. Ever get invoices that are consistently wrong or hard to read or understand? Sure you have. When’s the last time you looked at yours?
Next, continually get customer feedback so you’re not just blowing smoke at yourself about how satisfied your customers are.
Do periodic customer surveys, asking hard questions about things you need to know. Like product features that may be missing or those they don’t work very well. Customers love products that have their “fingerprints” all over them. Ask them about product support or customer service response times and their ability to get timely answers or responses. And then listen and use the information to make both your products and your operations better.
While no product sells itself, your chances sure improve if a prospect can get to see how your product performs, “up close and personal”. So, make it as easy as possible to get your products into a prospective customer’s hands whether on a free trial basis or just for a demonstration.
If you sell through e-commerce on your website, track how often and why prospective customers leave the website without buying, even though they put items in their cart. Perhaps, in your concern with security you’re making it really hard for them to pay you.
Finally, don’t take long-time customers for granted.
Provide your customer service people with up-to-date information about the customer and their account when they call in. Nothing frustrates a long-time (or high volume) customer more than not being acknowledged as “special”. And have a special program to continually call on them. They are the best and shortest-term opportunity for new and additional sales.
So it’s time to “walk the talk” when it comes to making it easy for customers to do business with you. Don’t let just your words say “yes, yes,” to customers, but let your actions back those words up!