Help That Customer

Help That Customer

Let’s talk about what it means to connect with your customers. Every time someone comes to your store or restaurant, visits your website or Facebook page, and every time they buy from you, they have a customer experience. (This applies to nonprofit organizations and municipalities, too where the customer is a donor, volunteer, client, community resident or vendor.) You have a lot of influence on whether they have a good experience or not. When customers have a good experience you have a great opportunity to encourage them to continue engaging with your business and building a long term relationship.

Customers make ALL the choices that determine your success.

There’s a new acronym–CX. Have you seen it? It stands for ‘Customer Experience’. When you are in business, customers make ALL the choices that determine your success. They choose whether or not to shop at your store or call your service; whether or not to buy from you; whether to recommend you to their friends or not; and they decide if or when they will return for more. The good news is that as a business owner, YOU make all the choices that determine your customers’ experience.

The kind of experience your customers have with your business or brand goes a long way in determining whether they will be loyal or connect with your business. Of course we all know that if they have a bad experience they will engage as our biggest anti-fans ever. That’s where those bad reviews on Yelp and Facebook come from–that one person we ignored. Yikes.

I had this dreadful customer experience the other day at a book store far, far away.  I get annoyed every time I think about it and, of course, I will not engage with the store ever again (at least that is how I feel today).  There were signs ‘buy one get one free’. What a great sale for a reader! I happily shopped for several books and spent a bit of time in the store.  At check out, the books did not ring up on sale. The cashier asked for my money. I reminded her the books were on sale.  She showed me that they did not ring up on sale. I reminded her the books were on sale…and on it went. Not once did she try to solve the problem, such as call a manager or ask another cashier to help fix it. Not once did she even sound like she cared. My choice as a customer was to pay full price or not. I chose not. Yes, I guess I am THAT customer, but she lost her company a $50 sale and a lot of future business.

So, as you can see, customer experience can lead to keeping or losing customers and customer retention is a very big deal. Harvard Business claims that increasing customer retention by just 5% will increase your sales 25%-95% a year.  That is a lot of money to let walk out the door. According to a recent Gallup Poll, customers are 9 times more likely to engage with a brand whose service they rate as ‘courteous, willing and helpful’ than those who are not.

How would your customers rate their experience with your business, your products, your employees? Would they say you are courteous, willing and helpful? People will love your business if you take care of them. It is really simple. Just smile, like you are glad they dropped by, act like you care that they enjoy their time with you and be sure to help them spend their money on whatever it is they want. So many businesses do not make people feel special that it is pretty easy to beat your competitors simply by teaching your employees how to smile and say, “hi” to everyone who comes through the door. Beyond that, perhaps you can work to make sure every employee knows how to help solve customers’ problems or at least look like they are trying.

Finicky Customers

Anyone running a business knows it is a lot of hard work. The dream we all had about being our own boss and having more free time, well, it was a nice dream. Having a business means you also have customers and customers can be a challenge.

Shopping for Solutions

Shopping for Solutions

Just Plain Finicky

Many customers are finicky. Demanding. Hard to please. Now, more than any other time in history, they are better informed and less inclined to be loyal. Back in the day, before Amazon, if you were a local store, you could stock your shelves and all the local folks would buy. People did not go online looking for reviews or better prices. What’s up with that?

Well, it’s a brand new media-driven world. Sigh. At the end of 2014, 1.6 billion people worldwide owned smart phones. By the end of 2015, that number would be over 2 billion. In the United States, 77% of the population owned a smartphone by 2016.

In this very connected world, customers are in their cars, at the cafe, standing in line to buy groceries and they are going on the internet with their phones to check out products. I do it myself. Standing in a hardware store, looking at the latest sprinkler with its plastic-non-metal frame, I go online, type in the model number and the word ‘reviews’ and there it is–everything the buyers said about it. Good or bad, it is all there for me to see and decide if that lifetime warranty means anything or not.

The Problems

I don’t see myself as finicky, just a smart shopper. Like, is it too much to ask that a sprinkler work for more than one season?  My dad has sprinklers from when I was a kid that still work. Me, I have a box of watering devices that sort-of sprinkle.  So from my perspective, the first business that sells me an honest-to-goodness, bullet-proof, ‘yard irrigation solution’ will have my business. Now really, does that make me a demanding customer? Maybe.

But now that you see one of the real-life challenges of an ordinary customer, you understand how your products provide solutions to your customers’ needs. This includes everything from a gift item for an eccentric aunt, a baby toy that does NOT make noise for an already stressed mom to an auto service package for the business person who has no time to figure out which auto repair shop is the best.

Bring on the Solutions

All customers are just out looking for a solution to their problem. That’s what your customers are thinking about. The first business that we trust and that fits into budget may find themselves the winner of our wallet.  So the goal for those of us in business is to be that go-to solution.

You should also know that when people head to a store they expect to spend money. They are willing to pay for a solution right then. Most of us don’t really want to shop online we want to buy it today. So I leave you to think about how you can find out what problems your customers are having when they come into your business. When you understand your customers’ needs, you can be their immediate solution and you will make more sales.  Exciting, right?

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