Keep Customers Coming Back

Yesterday, I gave a talk at the Wine Tourism Conference taking place in Sonoma County.

The subject of the talk was Keep Customers Coming Back, which should be the goal of most businesses. However, I have noticed that many businesses do not have the processes or procedures in place to ensure that when someone visits they have a desire to return.

Research shows that keeping customers coming back is important:

  • A 5% increase in customer retention can improve company profitability by 7.5%
  • Engaged customers buy more frequently and spend more per transaction
  • Your business benefits from more word-of-mouth promotion
  • Regular customers bring their friends to meet you
  • A loyal customer is less likely to be lured away to other companies by discounts
  • It gives you an edge over competitors.

How do you keep customers coming back?

By providing an individual experience for each person who visits. For that, you need to create a plan, which will be your blueprint to design, deliver, manage and measure the results.  To make your plan successful:

  • Understand that your customers need to be more than satisfied
  • Put processes in place
  • Hire people who value customer service (remember that they are your ambassadors on and off the job)
  • Create an employee handbook with an in-depth section on customer service standards and guidelines
  • Implement customer interactions that will meet and exceed expectations
  • Review the people, products, services interface and interactions with customers.

Create the kind of atmosphere that results in individual experiences for all your guests. This means that procedures need to be customer-centric:

  • Processes around sales and returns need to be set up to focus on the needs of the customer
  • Conduct regular and interactive customer service training sessions with staff
  • All employees should be genuinely interested in customers as individuals
  • Create memories for customers.

Finally, I am going to say something that you have heard many times, though I think it is worth saying again: Attracting new customers cost more than retaining the customers you have.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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What Makes Customers Happy?

There was an interesting article in a Marketing Profs email a month or so ago about customer service and what customer service issues annoy customers the most. I am sure that most of us can guess what they are because they are the same ones that annoy us when we were on the customer side of the equation.

The article by Ayaz Nanji talked about the customer service issues most likely to make people stop doing business with a company. The two that customers found most frustrating were talking to company employees who were uninformed, and if they had to wait a long time to talk to someone.

I know, myself, that dealing with recorded messages that ask me to press this and press that and go on for minutes before I can get to an actual human being tends to put me in a bad mood before I even speak to the customer service person, who may well be doing his/her best to help me. When you have a simple question a recorded message can be quite helpful in getting you the information you need.

However, it is the uninformed employees that are most likely to result in the customer abandoning the company or product for another. It’s important that everyone knows that if they don’t know the answer to a question a customer is asking or they cannot solve the problem a customer has, then as quickly as possible get the customer to someone who can answer the question or solve the problem. If that is not an option, take the information about the problem and tell them you will get back to them.

Customers want issues they have to be resolved quickly. It is the most important thing about good customer service. So, whether it is in person, on the phone, through email or online chat, do everything you can to solve the customer’s problem quickly and efficiently, it will pay dividends in the short and long term.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Easy Ways to Increase Sales

If you want to increase your sales quickly and simply, good customer service is your biggest asset. It will increase customer good will, willingness to buy, and return visits. We talk a lot about sales skills, but if customer service is not the major part of sales, the sales skills are not going to help much.

I have been into many businesses where sales people try to push me, bully me and sometimes even shame me into buying. I don’t buy. If you provide me with good customer service, show you are interested in me and engage me, I will willingly and happily buy from you and come back to buy more.

Customer service is a compilation of different skills that help you, the sales person, focus on the customer, find out what s/he wants, and meet their expectations with not only your service but your products.

  1. Introductions: Welcome your customers to your business and immediately introduce yourself. Usually, if you introduce yourself the customer will introduce him/herself. If you don’t have a good memory, silently repeat the customers’ names three times and say to them: “John/Julie it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
  2. Ask A Question: Any number of questions can be asked:
  • Are you enjoying the lovely weather?
  • Is this your first visit?
  • Did you have anything special in mind today?
  • Are you visiting the area (if you are in a tourist area.)
  • You look familiar (if you think they may have been in before.

3. Listen to the Answers: It may be information you can refer back to that will help close a sale. People respond to people who pay attention, it makes them feel important. Don’t present a new query until your customers have finished answering the one before.

4. Be Patient: We all work at different speeds. Allow the customer the time to formulate an answer to your question or to make a decision. Count slowly and silently to five.  Use the same 5-second rule when you ask customers if they have any questions. A lot goes through people’s heads before they ask a question. They may have trouble formulating the question or don’t want to ask a silly question or appear ignorant in front of others.

5. Relax when you are around customers. You know that you have fifty things you need to get done by the end of the day, but your customers don’t. It’s not appropriate to make customers uncomfortable because they are taking up your time.

6. Don’t Assume: You don’t know whether a stranger who walks into your business is going to buy or not. You might think you do, but truly you don’t. It is very human to judge people, we do it all the time. So, if you find that you are judging, tell yourself that you may not be right. Then go about helping them to the buying decision.

Look for more customer service ideas next week.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Stop Before You Start

Julie Pedroncelli St. John from Pedroncelli Winery sent me a great article by Barry Stuckey who has spent much of his career in Hospitality. The article was about a waitress he encountered in an eatery at Heathrow Airport. I have pulled out some of the key points, as the article was too long for this blog. The article really encapsulated a lot of the finer point of excellent service, whether you work in a retail business or are selling B2B.

The first point, which to me is the most important, is to be conscious of what you are doing before you begin speaking to a customer. Before you approach the customer or pick up the phone to call them, STOP… Clear your mind of what you have been working on or thinking about and focus your attention on the person to whom you are speaking. As you are approaching the customer or waiting for them to answer the phone, put yourself into listening mode (you are probably already in talking mode). Once you have approached the customer smile, and tell them your name. You should also be smiling if you are on the phone, people can tell.

This small act of separation from what you were doing, or from the last customer allows you to move on to a new customer. Your focus on them will transmit itself to the customer. You will appear engaged and ready to help them. The customer will also become engaged as they realize that your attention is directed to them. Because you are more engaged you will be more apt to listen and really hear what your customer is saying. You will also be more likely to pick up non-verbal signals such as their tone of voice or the fact that their stance shows you they are or are not interested.

When a customer asks you a question, smile in response and, before you speak, lean in just slightly. This creates an impression that you care what your customer is saying.

These are small things that will make big differences to the comfort of your customers and to their connection with you, the business and the products.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Assessing Customer Experiences

Last week this blog delved into statistics regarding customers who may have had a less than stellar experience when they visited your business. We discovered that the percentage of customers that you think were satisfied with their visit was not necessarily in line with the number of customers who actually were satisfied.

Also, we learned that only a small percentage of dissatisfied customers take the time to complain. The rest just don’t return.

After publication of this blog, I received an email from one reader regarding the best ways to contact customers. He was concerned that calling people may be intrusive and they may not be comfortable telling you what they really think. Good point and one that is raised regularly during seminars and conference sessions.

The first thing to do is to ask customers how they would like to be contacted. Would they be open to a phone call or prefer to be contacted via email, text or mail. How customers prefer to be contacted many times has to do with their generation. Text is the favorite for Millennials and younger people, while some Gen X or Boomers may prefer email or even mail. Step one is always to identify the wishes of individual customers.

If you don’t have this information on your individual customer records, procuring the information gives you a reason to call your regular customers and double check. Most of your regular customers are not going to mind an occasional phone call. In fact, in many cases it is going to strengthen your relationship with these customers as you are initiating a more personal interaction. While you are on the phone and the opportunity presents itself, this is a great time to tell the customer of any exciting opportunities to purchase. Remember that these people are regular customers because they like you and your products.

Once you have the information on how they want to be contacted, make sure you have the address or phone number in order to follow up. Also get their agreement (in writing) with a follow up email that you as them to sign and return.

Your consideration for how your customers wish to be contacted will just deepen the relationship you have with them and they will appreciate the courtesy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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You May Not Get Many Complaints but That Doesn’t Mean Your Customers Are Happy

I have been researching customer service lately and have found some interesting statistics from a number of different sources. The main thing that came through in virtually all the sites I researched was: Only a small, small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied actually register a complaint with the company. The rest of them don’t come back.

Here are some “Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics” from Help Scout:

 

On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

Take a look at the average first purchase of your customers and multiply that by 10.

 

Probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 -70%.

Engaging and connecting with first time visitors is much more likely to bring them back to buy from you again.

 

For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.

Create an easy process for customers to give you feedback. Pay attention to the feedback and use the information for staff training.

 

Any business with customers is in the “people” business.

We tend to define our businesses by the products or services we sell. Though the most important thing to remember is that we are in the business of providing good experiences for customers, no matter what the product.

 

“Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” – Kate Zabriskie

I doubt that your main reason for being in business is to make life easier for your competitors, though if you are not focusing on customer service that’s exactly what’s happening.

 

80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. 8% of people think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service.

In other words: Don’t believe everything your think. Follow up your opinions with real data but ask your customers in person, through surveys or over the phone, how they feel about your company.

 

There will be more customer service insights in next week’s blog.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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The Best and Less of Customer Service

Last week was an interesting week for me. Tuesday, I went for a walk with a friend of mine in the local regional park. While there I tripped over a rock and eventually found out that I had fractured my distal femur condyle (a u-shaped bone just above my knee). A bone that, until this time, I had never heard of. Think of it looking like a goblet with a u-shaped indentation at the top, rather like a wishbone. Take the two parts of a wishbone and pull the two sides apart. Usually, one side shears off. That was my femur condyle.

The orthopedic doc operated that night, putting in a plate and some screws. I spent the rest of the week in the hospital being poked and prodded. They took enough blood out of me that more had to be added. Of course, there was the startling awakening at 4 a.m. each morning for more blood to be taken.

In all my years (and there have been many of them) I have never (not even when I was born) spent a night in a hospital. I had no idea what to expect and so was amazed at the impressive attention to customer service, engagement and the cheerfulness of the nursing, therapy, cleaning, and services staff. They were all amazing.

The doctors seem to have a harder time with customer service, and while no one was rude, it was almost as if they had not been taught to interact with patients. They were good when explaining what was wrong but seemed to have no idea on what terms to use when addressing me. I am not sure that doctors are taught how to put people at ease. So perhaps as a sideline I can start presenting seminars on Customer Service for Medical Professionals.

A tip of the glass (if I can tip it while I am holding onto the walker) from me to you!

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