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What Can Make or Break You as We Return to Business?

Ready or not, summer is coming. What can your business do to ensure customers leave happy (and tell their friends)? Our friends at SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands have shared this article with us to help Nauset Disposal’s commercial customers get back to business and improve their bottom line. 

It’s pretty exciting!  The feeling that this summer we will be back to socializing, shopping, making all those purchases we’ve put off. How far we’ll be able to “return to normal” we don’t know but there will be steps forward.  However, they will be different steps. We’ve changed over the past 15 months. Our needs have changed, our patience is waning and we want to enjoy life. We don’t have time for bad service. So how do businesses dip into this new world?

Start by knowing what’s important to your customers. Here’s a hint: it’s not price, it’s not coming out with a fancy new product or service, it’s not new equipment.  It’s YOU! You are the heart and soul of your business and it’s your connection with customers that will bring back past customers and also bring in new ones.  More than ever, it’s all about customer service and support.

You might say “Why Customer Service? Right now, I just need sales and revenue.” When times are bad the typical response is to lower prices and take any sale you can get. That’s a bad idea. What is best for your business is to ensure that customers walk away feeling so good about that transaction that not only will they be back but they will also tell their friends about you.

This works for you in two ways:

  1. The more you work with customers the more you learn about what is and is not working for them. Do you really know what they want now? Remain focused on using customer support as a learning tool to make your business better.
  2. You retain customers. Acquiring a new customer can cost you 5-10 times more than retaining a customer so if nothing else, it means you can eventually spend a bit less on marketing because your new media is going to be positive word of mouth—the most trusted marketing tool out there.

You still need to offer an unparalleled product while you appeal to your customers’ hearts.  A recent Harvard Business Review article confirms that the most effective way to maximize value is to move beyond customer transactions and connect with customers at an emotional level. Your customers can get a great product, amazing meal or reliable service anywhere.  They want more—there has to be some type of emotional experience that becomes a good memory, that differentiates you. The customer then shares his or her story with friends and family and fully remembers you when it’s time to come back.

So how do you create this memorable, emotional experience?  Don’t overthink it.  Don’t worry that you’re not an extrovert—that’s not what it’s all about. Decide how you want to be viewed and how you’d like people to describe working with you.  Write it down and then start the process:

  • Use your team: this is no one person’s responsibility. Everyone in your business makes a statement about you.  Train your team.  Make sure they wear the right uniforms, that they connect with your customer in a positive manner, that they have the necessary information to answer questions. Employees want to be part of a positive experience.
  • Listen: what do your customers want? Talk to them, survey them. Pay attention to what they are saying and think how their comments affect your offering.
  • Humanize your brand: think of all the businesses on the Cape where people automatically say “that’s John Doe’s business” or “that’s where Jane Doe works—it’s great”. These businesses have intentionally put a “real” face to their businesses. They show their human side in the company’s social media posts, they share news, they laugh about something that went astray, they feature their employees. Think how you interact with your friends and do the same. It’s all part of becoming a brand instead of just a store or a service or a restaurant. Do simple things like remembering a customer’s name, adding a friendly message to your auto respond,  offer free advice (no purchase required), make it easy to get in touch with you, participate in community events.  Don’t you feel great when you go into a store or restaurant and you’re treated like a VIP? Do the same for your customers.
  • Fast Response: probably the #1 complaint about businesses on the Cape is that the company never called back or maybe it was a week later. Even if you are not able to take on more work, respond to the inquiry. Ask them about their project and as appropriate, refer them to a competitor. You’re not losing business; you’re gaining respect and you’re definitely going to benefit from positive word of mouth. All inquiries should be answered within 24 hours—make that an integral part of your daily schedule.
  • Customers come first: we often forget that it’s the needs of the customer that comes first, not the sale. Be patient! That customer may have just started “looking”. If you want them to buy your solution in the end, they need to feel valued from the outset. Encourage them to come back, look again or contact you with questions. Build a relationship. How the buyer feels about you and your staff while they’re searching has a direct impact on whether they will ultimately buy from you.
  • Manage your “vocal” customers: they can be difficult and they can also ruin your reputation. Whether it be on social media, on the phone or in person, address the issue immediately. Post a response if it’s on social media and provide a way to get in touch with you directly.  Show you care. Listen—they may have unearthed a flaw.  It’s okay. Thank them, fix it and communicate to them how you’ve fixed it. The good news? Often when you go all out to respond to a “vocal” customer, they use that “loud” voice to tell others how great you are and how you responded. That’s worth a lot of money.

These are starter steps that are guaranteed to deliver results to your bottom line. So, get ready to reopen or ramp up for the crowds (and they will be here this summer).  Do all that you usually do but take it one step farther. Know what your customer wants—an incredible relationship with you and your business, an experience that makes them feel really good about their choice. Have a very successful summer!

Do you need help with this or have other questions? SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands provides free, confidential mentoring. Contact us at [email protected], at 508-775-4884 or on our website at www.capecod.score.org