If you’re looking for ways to differentiate your small business from your competitors, providing a high-quality customer experience is the place to start.
A recent McKinsey study found that 70 percent of consumer purchasing experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated, and a 2013 Bain & Co. survey discovered that customers are four times more likely to buy from a competitor if there’s a problem with your customer service vs. a problem with price or the product. For small business owners willing to ramp up their efforts at providing a superior customer experience, the findings represent an opportunity to win new clients and customers.
These four tips will help.
People do business with those they know, like and trust. Emphasize relationship-building in all your interactions with customers. Give them the best deal you can on products and services, of course, but also take the time to communicate how much you value them.
On appropriate occasions, take a moment to send them a handwritten note on quality custom stationery. This can be a thank-you card for their business or referrals or a congratulatory note honoring a recent accomplishment. If you have made a mistake, send a sincere, handwritten note apologizing for the error. If you’re coming up on an important anniversary of your relationship with a client, send a note and unique gift.
Of course, it’s not all about giving gifts and special recognition—it’s about delivering consistent and quality service over the long haul. Long-term customers deliver the most lifetime value and carry you through the lean times.
Provide Well-Trained, Well-Informed Staff
On a day-to-day basis, nothing will do more to improve the quality of your customers’ experiences than having knowledgeable and professional staff. When staff have expertise and answers at the ready, they are well-positioned to increase customer confidence in your business, reduce unnecessary costs and save time. If the thought of training staff to such a high level seems daunting, consider hiring an outside consultant.
We’re not just talking about making good use of mobile technology (though you should)—we mean, literally, get up and go to them. Stop by a client’s location to close a deal. Hold a meeting in person at their office. Bring your service to them. If you already do this as the nature of your work—say, for example, HVAC repair—consider how you can leverage mobile technology to provide more information and value while you are on site. For example, invest in a professional tool like Quickbooks mobile accounting software to generate invoices or check statement balances on the spot, rather than ask your client to wait for a call from your office. Make life easy on them.
In an instant-answer, online world, your business cannot afford to keep clients waiting. Respond quickly to your clients’ needs. Set up social media alerts so you or a staff member can stay on top of customer comments and inquiries coming through those channels. Set high expectations about how quickly your staff will respond to phone and email inquiries.