Useful article from ‘your foreign correspondant’
- Talk to them. Find out how your customers feel about you, and make sure they’re aware of what other products or services you can offer them. This could be as simple as asking if they need anything else whilst they are on the phone, or giving them a feedback card to fill out.
- Be one of your customers. In the same way that you never listen to your own answering machine message, the business owner is often the one person who has never tried out the business. Try to experience what a customer would, paying attention to things like first impressions and how easy it is to use the website.
- Be brilliant at complaints. Having cause for complaint may not always put customers off, but having that complaint handled badly will .Deal with a complaint quickly, efficiently and politely and you could find that the customer leaves with a positive impression. If you can, have a dedicated person to deal with complaints, and encourage customer facing staff to resolve issues then and there.
- Make it easy for them to find you. Plaster your website and literature with contact details. If people can’t easily find how to contact your company, they will find it much easier to contact your rivals instead.
- Listen to what they’re saying—to other people. Often customers will not tell you what is wrong, they’ll just disappear and tell everyone else instead. Check on web forums and chatrooms to find out what customers are saying – this can be done via a simple internet search or by going to sites where your customers will be clustering. Also, consider having a forum on your website where customers can discuss and rate your products.
- Invest in technology. Build a database containing information about sales opportunities and your customers likes and dislikes, or information they have told you about future purchases.
- Incentivise your staff. Learn from John Lewis. The retailer’s partnership structure means that all staff share in its profits, resulting in extremely high quality customer service. If staff share in the performance of the company, they are more likely to go the extra mile.
- ….and keep them well informed. There’s nothing more frustrating than a waitress who doesn’t know anything about the menu she has just read out, or the computer store assistant who can barely tell the difference between an Apple Mac and a PC. Constantly train staff about your products and services: customers are far more likely to buy from enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff, and will certainly remember that when making future purchases.
Taken from Solutions Summer 2010