Acquiring a customer is a very special moment and it’s all to easy to forget that when people are buying from us anonymously across the interwebs. Without face to face interaction, we kinda forget to be nice!
Just because it’s not a face to face interaction, doesn’t mean that the relationship has to be any less valued than if the customer walked into your store, handed you a fifty and bought your product … which I’m sure would make you smile at the very least, say thank you and maybe even give them a great big bear hug (more shop owners should do that!!)
In fact, with everything being so transparent across social media, it’s more important than ever to respect that relationship.
Because we’re selling on much larger scale on the internet, this requires continual hard work on your behalf.
However, there are simple things that you can do to make this process run more smoothly, keep your customers happy and loyal, and increase your sales all at the same time.
Some of these involve:
Going above and beyond your customers expectations
Making your customers feel valued
Communicating across as many channels as possible
Compared to ‘traditional’ marketing techniques, all of these require little marketing experience, and little-to-no financial outlay. Yay!
More importantly though, if executed with effort, and imagination, the return will far outdo any ‘traditional’ marketing campaign that you might consider carrying out.
You will gain a loyal, expanding community of customers only too eager to recommend you, your business or brand and the products and services you sell. You might even gain some friends into the bargain!
So, what do you need to do then?
Go Above And Beyond Your Customers Expectations!
It’s nice to over-deliver!
The first and easiest zero-expenditure action that you can take is go above and beyond what your customers expect from businesses and brands in your market.
Examples of things that you can do include:
Providing exceptional support; this might/should include;
Promptly answering all contact from your customers (emails, support tickets, including positive and negative social media mentions and comments);
Doing follow-up with your customers after they have purchased one of your products or services, or after a sales campaign if they failed to purchase from you (you can tell this from non-opens, or shopping cart abandonment if you are tracking properly).
An example of exceptional support provision could be providing technical assistance to a customer having trouble with one of products. You or one of your team members can step them through the setup process or even set it up for them. This may seem like a lot of extra effort. However, the payback of having one very satisfied customer up and running will come in the form of positive feedback you’ll receive from them. Don’t be shy about asking satisfied customers to share their experiences across all of your social networking channels.
Another example of going beyond the expected is to ask your customers what they need. Get feedback from them on how you can improve your product or service or what new services or products you can provide for them. Ask what they most need and when they make feature requests, implement them in a timely manner. It’s of no benefit to say you’ll do something if you don’t deliver on that promise. This causes resentment and will lose you customers.
Also, if a customer brings a bug, or another error, to your attention, when it is fixed make sure to thank them for bringing it to your attention. Don’t resent the communication or see it as flaw and take it personally. Act on the information by remedying the problem and then let all of your customers who purchased that particular product know that an update is available, where to get it (download location) and any instructions/caveats for/in applying the update.
This kind of communication provides an opportunity for two-way dialogue between you and your customer, that if handled positively will feed back into the online social sphere through comments and feedback on sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Also, when interacting with your customers, you need to consider that all users are not created equal in their (neediness) knowledge and abilities So be patient with them. If you are spending too much time with a particular customer, find a polite, diplomatic way of breaking the communication and promise to return to the issue at a later date, or perhaps offer a refund. In general, you are better to give refunds when requested, unless you know for certain you are being scammed!
Each of these actions will show your customers that you genuinely care about them and their businesses and will also give you opportunity to communicate with them in a positive manner and build up a rapport which if developed will lead to an on-going business relationship, enabling you to build your business and grow your revenues. Your customers will also likely become ambassadors for you, your business and your products.
Be A Bearer Of Gifts!
It’s nice to give, even in business … especially in business!
Give unexpected stuff to your customers at unexpected times!
Another really effective way of building customer satisfaction is by thanking your customers for their loyalty but providing either free gifts or loyalty discounts. Many businesses shy away from giving anything for free as they consider it an expense they can do without! But the fact is that customers who feel appreciated will value your service, product or brand and remember you ahead of your competition.
You don’t have to break the bank to do this either. You can run competitions, offer customer only discount prices on particular goods or services and occasionally give away a product at no cost at all to the customer. The giveaway should be relevant, in the context of other products they have bought from you, or relevant to their business.
Remember, whatever you give, it should help your customers earn/save money or time, be useful in acquiring new customers for them, or make their life a little easier (for example training).
Often customers will reciprocate in some way, by buying a product, or service from you, or recommending you to other prospective customers. If you are lucky they will talk about you on social media like Facebook, twitter, or on forums related to what you and they do in your everyday business (that is saving you a whole lot of marketing effort – think about how hard it is to get new customers!). If you are good to your customers it’s ok to ask them to help you out now and again – e.g. give you some feedback, make some recommendations etc. They will likely be happy to do so!
Communicate Regularly with Your Customers
It’s nice to talk.
One of the most important and often neglected aspects of the seller/buyer relationship is your story. Have you ever clicked on ‘About page’ only to find a general statement that tells you nothing about the person/business/brand you’re planning to engage with. It’s disappointing!
Let you customers know you. To help build relationships, always tell them about who you are, what you are doing, and how you are endeavouring to identify and meet needs. It helps lots if there is a story to how your business came about, or how you overcame a struggle to get/keep things going. If you do have such a story, use it, by integrating on various social media such as Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/YouTube. Make it interesting and let your customers know about it. Maybe they’ll tweet it, or link to it from Facebook. Make sure to thank them in some way if they do! Maybe reciprocate a tweet or like them on Facebook.
But most, importantly, tell the story of your or your brand to be transparent and to say to your customers openly, this is me/us. This is whom you are doing business with and we’re happy to know you!
Aside from inviting your customers to know you and delivering what you promise (products, services, support), the single most important thing to do to keep your customers coming back to you is to communicate with them. That’s two-way communication, not just you pushing products or services on them!
You must do this using multiple customer contact channels, online (your website, social media activities, email, Skype) and offline letters, phone calls, or just dropping in to see them if they are in your locality!
It’s likely that your customers will come from different time zones, be of differing ages and technological competencies, and so you must provide as many different communications channels as you can to ensure that all of your customers can reach you.
You must also ensure that these channels are filtered through to you in such a way that you will not miss a message from one of your customers. Consider this example, some people use email and a support ticketing system. Sometimes when they access their emails, support emails are downloaded and sent to the spam folder. These emails are not then available in the support system and will be missed.
If you have a sizeable number of regular customers and/or a large number of products, it is worth having a separate support page where your customers can reach you. This should preferably be tied into a support ticketing system, which helps you manage your support requests.
Making different communications channels available for your customers to speak to you has all of the following advantages:
Makes it easy for your customers to engage with you and so feel ‘heard’
Helps build relationships with your customers and so feel ‘valued’
Helps spread your message wider through building ‘loyalty’
How to Communicate with Your Customers
These are some examples of how to approach your customer communications:
Make your customer communication personal, honest and accommodating (where necessary).
Send a (genuine) thank you letter with a note e.g. thank you for hiring me to be your wedding photographer, or to build your wedding portfolio website, and by-the-way your reception was lovely…
If somebody mentions they like your photo on Facebook, or tweets something nice about you … login and say thank you! If they mention something negative, thank them, offer to help resolve the issue, and invite them to discuss the matter with you (through your support system if you have one and they are agreeable) or via Skype or over the phone. Direct contact always gives an opportunity to diffuse a negative situation and turn it into one with a positive outcome for you and your business.
Use your end user to help build your business – your reputation should be enhanced with every user/customer interaction, thus making your customer feel good every time they hear mention of you or your business, and prompting them to pass on the positive feeling to friends, business acquaintances and colleagues.
Answer emails, even if only to say you will follow up with them (and make sure to do so). Be diplomatic (and sensible) when handling difficult customers. Don’t let your emotions control any of your communication with troublesome customers. And remember, sometimes it’s better to give a refund than waste a lot of time trying to bring a customer back onside.
Also, besides the large social networking channels, consider extending your communication to smaller less used social media sites and tools. Gary Waynerchuk recommends using ‘Micro-trend ponds’ to get your message out. [e.g. Digg, Reddit] These tend to be less crowded, less noisy, and less expensive than the bigger channels everyone else is using. They are most suitable for small niche markets.
And Finally … !
Always openly engage with your customers if they (publicly) mention your or your products, or services. Phrases such as “Thank You” “You’re welcome” “I’m sorry,” “How so?” “Is that how you really feel?” “Tell me what happened,” “How can I fix the problem?” or “Allow me” are best used when communicating publicly with customers.
Customers like to receive your brand’s (you/your businesses’) special, personal attention and engagement at least some of the time. Remember to engage.
Let’s Examine A Case Study Of How Refusing To Be Nice Can Give Your Competitors An Advantage!
Case Study – Lowcostholidays.com get one up on ‘Thomas Cook‘
Thomas Cook, who shared the same name as the very well known Thomas Cook travel agency decided to post a cheeky request on the Facebook page for Thomas Cook Travel.
He requested that to compensate for a lifetime of teasing because of their shared name, the company should send him and a friend to Paris for weekend!
Thomas Cook, the company promptly sent a stiff reply to the 26 year old, claiming that they couldn’t give free trips to everybody named Thomas Cook and asking him to check their website for great travel prices.
When he posted their reply to his Facebook profile, Lowcostholidays.com, a competitor of Thomas Cook Travel, picked up the post.
The quick thinking rival travel agent offered to send Thomas and a friend on a trip to Paris for not just for a weekend but for a week!
When Thomas posted a photo of himself and friend at the Eiffel Tower to his Facebook profile, the photo instantly went viral and was seen by hundreds of thousands of Facebook users.
By doing the ‘nice’ thing and making a young man happy, Lowcostholidays.com were able to harness a massive amount of free publicity and come out as the good guys, while Thomas Cook obviously suffered brand damage by underestimating the value of doing something nice!
The Cost of Being Nice
‘It costs nothing (or at least not much!) to be nice!’
By expending a little effort, using your imagination (and maybe a little money) and keeping direct communications open and accessible to your customers, you can easily build a solid reputation for you or your brand. This will lead to an on-going beneficial business relationships, which will also help in growing your customer base, increasing your sales and in turn growing your business.
Take the steps to make your customers feel special and they will reward you well!
And remember, the simplest things to do when communicating with your customers are:
Be yourself. Be genuine. Say Thank You! And mean it!