Customer dissatisfaction is at an all-time high, and increasing every year. What if there were cheap, easy, and fast things you could do to ensure customer satisfaction with your business? No problem – let’s make that wish come true. You’ve still got time!
Forty years ago (well, in 1976), the White House Office of Consumer Affairs conducted a study to see how we could improve the quality of U.S. goods and services. The key problem at the time – and studies since then have found the same thing – was customer satisfaction.
And time after time, studies link customer care to the bottom line. This means that for every dollar you invest in service, you profit more.
That makes sense. Unhappy customers go someplace else, but happy customers spend more! What doesn’t make sense is, there’s been no improvement in four freakin’ decades. From 2010 to 2012, dissatisfaction ratings went from 60% to 68%.
What’s going on? Mostly, businesses don’t want to invest in better ways to treat unhappy customers. But at the same time, they’re failing to make sure customers are happy!
You’ve got a little time until this year is over. Here are nine things you can do immediately (or within a couple days) to start taking care of customers all the time! Do them now:
- Find a way to go 10% out of your way to surprise them. Pricing isn’t why your customers came to you in the first place, but research shows that as little as a dime could make a difference when they’re upset. Create your own 10% opportunities.
- Find common ground. We like those we perceive as similar to us. Your favorite relative lives in the same city as your customer? Mention a happy memory or ask about a landmark. That kind of thing strengthens relationships.
- Most customers, despite any temporary dissatisfaction, are willing to continue doing business with you if you can help them solve a problem. If the customer is worth keeping, use your resources to fix the problem, even if it means breaking with policy. (And then examine your policies if you have to go this route frequently.)
- Use positive language. If you say “I’m sorry, we don’t have any in stock,” it’s polite, but stops the conversation. On the other hand, you could say “That will be coming with our next shipment. I can set one aside for you and call you as soon as they come in.” That’s not immediate gratification, but at least the customer knows you’re listening.
- Slow down. Especially in retail, things get rushed at the end of the year. This means that some details slip, customers feel hurried, and they end up not getting the best service. Slow down enough to maintain quality service.
- Thank customers. All year, but especially now. You’ve got some kind of customer retention system, right? Don’t be a Scrooge. Sign greeting or thank-you cards by hand, stamp them with actual, thoughtfully-chosen stamps instead of your postage meter. Include a frequent customer reward card, already stamped once, with each greeting.
- Give an extra discount for liking your page on Facebook and sharing an idea, following you on Twitter and tweeting positive feedback, or checking in on Foursquare with a photo or positive comment. Be sure to have someone respond to each mention with a thank you to show you’re listening.
- Brick and mortar location? Take photos of smiling customers for your wall of fame. Offer fresh coffee or hot chocolate and candy canes while it’s cold. (Or iced tea and lemonade if it’s warm.) Open up your swag store as well and add an item for larger sales, or every 10th customer, for example.
- Refer customers to other businesses they may be interested in. Allow neighboring businesses (or ask them) to provide you with some cards. If you have a candle boutique and a customer mentions wanting to cover up pet odor, refer her to the pet store that has odor remover. You may not get the sale, but remember Miracle on 34th Street? You’ll get the customer.
Now – not later, not tomorrow, but now – print this out. Grab your team for a 10-minute meeting (or a fresh cuppa, if your business is just you). Figure out at least 3 things you’re going to do, gather the materials you need, light a fire, inspire.
May your fourth quarter finish up merry and bright!