If you make a mistake, do not try to point the blame on anyone else, deny it, or try to cover it up. People can see a fake apology from a mile away. For example, you may remember the catastrophic United Airlines flight in 2017 when a man named Dr. Dao was dragged out of his seat, all because the airline over-booked the plane. The CEO’s immediate response? He blamed the customer. YIKES. The public was very, very angry at this, and even when he tried to back-peddle into an apology, it was far too late. United Airlines lost tons of customers, and their stock prices dropped.
No one is expecting you to grovel and plead with your customers when you do something wrong. People just want a sincere apology, and in most cases, that is enough to satisfy them so that everyone can move on.
Aside from asking your customers to follow you on social media, it may also be helpful to ask for their e-mail so that you can add them to your mailing list, as well. There are a lot of people who do not want to give their e-mail away to a new business, especially if the are worried about privacy. But offering a free item or service in exchange for an e-mail address is often enough incentive for people to give it up. Websites like Mail Chimp make it easy to set up a mailing list, but just remember that you need to update your customers every week or two with sales, newsletters, and more. If you only update your mailing list once a year, people are far more likely to forget who you are, and it may actually end up in a spam folder.
People love it when you acknowledge the holidays by decorating, or by offering special sales on major retail events, like Black Friday. Truth be told, if you don’t follow these expectations of retail, you might get some disappointed people who will choose to spend their money elsewhere.
And while it is not always possible to gather a customer’s birthday information, people love it when you can manage to pull it off. The luxury makeup chain, Sephora, is a great example of a company who knows how to do birthdays right. They have a policy that a customer is allowed to come in for a free sample during their birthday month. In most cases, they will have to show their driver’s license to prove their date of birth. If they forget to come in to receive their free item, they will not allow you to get it at any other time. In most cases, people who are celebrating their birthday will have extra cash from friends and family, or they will save up to splurge on themselves. So, the likelihood that a customer will buy something while they are picking up their free birthday item is far greater than if you never offered it in the first place.
Some people dread finding a negative customer review on Yelp, or they are afraid of receiving any kind of feedback, because they think it will destroy their ego, reputation, or both. The solution to this issue is to actually encourage people to give you more feedback, not less. Make sure that your customers have the opportunity to give their opinion anonymously, without pressure to write a positive review. There are several reasons why this is helpful.
Firstly, if you get one negative review online, and they are the only one who reviewed you, your rating goes down to one star almost immediately. But if that negative Nancy is just one of 100 people, you’re still getting 5 stars. Secondly, being open to honest feedback will allow you to gauge the true customer experience. Most people will be polite face-to-face, and a million people can say the experience was “good” or “great”, but then they never come back again. If you find out the reasons why they do not want to come back, it can only help your business grow and evolve.
Sometimes, business owners are so focused on obtaining brand new customers, that they forget about the ones they already have. If you notice that the same people come into your shop over and over, or if you have a small but loyal client base, be sure to acknowledge that. Remember that these people are likely to be your very best customers, and they deserve you to give them a little bit of VIP treatment. Remember that even if they come in a lot, that loyalty can always change, and you want to keep these people coming back over and over.
Ever wonder why Starbucks employees ask for your name with every order? Sure, it helps to make sure the wrong person doesn’t walk away with your chai tea latte, but the real reason is that it adds an element of personalization. When you address someone with their name, they automatically feel more noticed, and therefore, more appreciated as a customer. Try to incorporate a customer’s name into the conversation whenever possible.
Even if you have not gone to school to get a PhD in whatever subject your business is under, there are still plenty of ways to prove that you are an expert in your chosen field. It is wise to do as much research as you possibly can. Read books and blogs, watch documentaries, and attend lectures as often as possible in order to understand all aspects of your business. It may take hundreds, if not thousands of hours of study before you truly feel confident in your craft. But remember that unlike a degree, no one is ever going to come along and hand you a trophy with the word “expert” engraved on it. Just be confident in the things you know, but don’t pretend to know more than you actually do, and don’t be afraid to admit when you do not know, by saying, “I’ll get back to you on that”. People can see through insincerity right away, if you just make something up.
Customers love special events, and it can cause a huge influx of people to come to your business at certain times of year. Think about the McDonald’s Monopoly contest. Even the most healthy eaters will suddenly buy a Big Mac, just for a chance at winning a million dollars. A “special event” can be as simple as a sale, or a limited-time release of a seasonal item. If people had fun with your special event, they will remember that for next year, and want to come back for more. Of course, you can have a special event a multiple times a year to keep people coming back again and again. On the flip side, if you normally offer a seasonal item every year, and then suddenly get rid of it out of the blue (We’re looking at you, Eggnog Milkshakes at McDonalds!) your long-time customers may feel disappointed, and they will not come back as often as they would have otherwise.
It is extremely important to let your customers know your policies up-front. Maybe you have been in a situation where you go to a restaurant or store, and you are ready to pay for your items, and the cashier abruptly tells you that they are cash-only. Other times, you need to pay for at least $10 to $20 before using a credit or debit card. If there was never a sign anywhere in the store to indicate this policy, or if there was only a teeny tiny post card posted on the cash register, this is guaranteed to annoy your customers.
Even if people just so happened to have enough cash in their pocket to pay for their items, they often feel duped if they have to change their game plan. This lowers their likelihood to come back. Same goes with a “no return” policy. If people do not know this ahead of time, it may lead to arguments if they try to get their money back later. Make sure your policies are hung somewhere noticeable, and potentially in multiple places around the store, just in case they missed the first sign. Also, if your policies are so strict that it prevents people from coming inside, you may want to rethink your rules.
While it is important to let your customers know about your policies up-front, it is also important to be flexible on the rules, for the sake of keeping the customer happy. For example, if you have a 30-day return policy, and they show up on day 31, your customer is going to be really upset if you do not accept the return. On the flip side, if you are flexible on the rules for this person, they will remember your kindness, and this will make them more willing to come back in the future.
Just about everyone loves a surprise, and it will bring a lot of happiness to their customer experience. In most cases, these surprises just boil down to having great hospitality. Bringing a small spark of joy to a customer’s day will have a lasting impact, and it will make them more likely to come back in the future. For example, if you run a restaurant, you could include free mints with their check. If you have an office where clients come to meet with you, offer them with a free snack and coffee while they sit in the waiting room.
One of the best ways to foster a great customer experience is to scope out your competition by becoming a customer of theirs. Pay attention to your own experience when you are at a rival company. What do you like, and what do you dislike? You can even (discreetly) take notes on your phone to remind yourself later of all of the little pet peeves you had at another business. Also keep in mind that your expectations may not be the same as someone else’s. Ask your friends and family how their experience could be improved in certain businesses, and try to take their suggestions to heart.
One of the most famous quotes by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is that when he first created his online book store, he put the customer’s needs above everything else, even if it meant losing money or breaking even. By giving a customer a great experience, they will come back for more. Most major corporations know that they need to spend money in order to advertise and acquire a customer, but if they have that customer’s loyalty for years to come, the efforts up-front will more than pay themselves off in the long run. Good luck in your journey, and remember that sometimes, the customer really is always right.