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Five golden rules to retain customers

ENTERPRISE
By Pauline Muindi | October 6th 2021
[Courtesy]

The business world has grown increasingly competitive over the years.

Let’s face it; customers hold the power to make your business either a success or a failure. At the slightest annoyance, they can choose to switch to your competitor. Even worse, they can tarnish your business reputation by leaving bad online reviews.

Gone are the days when customer care was an option. It is no longer enough to rely on a good sales pitch or discounted prices. Today, customer care is a major strategic concern for both big and small businesses. Entrepreneurs who can’t come up with effective customer care strategies to establish trust are doomed to fail.

It is relatively easy to attract customers and lure them to buy your product. But the real test is building a loyal relationship that makes them choose your product or services over and over again. Bear in mind that the leading reason customers don’t come back is shoddy customer service.

Customer service is like a window into your business. Each call that you receive, whether from a current client or a prospective one, gives you an opportunity to either shine or tarnish your image. In business, the customer is the ultimate boss. By simply choosing to spend their money elsewhere, they can fire everybody in the company from the CEO to cleaner.

Happy customers are the key to successful businesses. Not only are happy customers likely to give you repeat business, but they also become your company’s unpaid brand ambassadors. They will leave positive reviews online and recommend your products and services to people in their circles. With that in mind, let’s explore five golden rules of customer care that every business owner must be aware of:

Every interaction matters

Every interaction with your customer matters. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired, hungry, or frustrated, you should always strive to respond to each customer with respect, warmth, and enthusiasm. You should be available to customers when they need you and solve any issues they have immediately, if possible.

This rule doesn’t apply to in-person interactions only. Even with online interaction, where you have the benefit of hiding behind a screen, make the effort to respond to your customers as soon and as warmly as possible.

You can create a customer interaction checklist to ensure that you are responding to customers appropriately. The checklist includes rules such as using the customer’s name, using your name, thanking them for contacting you, no negative language, and responding to their concern.

Keeping your customers also means not losing sight of the human connection. You’ve heard it before: People will remember the way that you made them feel.

Never make empty promises

When a customer calls with a complaint, to get them off your back, you might feel pressured to make a promise that you’re not sure if you’ll keep. For example, you might promise that you will send over someone to fix the problem within 24 hours, when you know that it might take 48 hours.

To customers, there’s nothing as frustrating as empty promises from a company where they’ve spent their hard-earned money. When a business is in the habit of giving empty promises, word quickly spreads, damaging their reputation. A 2017 study by American Express found that customers who have had a bad customer service experience tell an average of 15 people. This means that one empty or broken promise has the potential to alienate 15 prospective customers.

In all your interactions with your customers, never make any promises that you cannot keep. Being straightforward might be more difficult, but it will earn you customer respect and ultimately, their trust and loyalty.

For instance, if you have advertised a 14-day money-back guarantee, stick to it with no questions asked. If you state that a package will arrive to the customer within 7-10 days, don’t lie to them that it will take 5 days.

Offer support on different channels

In today’s world, there are many different channels for businesses to offer support to their customers. You can opt for email, phone, text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. You might be wondering, which channel should I focus on?

Unfortunately, there’s no cut-and-dry answer to that question. The best advice is for you to offer support to your customers through multiple channels. While millennials and Gen Zs might be happy with support via social media channels, older generations might prefer talking over the phone.

You can put more energy into the channels that your target audience favours. For instance, if your target audience are avid email users, the focus of providing great email support. If they’re active Twitter users, you need to be very active on that channel as well to respond to them in a timely manner.

Adopt a proactive approach

To provide great customer care, you have to be proactive. You should not wait until the customer contacts you with a complaint to reconnect with them. Remember, not all dissatisfied customers will voice their displeasure through your formal channels. Many simply chose not to give you repeat business and also give negative recommendations to people in their circles.

After purchase, you can reach out to the customer to ask for feedback. In addition, monitor social media and other online forums for mentions of your business and its products or services. Being proactive with your customer care also includes creating a knowledge base for your customers. For instance, you can publish blog posts that explain why and how to use your products.

Drop the formality

Many business owners and customer representatives assume that all business communication should have a formal tone. While this might work for some industries, in many others, a casual tone works better. A 2015 study by Software Advice found that 65 per cent of customers prefer a casual tone over a formal one.

That said, be careful not to overuse an informal tone. For example, refrain from using emojis, abbreviations such as LOL (laughing out loud) and off-colour humour. Avoid creating the impression that you don’t take the customer and their concerns seriously.

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