Philip walks into Store A. He needs to return an item from his baby shower five months ago, but he doesn’t have a receipt. He tells the team member at the guest services desk and she says that, while the policy states the item is outside the return window without a receipt, she can allow him to exchange the item for the proper size. Philip is appreciative, takes the time to leave a good review using the QR code on the bottom of the return receipt, and posts on social media about the ease of the transaction. Not only will he visit the store again, but he also builds goodwill for Store A with his followers on social.
Aja walks into Store B to buy toiletries. Once she arrives at the checkout lane, she waits in a fairly lengthy line. Finally, after she arrives at the register, the cashier goes on a lunch break. There is a brief, visibly tense discussion between the original cashier and the one who is coming to replace her. The new cashier hurriedly rings up Aja’s items with a poor attitude. Before driving home, Aja shares her experience at Store B on social media, vowing to never give them another dollar. A few of her followers respond by posting comments about the store’s notorious reputation for disappointing customer service.
Many people can relate to each shopping experience and have either recommended stores they like or complained to others about the ones they didn’t like. This is why your customers’ experience should be your highest priority. Of course, not everything will always go according to plan. But when there’s an issue, focus on turning problems into opportunities and solutions. This way you’ll gain some goodwill from the community that keeps you in business.
In addition to good customer service, you can keep customers happy by providing incentives and getting them to feel invested in your brand. You do this in a few obvious -- but often overlooked -- ways:
1. Provide value. This can be in the form of outstanding customer service, customization of experience, superior quality of goods, fast and/or free delivery, all the above, or something completely out of this world that no one else has thought of yet.
2. Give them a reason to come back. If you’re able to capture customer data, send a thank you email or text along with a coupon. You can also encourage them to return sooner rather than later by making the coupon time-bound.
3. Incorporate referral and social media sharing. Incentivize your customers to tell others about your products or services by offering a gift or discount if they share five referrals or social media posts.
4. Reward loyal customers. Offer a loyalty reward period for those who have been supporting your business by giving more discounts based on when someone first began shopping with you. Instead of only rewarding customers for their consistency, this will also help bring early adopters back sooner or more often.
You cannot operate at 100% efficiency 100% of the time. When you fall short, do what you can to make it right. If that’s providing a discount, great. If your business has made a huge mistake, dismiss the charge altogether.
I’ll give a personal example of a way to fix a fairly simple service issue: Desirée and I were on vacation. She is a pretty well-known vegan blogger and is always looking for places to shout out when we travel. A restaurant in our hotel put dairy on her vegan tacos not once, but twice, and then placed the blame on her for not asking enough questions when the item was listed on their vegan menu. They could have offered us some type of compensation for their errors -- a complimentary drink or side would have been nice. Or they could have dismissed the charge or even offered to deliver the food to our room. Gestures like these would have gone a long way toward restoring goodwill.
In the situation where subpar service is given, step outside of your business mindset, and take on the perspective of a customer and ask yourself, “What could this business do to make a customer want to come back, or at least not speak poorly of the brand?” And then do that.
Because there are so many options to find quality products anywhere, it is no longer enough to have a strong brand name. You have to make people want to spend their money with you and want to spend time around the people you’ve hired. Why did Philip spend hours strolling around Store A? Because he thinks, “If I had to live in a store forever, this would be it.” Why does Aja hate going to Store B? Because the lines are always long, the employees always look like they’re ready to run out the door, and the selection is more often miss than hit.
If you give your customers high-quality service or products coupled with great customer service, then they’ll be sure to spread the good news to others.