Today’s customers differ quite markedly from customers in years gone by, the most obvious difference being their expectations. They are exposed to a broader range of products and services from a variety of businesses, both brick and mortar and online, making them far more savvy and subsequently more demanding. Despite this cultural shift, one thing remains the quintessential component for any customer, the experience.

The 21st century customer can be defined as:

  • Fickle
  • Informed and educated
  • Quick to complain or question.

Three steps to customer commitment

No longer are customers beholden to one supplier; they often use another service provider or choose an alternative product simply because it’s possible. Consider this analogy; you just eat meat and three vegetables every night, and all of a sudden a row of interesting restaurants opens up nearby. You’d probably become inquisitive and try them out. It’s quite likely that one restaurant exceeds your expectations and is always consistent with their food and service; therefore you would go to them more often than the other restaurants. Customers like to feel that they are appreciated, and will return to their ‘usual,’ even after trying out the competition, if their experience is consistent and satisfying.
Here are some ways of getting your customers to consistently come back to your business and tell others about their positive experience:

  • Deliver a VIP guest experience: exceed your customers’ expectations
  • Encourage customer loyalty: nurture your customer to increase visitation and spend
  • Develop guest advocacy: transform your customers into advocates for your business

To succeed at all three steps, you have to deliver that WOW experience to each and every customer. Your most loyal customers will have the highest expectations of you because you’ve delivered a WOW moment to them before. In my book, The VIP Principle, I talk about the ways in which you can make that romance last, and move your semi-committed regular customers into the loyal customer category by going above and beyond the level of service they expect in order to make them feel genuinely valued.

Doing the little things makes all the difference, for instance, making customers feel valued by recognising them. In an increasingly impersonal world, a genuine smile and a greeting using the customer’s name, if known, are two invaluable ways to make a connection.

Information overload

The majority of us now use Google when we’re looking for an answer, and customers certainly do, whether it’s looking to compare prices or different versions of a product, or to find out where a service is provided. As consumers, we are constantly being bombarded with marketing material that educates us on what is out there in the marketplace.

You and your team need to know the answers to the questions regularly being asked of Google, and be prepared and even proactive when it comes to discussing a customer’s options and alternatives with them so they don’t simply go to Google instead of engaging with you.

As a customer, there is nothing more annoying than when the sales person just regurgitates the wording on the back of a label. The customer wants more, and if you don’t know it, Google certainly does, which is not in the best interests of growing your business. More importantly don’t tell a version of the truth that isn’t true, that’s a sure fire way of losing a customer forever along with any referrals they may have made.
Let your team know that they can ask questions of you to ensure that they are informed and educated on what your business offers and how it can suit different customers needs and expectations.

Customer service recovery strategies

Questioning and complaining are two different forms of communication, however, some business owners and their teams misconstrue a question and immediately go on the back foot defending their product or service without considering the question in detail and asking more questions of the customer to be able to provide more or less information.

Tips

  1. Apologise, compensate and fix it permanently; make sure it doesn’t get repeated
  2. Remove your ouches before they happen again, whether they concern service, facilities or product. Prompt removal produces the most effective ROI
  3. Follow through and follow up. Is your customer satisfied with your attempt at mending your relationship? Make sure you have done the best you can to make it right
  4. Social media and reviews can hurt, but don’t be tempted to respond in kind to an unpleasant review. Instead, write a thoughtful response that reiterates your apology and details your attempts to make things right.