The Customer Experience: Are You Doing Enough?
Every business owner knows the importance of the customer experience. That's because how your customers feel about their interactions with you is paramount to your company's continued growth and success.
"Happy customers are the fuel necessary to run any successful business," explains one Rolling Stones Culture Council blog.
"To help them is the main reason why many entrepreneurs continue doing what they're doing," the council writes. "And when you build a loyal community of customers, you set yourself up with long-term support."
What makes for a positive experience ultimately comes down to each business: how and what your customers buy and expect from you. But marketing experts and successful entrepreneurs say there are commonalities worth noting across industries.
Here are 3 insights that could help you improve customer experiences at your small business.
Customers Care About Your Company's Core
While your customer experience efforts are often, and rightfully, focused on your interactions and transaction moments with customers, you might also consider the bigger picture.
One of the benefits of having loyal customers is good reviews and referrals. But those aren't necessarily going to come from good customer service alone. It goes deeper, according to consultant and author Fred Reicheld, a Bain & Co. fellow and founder of the company's Loyalty practice.
In his book, "Winning on Purpose: The Unbeatable Strategy of Loving Customers," Reicheld says a customer who makes a referral is also looking at your company's actions, beyond the purchase-related transactions.
"When people recommend a product or service, they're essentially co-branding their reputation with the recommended company," he writes.
That enthusiastic reviewer may probe into the heart and soul of your business. For example, good people will not enthusiastically recommend a company that knowingly pollutes the environment, abuses its employees, or mistreats vendors, Reicheld writes.
All Customers Belong in Your VIP Tier
Large and smaller companies alike often see their customer service strategy with a tier-style approach, offering different "levels" depending on who they're serving - like how a bank might treat its "richest" customers vs. those with accounts carrying lower balances.
But industry experts and entrepreneurs say that's not always wise because every customer matters to your small business when dealing with quality experiences and loyalty.
"One way to build a loyal following is to show your appreciation for your customers on a regular basis," according to the blog by the Rolling Stone Culture Council. "When customers can feel your gratitude, it helps them feel like their voices are being heard and like they aren't just a number on a profit report."
Tech company entrepreneur and Rolling Store Culture Council member Lynn Rosenthal suggests businesses show their loyal customers how much they're appreciated.
"Treat every customer like a VIP, providing them with an outstanding customer experience," says Rosenthal, founder and CEO of Periscape, which provides plug and play location-based entertainment for airports, retail locations, and enterprise use.
To show your loyal customers how much you value them, she suggests offering special benefits, such as extended warranties, free shipping, longer return periods, birthday gift certificates, and early access to new products and sales.
Service with a Smile
While society may generally frown upon the once-held norm that every person walks around with a smile on their face, "service with a smile" still stands associated with good customer experiences.
Smiling may be more authentic when a company has a customer-centric culture and a positive workplace, according to a post by The Tech Report, which focuses on PC hardware, gaming, and personal computing industries.
There haven't been studies that show the value of a smile in customer service, according to the article, "The Best Customer Service Starts with a Smile."
"However, we have all been the recipient of that kind of smiling service," writes the staff reporter for The Tech Report. "The truth is, we just like it better."
Further, a smile may help even in the most severe service scenarios, the article says.
"Even if forced, it has the power to influence people's minds. It might surprise you to learn that smiling while on the phone changes the tone of your voice, making it sound more optimistic."