We know that running a small business is all about relationships, and we've looked at ways of getting more customers through the door, but what happens once you've achieved that? How do you ensure you make a positive impact on your customers and make them feel like coming back time and time again?
You'll get lots of people through your door who aren't necessarily going to put money in your till today. They might not put money in your till tomorrow and they might not ever financially benefit your business at all. That doesn't mean they won't have any benefit at all and it certainly doesn't mean they should be ignored or treated any different from your other customers. How can you spread the love to your customer base?
The spirit of positivity that can take your business to the next level needs to be felt on all levels. Starting at the top with you, the business owner, and echoed through every single member of your team. They all need to understand your vision and long term goals for the business, as well as feel like they are making a valid contribution to that vision. Involve your team as much as possible with your future planning and listen to their ideas and comments. Encourage regular team activities out of the office to build and strengthen internal relationships. Be mindful of the atmosphere in your workplace and act quickly to resolve any friction at an early stage before it becomes a bigger problem.
Open as many channels as you can for communication from your customers. Monitor and respond to Google place reviews, TripAdvisor reviews and any other online forums for feedback, including your Facebook and Twitter pages. Remember that your response through these channels is open for the entire world to see and that being considerate to your customer’s point of view (regardless of whether you share that particular point of view) will diffuse situations far better than an argument over certain elements of their complaint. Nearly every customer is willing to accept that mistakes happen occasionally, and it’s just a case of how those issues are dealt with. Consider a paper ‘visitors book’ or similar inside your store, or printed feedback forms with a postbox to collect them, encouraging your other customers to give information about their experience.
Do you find you’re approached by lots of charities, and find it difficult who to say yes or no to? If you would like to allocate a specific amount each year for charitable donations, you could create a system where you have a list of charities and give your customers the opportunity to vote for which of the charities will receive the funds each year. Supermarkets operate these schemes with tokens however you could use email or postal forms if you hold these details of your customers, and this would give you a positive reason to get in touch with your customers. Any new charities which approach you can be added to the voting list if you feel they are suitable. With such a system, you are allowing multiple charities an opportunity to receive funds and the decision is in the hands of your customers. When considering charities to include in the options, consider local organisations which are having an impact in your immediate community as well as the larger scale charities. Ensure you create a press release and raise awareness of your charitable commitments.
Don’t set yourself up to fail – make sure you build a safety buffer into any deadlines you have for your customer journey. This is especially important if there are factors out of your control, third party delivery companies or suppliers who can throw a spanner in the works. If you expect to get something in stock by Wednesday, perhaps tell your customer it will be in on Thursday, but take a contact number so that you can stay in touch. If you call them on Wednesday to say you’ve managed to get it in early for them, they’ll be happy and it will look like you’ve made the extra effort just for them.