When a business owner first starts out, you treasure each and every customer. Heck, each and every transaction is like a small miracle to you, as that money is like your life’s blood.
Somewhere along the way, though, something changes. It’s almost like making a New Year’s resolution to “savor my food.” It’s fine for your first couple of meals, especially if you make a point to eat better than usual. But how long can you literally savor every bite you take? Eventually you’ll come to a point where you just have to eat a sandwich on the run to a meeting, and there’s no savoring that.
There’s a big difference between not “savoring” each customer and completely taking them for granted, though. If you start to assume those people will always be around no matter what you do, you’re dangerously close to taking your client and customer base for granted.
Spend a Little Extra Time
If you suddenly realize you are in fact taking your customers for granted, it’s surprisingly easy to fix. The main point to consider is you need to just spend a little bit more time on them.
Consider the above point about savoring food. What’s the difference between eating a meal and truly savoring a meal?
The time it takes you to eat that meal is the key. If you rush through dinner, there’s no time to really appreciate the energy and care that went into it. Once you slow down and chew your food slowly you enjoy what you have in front of you. You don’t take it for granted any longer.
So the same could be said of your customers (well, except the chewing part). Slow down and take the time to really appreciate the fact they’re around and keeping you in business. Don’t rush through every transaction and support issue – really figure out what that particular customer is all about and go out of your way to make them feel like they’re the only person in your business life.
Spending time on your customers is one thing. But you can spend all the time in the world on a customer and not really get anything done. Therefore, you should try to think of actions you can take to show your customers you really care.
For instance, you more than likely have some people you’ve regularly seen pop up over the years. These long-term shoppers and clients need some recognition for sticking with you so long. Why not send them a little pick me up with a coupon or discount code? Even better, some free schwag with their next order may do the trick.
If you really want to impress people while also giving your business some good word of mouth, create a “Customer Appreciation Month” campaign. Think of some fun ways you can show you really take time to think about who keeps you in business and it should also serve as a great way to bring in new business.
Just how important is public relations? To businesses it’s vital to staying relevant in a busy, fast-moving world. Most businesses would arguably go out of business without it, especially many of those that operate solely online. PR helps people become closer to the brands and businesses they frequent and makes a huge online world feel that much smaller.
But it does much more than that. I would argue that PR helps calm a crazy, turbulent world for your customers. PR provides them an opportunity to experience the world in an organized, calm manner.
Think that’s a little too over the top? Let’s take a look and tell me if you don’t agree.
Connects a Disconnected World
The vast majority of the world uses the web. Think about that – right now there’s a person on every single continent, in every single country, in every single city, using the web. You could literally hop online and talk to somebody in Antarctica if you tried hard enough.
While that’s exhilarating, it’s also a little terrifying. One of the first times someone described the Internet to me I remember being a little overwhelmed. “No thanks,” I said to them, “I’ll just get lost.” And it wasn’t a joke! Honestly, sometimes I still feel this way.
Your customers do as well. They like to stay in their “corners” of the web – why do you think Facebook became so popular, after all? The more you can convince them that your area is “safe,” that they can hang out there without feeling weird or alone, the better off you’ll be. With such a huge, scary world out there, your PR efforts let them know there are others that like the exact same things they do.
This isn’t even about interacting with you and your business. Again there is just so much info out there on the web that it’s hard to understand what we’re looking at sometimes. It’s strange, because when I first started using the Internet the World Wide Web wasn’t around yet – people primarily met on Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). These BBS’s would typically be a little messy and disorganized, especially compared to today, but they were still a place to come together.
Now, after decades of WWW being the norm, we have so many ways to organize the info we see every day. But at the same time, it’s just as messy as the BBS way of things. If you don’t know where to go you can easily get lost and led astray. Suddenly you’re downloading something you didn’t mean to and your screen’s gone all funny.
How does PR tie into this? In some small way you’re organizing the Internet and the world for your fans and customers. Even if it’s just for you and your company, or your industry, or maybe even the products you sell, you’re showing people how the world works. They now have a grasp on a concept they didn’t before.
In a world that many feel like it’s leaving them behind, this little bit of organization can go a long way. They’ll feel a certain connection with you if you provide this service for them. This could turn into a lifelong fan kind of situation – simply for providing them a bit of humanity in a computer based world.
It’s kind of a strange question when you get down to it – “why do my customers love me so much?” It’s more than just looking a gift horse in the mouth; it can come off as self-deprecating or a little needy. But the reality behind it is you do need to know why your customers love you to help you grow your business.
It’s one thing to be appreciative of your sales, but capitalizing on that success is entirely different matter. Talking to your fans to find out what they think and would like to see with your business can separate you from your competitors. You could even say this is the basis of PR.
Why it Matters
There are a few key elements that make your fans’ opinions so important to your business, all of which can mean big things for your company. If you’re not asking these questions you’re risking only getting half the picture when it comes to your business.
One thing this information can tell you is what aspect of your business you should focus on. What you think works about your company is practically irrelevant – the only thing that matters is what your customers like and want. If the two worlds aren’t in agreement you may have some problems.
For example, if you think your strength is great customer service but the public loves you for your amazing products, focusing on great customer service may not lead to more sales. It won’t hurt, sure; but it’s not what your customers are looking for. Perhaps you should spend more time on your products.
Another reason to find out why your customers love you is to grow the relationship between you and the public. The more you know about your customers the better you can serve them. If you realize your customers love you because of your products, for instance, you can have more meaningful conversations about what you make and the industry as a whole. This leads to deeper relationships, which can mean long-term fans as opposed to one-time customers.
How to Find Out
How do you find out what your customers like about you? Honestly, the best thing to do is ask! Whether you do so through Facebook, in person, in an email, or a focus group, just directly inquire how they discovered your business and why they stuck around.
People love to talk about themselves and you’re giving them a chance to do so. Simply by opening the channels of communication you’re inviting them in to participate with your business, which can make them feel special. This can also lead to long-time relationships with customers, as they will come to feel involved with your company and it’s success.
If you think they need some incentive to answer you, hold a contest so your customers receive something in return for filling out a poll or questionnaire. If you’re feeling particularly generous, you can give out coupons or discounts for everyone who participates. As much as people like to talk about themselves, they love to get stuff even more!
Why do you think your customers love your business? Have you ever asked them?
Seemingly out of the blue, your fans are all over your case. You thought you were doing everything right, but for whatever reason they’ve gotten something under their skin and are looking to complain. You get the feeling if you weren’t around they would’ve convened on someone else, but there you are, trying to figure out what the problem is.
So what do you do? Since you’re not really sure what their deal is, you can’t just “fix” anything. In the end, it doesn’t particularly matter what the cause is. You have to figure out how to keep everybody happy so they’ll keep buying your stuff.
You know that stereotypical communication problem between men and women people talk about? Where the woman has a problem and the man spends time trying to fix things rather than just listen? This could be happening with your customers.
Naturally you want to correct whatever is wrong so your customers will be happy. But if after a while nothing is working, it’s time to try something else. They may just want to be heard. There’s even a chance it doesn’t have anything to do with you or your company. Everyone could be on edge about a recent national or local tragedy and just lashing out at someone in sight.
Be the Calming Voice
This doesn’t mean you should just wait out the storm, though. You can still spend time talking to your fans even though they apparently hate your guts right now. The important thing to remember is to not get sucked into the vortex of negativity.
If you’ve ever worked customer service (or have a child) you know an argument or discussion feeds on energy. If both parties try to “out yell” each other, it typically gets out of hand. If someone in the argument keeps their cool, eventually the other person will come back down to a calmer level.
You have to be that calm voice. No matter how crazy your fans get – on social media, in email, even over the phone – you have to be the cool one in the discussion. If you get sucked into yelling or typing in caps, things will just get that much worse.
See What You Can Actually Do
Again, the ultimate cause of why they’re suddenly ornery doesn’t change the way you handle the situation. What could make a real difference to your fans is how you react. Figuring out what will put your fans on the bright side of life can do wonders in getting things back to normal.
Of course if there’s anything to apologize for, then go for it. Beyond that, though, try to figure out what you can actually do to make them happy again. Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, the longer everyone is mad and upset the less they’re buying your products or services. The sooner you appease them, the sooner you start making money again.
Some ideas are to offer a one-time discount for the store or offer free shipping for a period of time. Also, make sure to notice if anyone has any specific demands – for example, if someone mentions your site needs to be more open with return policies, take measures to fix it – even if it has absolutely nothing to do with what they’re complaining about otherwise.
Have your fans ever freaked out on you for seemingly no reason?
Occasionally you run into a problem that seems to have no solution. You try and try to figure out how to help this client or make things clearer to them over social media and email but nothing’s going right. If only there was some way you can talk to them directly!
In this digital age we assume it’s much easier to deal with things through the computer. Often, it is, there’s no denying that, especially if you’re trying to multitask. However, once in a while simply picking up the phone and talking to somebody one-on-one is the only way to go.
Personal and Quick
Have you ever texted with a friend where to eat for dinner, only to realize forty texts in you should’ve just called them and be done with it? So many times we do things the hard way without even thinking about it. It may take a little more time when you include pleasantries, but a phone call can wrap up a confusing situation quickly.
Plus, it shows you care a little more about your clients. When all they get are emails or social media conversations it’s tough to imagine you’re primarily concerned with their well-being. Simply hearing your voice can go a long way in cementing a better relationship.
No matter how secure your email is there’s always a hesitancy to send confidential information through it, especially with the threat of hackers. If you have a big client that has an NDA contract with a major movie star, you don’t want that to get out to just anybody. One hacked password and the secret is out, ruining a potential sure moneymaker for everyone.
A phone call to relay super confidential information can ensure better security as there’s less chance of a leak. You may also be able to talk about breaking details and rumors that wouldn’t be easy to convey across email.
Of course you’re not always sitting in front of your computer. You’re out on the town wheelin’ and dealin’ and otherwise living your life. If a client has an important question as you’re getting in the car to go see your kid’s final performance of Hamlet you can’t just email them back as you’re driving.
This is where a Bluetooth or other handheld option comes in handy. A quick call using this device and your client is satisfied and your kid is grateful you made it on time.
Body and Voice Cues
Part of building a client relationship is getting to know each other. Have you ever heard the customer service tip of “speak with a smile?” It’s not middle management nonsense; the trick actually works as the customer can hear that you’re smiling. It sounds strange, but it’s true.
To actually get to know your clients it helps to actually speak with them now and again. Typing “lol” isn’t the same as sharing a hearty laugh over a goofy joke you read somewhere. The next time you think about getting away with just an email to a client, try calling instead. It may improve your business in more ways than one.
How often do you call your clients rather than email?
You are three little steps away from making some of the most money you’ve ever made with your store. Just three things you need to completely overhaul with your business to make everything click.
Don’t blame me – talk to your customers. They’re the ones saying it. They want to buy more of your stuff, but something’s holding them back. Fixing the following three elements of your business could make the difference between losing sales and whistling all the way to the bank.
1. Your Website
For too long your customers have put up with broken links, stretched pictures, and confusing shopping carts. They’re here to say they simply won’t put up with it one more day. It’s time to take a look at your website and fix everything that’s broken!
Check every link. Readjust and reload every warped picture. In fact, just go ahead and find new pictures, or take some new ones yourself. Go over your shopping cart procedures and test how confusing it is. You’ll be surprised at all the errors you find, and hopefully discover ways to fix them.
2. Your Customer Service
You think your customer service is up to snuff, and maybe most of the time it is. But sometimes it utterly fails, and those are the times you really need to study what goes on. Because when the going gets tough, and everyone needs help at once, the agents won’t be able to keep up.
The best way to amend your customer service is to listen to the first word in the phrase – your customers! They know what’s wrong as they’ve been through the process. Open up your ears and listen to the complaints, as there will be some good advice contained in there.
3. Your Brand
You spent what you perceived as a long time developing a brand for your company. The problem, though, is you spent all that time on the WRONG brand for your company. Currently, your mascot is a roadrunner, as you think everything about your company is speedy. But that’s not entirely the case, and your brand really should reflect your dependability more than speed. A Labrador for the mascot, perhaps?
Really take your brand seriously. It’s not just some random stuff you come up with to design your color scheme around. Your brand is what people talk about when the industry you sell within comes up. If your brand is weak, you have no identity, no public face. A strong brand that’s properly associated with your company can stir conversation and inspire people to buy from you simply because of recognition.
Internet users have become accustomed to rudeness on the web. Everywhere you go someone has something snarky, callous, or just generally mean to say. The most innocent post about lovely sunflowers could be met with angry vitriol completely out of nowhere. It can hit like a ton of bricks and leave you breathless.
However, you don’t have to perpetuate this by being nasty and rude yourself. Even if the other person is being a huge meanie-butt you can counter it with some unexpected kindness. Often this can do wonders not only for you and the person you’re talking to but everyone else on the page.
Here are some pointers to really make an act of kindness stand out.
Someone Else’s Shoes
I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m driving or doing other menial tasks, and one of my favorites is the Nerdist series with media mogul Chris Hardwicke. Not just because of the great interviews with celebrities, but because of Chris’ outlook on how to interact with the general public. One thing he said really struck me.
Chris gets a lot of abuse about his projects, even when the material is totally free and people can just ignore it. Despite all the positive remarks, he says the negative ones really stand out in his mind. At least they did until he realized something: what that other person is going through.
He says for someone to be that angry about something ultimately trivial as a podcast episode likely means they’re going through some pretty awful stuff. Many who have been truly mean have later apologized for their actions. Chris says you never know what someone else is going through.
With that in mind, try to imagine what the super mad troll on your Facebook page is so mad about in their personal life before lashing out. A little kindness to them may just be a bright point in an otherwise awful period in their lives.
Another thing that Internet users have gotten used to is companies doing what they have to do to get by. Of course it happens in the “real” world a lot too, but Internet companies can sometimes be extra lazy as they have that extra layer of anonymity.
So it’s extra special when customers and fans encounter a company that goes that extra step to make them feel special. It ensures loyalty from fans and can also lead to further business as they won’t hesitate to recommend you.
So, for example, if someone asks on Facebook or Twitter about a problem they’re having, check up on it to see if it’s a recurring issue. Or, check their history to see if they’ve had problems in the past and, if so, offer them a future discount for sticking with the company. Even a repost of something they care about (their own business, maybe, or a charity) can make their day.
Little things like that might not seem like a big deal at the time but you could truly make someone’s day. In turn, they’ll stick by you through thick and thin.
What does your company do to show your care about your customers?
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/cheap-pr-tactics/