More About Customers – Love On ‘Em, Talk To ‘Em

Make Every Day Feel Like Customer Appreciation Day

Often the “Customer Appreciation Day/Week/Month” can come across as a corny way to get people inside your store to buy more stuff. If done right, though, even if they think that’s what you’re doing, they’ll still feel like you’re not taking them for granted. They feel special whether they want to or not. 

Business man drawing THANK YOUHowever, wouldn’t it be nice if your favorite company did this for you all the time rather than once a year? While this seems impossible, little things can add up quickly. This way you can keep your customers and fans happy year-round even when you’re not throwing some big in-house bash to show how much you care. Even better, these efforts can sometimes come off as even more genuine.

Twitter Feeds

Imagine you’re having kind of a crummy Monday  – you spilled coffee on your favorite tie, traffic was awful, you forgot to download new episodes of your favorite podcast, and there was only one-half of a boring pancake donut at the weekly meeting. You tweet about it to vent then go about your day.

Suddenly, you get a response from your favorite coffee place – Espresso Explosion. They offer their condolences for your crummy day and give you a coupon – 50% off your next order. They call it the “Monday Blues Killer” discount. Suddenly, your day just got that much better.

These are the little touches I mean. Espresso Explosion didn’t have to go out of their way like that – you were already following them, so they didn’t really have to do much more. However, to bring you into the store, they made you feel special by actually looking at your tweets. Just watch for that fine line between being caring and… well, NSA-like.

Email Marketing and Pitching

How much do you personalize your emails in your PR pitches or email marketing campaigns? Change the name and the company at least, or just have a flat form you send off?

The more personal you make your emails, whether they’re first time “come join us” messages or the 100th message you’ve sent to a business owner across the state, the more likely the recipient will read them. Not only that, they’ll respond better if they feel like they didn’t just get a form letter from a robot.

Right off the bat switching things up is important because again they’ll think you’re just a robot sending messages, even if you switch up the name in the email. It’s also important to do it later in the relationship as it will keep them interested in the messages they’re getting. Include stuff about their business, their life, and even their families if you get comfortable enough (“How’s Emily liking college?”).

Remembering Important Dates

You write down when you have a birthday coming up, or a doctor’s appointment, or any number of important dates. But why not also keep a running record of your fans’ important dates?

The more you get to know them the more you’ll know when they have big events coming up like a product release, a big move, or an anniversary. This way you can send them a discount or just a good word when the date rolls by.

One great way to collect this info is to ask about it on your Facebook page. Ask your fans what they have going on this month. Then during the month you can celebrate one lucky fan’s accomplishment with a freebie or something else they’ll enjoy.

Crown Your Customer King

While we all got into our chosen profession for different reasons, there’s one common thread that unites us: we all need our customers to survive! No matter what we sell or what services we offer we need people to pay attention and give us money in exchange. You can have the most brilliant idea in the world and it doesn’t mean anything if nobody notices or pays you for it.

This is why I find it so baffling when I see other companies or people have clearly put their own ideas first. There’s nothing more depressing than a seller who has clearly bought into their own hype and doesn’t care about giving anything to their customers.

As you navigate through your seller/freelance/business life, try to keep your customers in mind. In fact, you should go ahead and put them at the top of your list of importance; put a little crown next to them, for they are now the rulers of your business kingdom!

Ruling

Like most kings, sometimes customers make random and unnecessary rulings. Your options as a business owner are to do what the king decrees or stage a revolt. And sometimes a revolt is necessary if the demand is strange or harmful enough!

For the most part, though, your customer kings will make simple demands of you. Some may seem strange or far out there, but in the end they’re worth doing if you want to keep your kings happy.

For example, a customer may contact you about fixing a faulty product they received. Perfectly normal, right? Plus, it’s easy to fix; just apologize for the problem and fix the broken product or send out a new product.

But what if that customer calls and tells you they hate your website? Especially if you’ve just spent a lot of money updating it already? Now you need to make a decision whether to listen to your king or revolt. If you revolt, they may just stop visiting your site altogether. Is it worth it? Or are they right and you’re just denying it?

Pay-Off

Customers can tell when a company goes out of their way to make them #1. Even better, they’ll spread the word around to the friends and family online. Eventually, this will reach the ears of the general public.

Take companies like Amazon and Zappos. Zappos is more well-known for their great customer service, going out of their way to make their kings feel like part of the team. But Amazon is no slouch either, and have similar tales of bending over backwards to solve problems and satisfy the angry mobs.

These stories weren’t pushed out by the companies themselves (though Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh includes it in his speeches on customer service); they spread organically throughout the web via word of mouth. The customers were simply excited about something and they shared it. That excitement spread to others looking for reputable companies to become kings over, and both companies continue to grow.

Grabbing Those Elusive Customers

No matter how hard you try, they sit right over the next hill, ignoring you. You can see them, but they’re turned away and just don’t seem to notice you’re there. This is despite the huge crowd you have surrounding you, begging for your time. Those folks on the other hill aren’t swayed by numbers, though, and you feel as if they’re going further and further away.

Who are these mysterious people so nonchalant? Those elusive customers you’ve been chasing to come shop at your store, of course!

I’m not talking about that first set of customers that nets you your first sales. “Elusive” customers are the ones in that niche you’ve been chasing for months or years. They never seem to quite come around to your way of thinking, even if you manage to snag one or two of their group.

Why Won’t They Notice Me?

After you try to market to these folks for weeks and months and years, it may start to feel a little personal. If you’re marketing towards the middle-aged tennis player niche, it may feel like there’s a King or Queen Middle-Aged Tennis Player out there telling all the others to just ignore you.

But this thinking may ultimately be what’s bringing you down. You can’t see it as a personal vendetta or even that they don’t like your product. For most of the members of this niche, they just don’t see it as something they would ever buy.

For instance, say your store sells Star Wars memorabilia. Now, this isn’t something normally associated with middle aged people who enjoy tennis. As a result, they may not even think about buying something from you because they don’t know why they should.

I compare it to my mother back when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. “Why would someone like me watch that?” she asked. It made me stop and think. Why WOULD someone like her watch it when it’s not aimed at her? But if you really think there’s gold in that particular niche, you must find an answer to that question.

Go To Where They Are

How do you figure out what would get these tennis enthusiasts to swoon over your Luke coffee mugs and Chewy figurines? Only they can tell you. And to get the real lowdown, you must go where they congregate.

You can only really know somebody by listening to them. Luckily, they’re pouring their hearts out every day somewhere on the Internet. You just have to find where!

Even a niche like the middle aged tennis players of the world have websites and chat forums they frequent. They may be a little difficult to find, but they’re there. If you’re having trouble, you could always broaden your search and poke around tennis websites; perhaps there is a “40+” section on the forum.

In any case, once you find your future customers, get to know what they like and what makes them tick. Once you do, you’re bound to find a way to market your Star Wars swag to them in a way they won’t be able to resist.

Anticipating the Worst-Case Scenario when Engaging Customers Online

Thanks to social media, companies are engaging with their customers on a deeper level than ever before. From asking for their feedback to crowdsourcing their involvement in marketing campaigns, there are so many opportunities for brands to interact with their target audience.

woman competition swimmer on starting silhouetteMake no mistake, this is a good thing. However, it’s also very dangerous.

The fact is that every time you engage with your customers online in such an open way, you risk having the whole thing backfire on you.

Several years ago, Chevy tried to engage with its customers by launching a crowdsourcing campaign in which consumers were allowed to write their own ads for the car manufacturer’s SUV, the Tahoe. Getting their audience involved and sharing their unique ideas seemed like a no-brainer to the folks at Chevy. It was supposed to generate buzz for the brand by getting people to create and share their Chevy Tahoe videos. What ensued was a disaster.

The viral marketing plan backfired when people started making videos criticizing the SUV’s awful gas mileage and its harmful impact on the environment. The most popular videos were the ones that were the most critical of the product.

But this is far from the only example of a company attempting to engage its customers online only to have it backfire.

In 2010, Gap rolled out a new logo as part of a rebranding effort. The response to the new logo was not what the company had hoped for. People hated it.

So, what did Gap do? They made a Facebook post thanking everyone for their input on the new logo and asking their customers to submit their own designs and ideas. This only made things worse as the corporation’s attempt to fix the problem by getting free design work drew ridicule from countless people all across social media.  Eventually, the company had to nix the new logo and the crowdsourcing project, issuing a statement admitting their screw-up.

I could give you plenty of other examples of companies attempting to engage their customers online only to have the whole thing blow up in their faces (McDonald’s Twitter hashtag campaign comes to mind) but you get the point – you have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario when engaging your customers online.

Getting your customers involved and soliciting their feedback are good things. But before you do so, you need to fully explore the possible outcomes of doing so. Could this backfire on you? How could people misinterpret or misuse your campaign? What damage could your brand suffer as a result? Is it worth the risk?

Always know what you’re getting into before you dive in.

7 Ways to Build a Better Client Survey

Customer surveys are a great tool to have in your small business arsenal. There aren’t many ways to find out exactly what your customers think about your company and want from you in the future outside of using a survey. However, creating the right set of questions in the perfect order can be harder than you might imagine. Your company most likely has very specific questions that they would like answered from the customer, but you can’t make the survey so rigid or complicated that no one wants to fill it out. So what can you do to make an easy to follow, yet informative survey?

The word Survey on a cork notice board

  1. Incentives—People are busy. They have jobs, kids, mortgages, dinner with the in-laws, and the list goes on and on. What they might not have time for is your survey. This is where a great incentive comes in handy. Offer 10% off their next service or a free upgrade if they complete the survey. A little bonus can go a long way.
  2. Open-Ended Questions—It can be difficult to gauge how a customer truly feels about your company when you use a 1-5 or a 1-10 scale. Give them the opportunity to explain with an open-ended question and a text box.
  3. Demographics—Set up your survey so that you can see how the answers are lining up in regards to age or location. You can also ask them how long they have been using your company and review the data between new and long-term customers.
  4. Keep it Short—A customer survey does not need to be 50 questions long. In fact, it should be concise and to the point. Again, your customers are busy people and they won’t thank you for wasting their time.
  5. No Leading Questions—When you are writing your questions, keep your language neutral. So instead of, “What do you think of ABC Plumbing’s new top notch website?” use “What do you think of ABC Plumbing’s website?”
  6. Timing—Timing is everything and it varies from business to business. Let’s say you run a restaurant, the best time for a customer survey might be right after the meal. Either place a customer comment card at the table or include one with their bill. If you are an accountant, you might consider doing an end of the year survey for your clients.
  7. Review and Edit—Take a look at the answers you have received to see if you need to make changes on the next survey. Chances are one of your questions didn’t make sense to your customers, so use this time to edit it.

A customer survey is only good if you use the data you gather. So many companies send out surveys and then never read them. Either they are too busy to take advantage of this knowledge or they just sent out the survey because they thought it was they were supposed to do. Learn from them and use the data to your company’s benefit.

Do you have any other tips for building a better customer survey? Talk to us in the comments.

Don’t “Flatten” Your Conversation with Customers

There’s a tendency to hurry through a conversation with a customer who has an issue. You want to figure out what the problem is and fix it as soon as you can so they don’t complain to their friends or stop buying from you altogether. But in your haste to make amends, you may not get their full story.

Not that trying to fix an issue quickly is a bad thing, of course. You do want to solve the problem and get the customer back to buying things from you in order to restore balance. The issue, though, is we often forget to follow up on our instincts during this period. There may be underlying issues we need to address, but we gloss over during the conversation. Small business owners tend to be “fixers,” but sometimes it’s time to just sit back and listen.

Anything Else?

There’s one phrase that can easily lead to a better, less “flat” conversation with your customers: Can I help you with anything else? This follow-up is widely used but not as effectively as it should be.

Most people aren’t going to have a follow-up question ready, even though they may have an issue they need resolved. This is where your business instincts should kick in. During the conversation, you should have picked up on some cues that something else was wrong – either a bigger problem or one related to the offending incident that shows where the real issue is.

If you don’t follow this instinct, the conversation could die before you got to the real meat of the problem. For example, your customer may complain on Facebook their product isn’t quite working right. Normally after you fix the product or replace it, that’s the end of the exchange. However, your instincts kick in and you realize this has been an ongoing issue with the customer and he’s thinking about not buying anything else. You’ve suddenly stumbled upon a deeper problem.

Use It to Expand

This continuous PR doesn’t just smooth things over with your customer, it can drastically change your company. You may learn things about the business you otherwise wouldn’t have and be all the better for it.

If the customer above was repeatedly having problems with your product and it was just a coincidence, that’s one thing. Sometimes products don’t work and accidents happen. There’s really no way around that.

However, if he’s been having problems due to no fault of his own and it’s a repeat offense, you may have suddenly learned where your company needs to focus. Maybe your product is more complicated than you thought for the average user, and needs to come with a tutorial. This is why leveraging different PR techniques is so effective – not only do you learn all about your customers, but you learn quite a bit about yourself as well.

What ways do you show your customers you appreciate them? Tell me in the comments!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab three free ebooks, including the Big Press Release Book and Twitter Tactics, here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/big-press-release-samples-book/

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