In a world that rewards glitz and glam, there’s nothing fancy about the 90-year-old hardware store in my community. Truthfully, the design of the interior is rather odd and makes me feel as if I’m about to enter a maze with shelves of products lining the aisles from pillar to post. But, after years of entering through the well-worn wooden door, I know I will be warmly greeted and receive helpful advice on how to fix my dripping kitchen faucet once I get inside.
Although some products are priced slightly higher than the big box store a few miles away, it’s a price I’m willing to pay to maintain a relationship with a business that provides me with practical advice and exceptional service. I’m a loyal customer because my high expectations are consistently met and any problems with my purchases are quickly resolved.
And, research shows that businesses that wow customers with a great experience improve their bottom line. Loyal customers spend more and keeping them is less expensive than getting a new customer. Just as important, small businesses rely on repeat sales and positive feedback and are impacted even more than large companies when customers are dissatisfied and don’t return.
According to a 2014 survey conducted by American Express, 46 percent of customers will tell the people they know about a good experience. Yet, 60 percent say they always share the bad ones, and tell almost 3 times as many people (an average of 21 people vs. 8 people).
However, few stores are even aware or willing admit their service is anything less than perfect. In fact, 80 percent of companies believe they offer a “superior customer experience”. Unfortunately, only 8 percent of customers agree*. So why is there such a big disconnect and what do customers really want?
- Deliver a hassle-free experience. Customers don’t like unpleasant surprises. Being out of-stock on popular products can be irritating, but rude behavior is rarely tolerated. Customers may sulk in silence and never buy from you again.
- Go above and beyond. Extending small courtesies like giving away hot dogs and popcorn every Saturday engage the community and have a big impact. Also, consider holding paint and decorating workshops or creating projects using ideas found on Pinterest. Assembly and delivery services are also good options.
- Listen before reacting. Hear what your customers have to say and ask the right questions before recommending a product or deciding on a solution. This builds trust and shows the customer addressing their needs is more important than making a quick sale.
- Know your business inside and out. Customers assume you know more about the products and services you sell than they do. When they you’re your business they expect you to have answers and solutions.
- Handle Complaints Quickly. Mistakes happen. Accept responsibility and handle them quickly. Being proactive not only solves the issue it makes customers more loyal. If problems are fixed quickly, 90% of customers are likely to return or rebuy.
- Ask for Feedback. Make it easy for customers to share their comments and ideas on how you can improve your service or product assortment. Try asking them as you wrap up the conversation or place comment boxes and cards a at them a dedicated they’d like you to sell or what you can do better to make them happy. This makes them a part of your “community”
Clearly every business wants to keep the customers they have and get new ones. So, it’s important to earn a reputation for being a great place to shop. Be sure to treat each customer with respect and take the time to understand their needs and what they require to be completely satisfied.