I use my phone for everything. It is probably not healthy, but I’m a big fan of anything that makes my life easier. I have the apps for all our favorite restaurants so that I can easily put our name on the wait list or order carry out. I have all of my travel apps so that I can easily scan my flight tickets or order my hotel room door with my phone. I have health apps, productivity apps, even apps to control appliances in my home.
Why am I telling you this? The other day, my husband was working around the house and needed more spackle. He asked if I could go to the hardware store and pick up some more. I live in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana and we have a lot of hardware store options around here. The big three are Menards, The Home Depot, and Lowe’s. Then there are some smaller ones like Ace hardware and True Value. So we have lots of options. But anytime I can, I choose The Home Depot. Why? Because their mobile app (and even their mobile site) is so very helpful.
To start off, they provide an option to either scan or take a photo of the item you need to find. As you can imagine, with hardware, not everything has a bar code. In this case, I was able to scan the pack of the bucket. Right away, the app displayed the item I was looking for as well as some very helpful information. It told me in which aisle the item was located. But not only that, it told me exactly which bin to look in. Most importantly, it told me that there were 47 of that particular item in stock. How many times have you gone to a store only to find that they item you were looking for was out of stock? This provided me peace of mind knowing that I would actually be able to purchase the item when I got to the store. When I got to the store, the app showed me exactly where in the store the item was located.
Inside the store, everything is clearly marked. It literally took me less than 5 minutes to find what I was looking for in the store. The only thing that slowed me down was that they didn’t have tap and pay. I had to dig in my wallet and get my credit card out and actually put it in the machine to pay.
What lessons can be learned by this?
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Think about what your customers need from you. What are the barriers to them making a purchase? Get rid of those barriers.
- KISS. Yes, that is Keep It Simple, Stupid. Make things as easy as possible for your customers.
- Every touchpoint is an opportunity. It doesn’t matter if it is in the mobile app or in-store, the experience was easy for me, the customers.
Now think about your business. How can you make every touchpoint easier for your customers?
Business owners talk to their customers all the time, right? Well…not always.
I am continually surprised by how many large companies do not respond to their customer or potential customers on social media. WHY? If a customer walked into your store or called you on the phone, would you ignore them? I would hope not! If you are not going to engage with your audience on social media, then maybe that is not the right channel for you to communicate.
Don’t be like those big companies. You are in a unique situation as a small business to engage with your customers at a personal level.
Here are some common queries that customers ask and how to respond to them:
Logistical questions: What time are you open? Do you carry a certain product?
Response: Always, always answer these type of questions. As quickly as possible. If you use Facebook, you can even set up standard responses. Or develop a list of answers to common questions so you can easily respond to your customers. These are no-brainers.
Compliments: They love your products, had a great experience with an associate or want to share your generosity.
Response: Some businesses think they don’t need to respond to these type of messages. But that is wrong. By responding (particularly to a public comment), you elevate these brand-boosting messages. If it is a really good comment, you might even think about asking the person who made it if you could use their comment (or image) in your marketing. This is called UCG, user generated content.
Complaints: They had a bad experience with you, your staff or your products.
Response: It may not be comfortable, but you need to acknowledge complaints. Do not just leave them hanging out there without responding. Show empathy. Make it right (if you can). There is no excuse for not responding to a complaint, particularly when it is public. Responding shows everyone else that you are paying attention and make things right if there is a problem.
Does it matter if the messages are direct to you or public comments? In most cases, no. If you don’t respond to public comments and questions, everyone will see that you are not engaged with your customers. If you don’t respond to direct messages, you are ignoring customers who are actively seeking you out. They took the time to find you online to ask a question. You should take the time to respond.
Have more questions about engaging with your customers, contact me for a free 30-minute get acquainted call.
When it comes to customer loyalty programs, there are two schools of thought. The first is that providing enticements to customers should not be necessary and is a cost without great reward for the company. The second is that offering rewards to your customers is just good business and inspires, well….loyalty.
Over the past few years, rewards program companies have cropped up. Some are better than others. Some understand the nature of customer loyalty and some are just going through the motions. If you will be looking to start a customer loyalty, be sure to do your research before choosing a vendor. Once you start, you are stuck with what you purchased unless you want to give your customers whiplash and degrade customer loyalty.
So should you employ this type of customer engagement? That depends. You first need to ask yourself some questions:
- Are you customers repeat customers? If you sell something that people don’t buy very often, having a customer loyalty program probably won’t change that.
- What reward could you offer that will get your customers to come back? If you own a restaurant with a very high price point, getting a $5 credit after 5 visits is not most likely going to be a reason to come back.
- Can you use a loyalty program to encourage customer referrals? These types of programs aren’t just to bring current customers back, but can be used to garner new customers as well.
Do you have a customer loyalty program? How is it going? Have you had growing pains? Let us know about in the comments or on social media!