Ask anyone in business about their worst customer ever and they’ll be hard-pressed to tell you about just one.
But ask them about their best customer ever and they’ll probably have to take time to think about it.
It’s the old 80-20 rule in action; for most people, it’s the unpleasant, nasty or outrageous that sticks in the memory. The good bits blur.
Which explains why, as a business person, you sometimes forget the basic truth that our customers are your biggest supporters.
And all they want from you is for you to meet their expectations – which means not doing any of the things highlighted below:
Engaging poorly trained staff
Imagine that you walk into a store wanting to purchase some blinds for your home. But although several different sales people seem eager to assist you, none of them seem to know anything about the product! Imagine how frustrating that would be – and how long it would take you to walk out and take your business elsewhere.
Customers, you see, have an expectation that sales people at a business will be knowledgeable about that business’s products and services.
If your business operations include a customer expectation that they will be able to interact with knowledgeable staff, you’d better have some – especially if your sales depend on it.
Restricting your hours of operation
A restaurant that only stays open until 3 p.m. A doctor that only works two days a week. A bakery that closes for a month at a time so its owners can go on vacation.
Three examples. Three businesses that have lost customers (and money!) because of restricted hours that seem unreasonable to prospective customers.
You need to provide customers with what they will consider to be reasonable access to your products and services. If you don’t, they’ll find what you’re selling elsewhere.
It’s interesting how forgiving some customers will be. Even doing a shoddy job for them once is not enough for them to never give you a chance to sell to them again in some cases.
Being unresponsive to customers can occur at any stage of the sales cycle. An interior designer who overrides a customer’s color choice or who can’t be bothered to fully answer a prospective client’s questions about her service is guilty of ignoring a customer’s wishes.
Unfortunately, in a world of phone texting and social media, customers’ expectations are ballooning. If you’re feeling stretched too thin to be properly responsive to your customers, it’s time to hire some help.
Making customers feel unimportant
Making a customer feel unimportant is even more unforgivable in a customer’s view.
Everyone has a need to feel that what they do and say matters. Feeding this need is the essence of good customer service.
But it’s so easy to fail. When we do things such as not returning a client’s call in a timely fashion, not giving them our full attention when we speak (or worse, interrupting them!) or not providing them with some sort of acknowledgement when they become “regulars”, we tell them that they’re not important to us, whether it’s true or not.
Lying to them
You’ll get away with it for a while because generally people want to believe the best of one another and because if you promise a customer, for instance, that you will definitely, positively have that new product in five days, it will take them at least five days to discover that you made them a promise you couldn’t keep.
And then most people will tell themselves that things happen and you didn’t mean to lie to them and let you tell them the next lie.
But here’s the rub; they won’t fully trust you to fulfill your promise the second time – and they’ll be about one hundred times less likely to recommend your business to somebody else.
Making customers feel cheated
If you need an absolute never-fail way of ensuring that a customer never darken your literal or figurative doorway again, this is it – because this is the one thing that a customer will never forgive.
Customers will make excuses for you – to a point.
Shoddy service? You were having an off day.
No return call? You’re really really busy.
A rip-off? We’re done!
You have to be careful to avoid the possible perception that your business is trying to take advantage of customers too. Sales techniques such as up-selling may be viewed this way by the customer, so before you use them, consider their potential effect; they might not be suitable for your industry.
Customers’ perceptions of prices are probably the main source of sour feelings about their transactions. All customers are not seeking bargains, but they all expect prices to be fair.
Share your thoughts!