Breaking down barriers and building consumer relationshipsBY Australian Retailers Association
Forget gifts-with-purchase, the key to winning loyal customers is to treat them with the respect they deserve.
Consumer engagement is hardly rocket science, but many businesses have forgotten the basic principles of identifying, attracting and keeping their ideal customer. Without effort, customer service only functions as professional politeness; magic happens when you're proactive about attracting them. Here’s five ways to improve your customer service and engagement.
1. Give them a reason to love you
Start by giving customers a reason to believe you are the best by making your product, service and customer experience better than any of your competitors. A clean Uber car with water, mints and a charging cable will book more repeat clients than a taxi on any given day.
2. Spread the good word
Give potential customers a little encouragement to use your cervices with social proof including testimonials and reviews from existing customers as engagement encourages more engagement.
Retailers can demonstrate professional engagement by developing a solid network of partners that support their business. For example, strategic alliances with complementary businesses that share the same values and same ideal customers as yours can help you promote your business or provide useful insights—and you can do the same for them.
Another method is to use influencers, social media celebrities who specialise in a niche, to promote your brand. Influencers have cultivated a relationship with their audience over time, a line of trust you can leverage if your values are aligned and you can strike the right deal. The price for their services ranges from product samples to a marketing fee, so make sure you have a contract in writing that spells out what you expect from them and what you will give in return.
3. Create a friendly, positive space
A business owner should never walk past a customer without saying 'hello', and neither should your staff. Acknowledging the customer and offering an opportunity for them to address you gives the cue that you are ready to listen to them and meet their needs.
Be mindful to keep the customer space free from negativity. It can be cringe-worthy hearing sales assistants gossiping and swearing about someone else in a retail space. Daily communication with staff needs to be positive, especially in front of customers.
4. Break down barriers
Eliminate potential barriers to the consumer relationship. Address customers' fear of the unknown by providing clarity on what to expect and supporting their education with knowledgeable staff. This might include making sure there's a line of sight into your store past your shopfront and having online 3D virtual tours of your business to cater to the omni-shoppers who look online and inside your physical business.
For more specialised businesses, this step might require a little more effort. Although a clothing retailer can show an outfit on a mannequin or model, a dental practice might need to host explainer videos of different procedures on its website.
Transparency extends to being upfront about your prices. Many businesses believe a high price is a barrier for a customer, when the bigger obstacle is actually a fear of what the price might be. Listing your prices and giving upfront quotes for your services may actually increase sales as people appreciate honesty and value. Therefore, it’s important to focus on providing value and communicating this well with your customers.
5. Finish with a flourish
The last thing a customer hears from you should give them a positive lasting impression. It may sound obvious, but too many retailers leave the customer experience at the point of payment. The one thing that will stick in the minds of the consumer is the final interaction in-store. This final touch point should not be waiting 10 minutes in a queue, a rude cashier, or asking for money. It should be a genuine 'thank you' and a fond farewell. This last interaction is what a customer leaves with, not what's in the bag or your shop's expensive fit-out.
Excellent customer service should not be a laborious effort but an integral part of your brand values and ancillary to sales and marketing. Make sure you do the right thing by your customers and make a habit of positive customer engagement as your customers will reward your business with loyalty for years to come.
Dr David Hills is the founder of iNEEDa, a platform created to bring patients and dentists together in a way that rewards transparency, convenience and patient care. The online interactive search engine sends qualified leads to a dentist’s clinic and makes it easy for consumers to connect with a dentist that suits their specific needs. Learn more at ineedadentist.com/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Australian Retailers Association
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.