Pleasing the average consumer isn’t particularly difficult. In fact, compared to many aspects of running a successful small business, it’s pretty basic stuff. Despite this fact, a surprising number of small business owners seem to be hell bent on driving their customers away.
Should you find yourself at the helm of a small business and you’d like to grow your customer base rather than shrink it, here are nine common mistakes that you simply cannot afford to make.
Poor Customer Service
First off, we have the single most common cause of unhappy customers, poor customer service. There’s nothing quite like poorly trained front line staff for hurting a company’s ability to retain customers. Your front line staff need to understand the importance of smiling, being attentive to your customer’s needs, and going that extra mile when necessary.
While there’s certainly no denying the importance of employing friendly sales assistants, occasionally, smiles do need to be backed up with actual knowledge. In other words, clueless staff members can sometimes be just as irritating as the rude variety. All of your front line staff members should be equipped with an in-depth knowledge about the products and services that your business provides.
Make no mistake about it, if you want to keep your customers, you need to keep your promises. Examples of what not to do include:
– Advertising products that aren’t permanently in stock.
– Advertising short term promotions without mentioning when they end.
– Promising a no questions asked return policy when you have every intention of asking questions.
Don’t make promises based upon what your customers want to hear. Make them based upon what your business can actually deliver.
Forever on Hold
There’s certainly no shortage of ways to irritate the average consumer but I’d argue that one of the most effective is simply keeping them on hold. When you leave a customer on hold, you are essentially telling them two things about your business. Firstly, you don’t value their custom and secondly, you’re not professional enough to handle customer enquiries in an efficient manner. Neither statement exactly encourages customer loyalty.
Failure to Listen
If you’ve already been asked a specific question fifty times, the temptation to tune out the fifty-first time is only natural. Unfortunately, this can lead to one of the most commonly made customer service mistakes, failing to listen. To avoid this, train your staff to treat each customer individually. And more importantly, train them to avoid formulating answers until they have actually listened to the questions being asked.
“Sorry, It’s Our Policy”
Another surprisingly easy way to infuriate your customers is to set your store policies in stone. While there are times when it’s important to stand firm with irate customers, if you can’t come up with any other reason to do so other than “store policy”, chances are you would be better off giving in. Store policy alone is never a valid reason for refusing to help a customer.
Making Payment Difficult
When a customer approaches your business to make a purchase, it’s just good business sense to make that transaction go as smoothly as possible. And limiting the number of payment options that you accept is a very good example of doing the exact opposite. Refuse a customer’s money and you can rest assured that they’re going to take that money directly to one of your competitors.
Few consumers will begrudge your business for making the occasional mistake. After all, nobody’s perfect. What the average consumer does tend to begrudge however is a failure to own up to ones mistakes. If you get something wrong, the correct response is always an apology, not an excuse. The former generally leads to forgiveness; the latter generally leads to nothing but resentment. And resentment very rarely leads to repeat custom.
Forgetting to Say Thank You
Finally, there’s the small matter of saying thank you, forgetting to do so is probably the easiest way to lose a customer of them all. It doesn’t matter if a customer has just spent a thousand dollars or ten, interactions between a business and a consumer are always supposed to end with those two little words. And when you forget them, you can usually expect to forget about repeat business too.
This post is authored by Greg Fisher. He is the owner of a plastic injection molding company. He is also a part of their senior management and has tremendous experience of market handling. An avid reader, he likes to read his favorite novels in his spare time.