15 Key Customer Service Skills

We all know that excellent customer service is good for your business, whether you’re a huge corporate, or a small business. No matter what you do, your customers are what makes your business work, so it’s crucial to look after them and make them feel valued.

According to Dimensional Research, 52% of consumers say that they have made an additional purchase from a company after a positive customer service experience. And that 90% of customers are influenced by positive reviews when buying a product.

So, what key customer service skills do you need to possess to make your business stand out?

Patience

They say that ‘Patience is a virtue’ and I’m a firm believer in this. It isn’t the easiest of skills to master, but patience will help you and your customer. It’s very important to hear what your customers have to say; they might be frustrated about something, or just simply confused. They might ask totally irrelevant questions, but it is absolutely crucial to keep calm, hear them out and then try and work through their issues together.

Active listening

Active listening is closely linked to patience. Don’t just hear what your customers are saying – listen carefully and, if necessary, repeat back to them what they’ve just said to you. This demonstrates that you’re listening and understand what they want or what issue they have.

Respect

Hand in hand with patience and active listening is respect. This might seem obvious, but important to remember. Respect is about treating your customers as you would like to be treated. You’d want the person on the end of the phone or email to solve your problem, be polite and actually do something. You can show respect by:

  • Using their name
  • Don’t interrupt them when they’re speaking
  • If you are face to face, look at them when they’re speaking.
  • If you’re on the phone, don’t be checking emails or scrolling your phone, give them your full attention and SMILE! It really does come over the air waves!
  • Wait until they have finished talking or telling you their problem before responding – then summarise what they’ve said and offer a solution.
  • If you can’t offer an immediate solution or alternative, tell them that you will investigate and get back to them.
  • Get back to them in a timely manner – when you said you would!

Self-Control

You are going to get a range of customers calling your business. Some will be happy and calm, will speak in a low voice. Some will be excitable and speak loudly and quickly; and inevitably, you will get the angry customer who shouts and yells, using harsh words – maybe even using expletives to insult you or your business personally.

This is the time to exercise self-control. This is not an easy skill to master, but it’s absolutely vital, especially with the shouting and yelling customer!  Don’t interrupt or tell them you’re not prepared to listen to them – they might just want to be heard and the only way they know how is to shout. Even though they are shouting, try to listen to the actual problem they have encountered. When they have finished, take a couple of deep breaths and then respond. Apologise if necessary and ask them how you can resolve their problem – ascertain what they want. Tell them that you understand their issue and repeat it back to them. Then, in a calm voice, try and discuss a solution that is good for them and for you and your business. You might have to offer an alternative product or service. They might want a refund or replacement. Whatever it is, there is usually a solution to be found, by talking it through with them.

Genuine concern

It’s well-known that showing genuine concern for your customers’ well-being is one of the most important good customer service skills. Concern for your customer is linked to being concerned for the reputation of your business. If you are not concerned about the success of your business and your businesses reputation, you’re not going to be very concerned about the happiness of your customers. They are inextricably linked.

Use positive language. Language and how you say something to a customer plays a big role in delivering excellent customer service. For example, if a customer contacts you to ask about ordering a particular product, but you don’t have any in stock

Negative response – That product isn’t in stock, so unavailable at the moment.

Positive response – We will be restocking that product next week, so I’ll contact you as soon as it’s available.

It’s a very subtle change in language, but makes all the difference to a customer.

Be flexible

It’s important to be flexible when dealing with customers. You may have a policy that says you don’t give away a free product or service, or you don’t do refunds. But there are times when this will be necessary to resolve an issue. If you find you have to bend the rules from time to time to keep your customers happy, it’s not a failure on your part. It can turn an unhappy customer into a future loyal customer – one who tells their friends and family how great you are and how you solved their problem, so worth keeping that in mind.

Communication Skills

This goes without saying really, but thought I’d add this into the mix. Communication is more than the words that you use – it also involves body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, to name a few. These can be very important when dealing with a customer who is not happy. 

  • Keep your body relaxed
  • Show genuine concern on your face
  • Keep your voice calm and neutral
  • Use positive language – words such as can, will, help and resolve are great words to use to help diffuse a situation.

Time Management Skills

It’s always important to be aware of the time you are spending with a customer. If you are finding that a particular customer is just too demanding, or you find you can’t resolve their problem, you need to recognise your limitations. It might be that they are not a good fit for you and your business. There is no shame in admitting this and referring them to someone who will be a better fit. This will save you both time and money in the long run. And that customer will respect you for solving their problem by referring them to someone who can help them.

Handling the unexpected

No matter how long you’ve been in business, there will at times be an element of surprise. At some point, you will face an unexpected situation, so always worth thinking about this so you have a plan.

Now, I have no idea what you might face with your business, but it’s worth knowing what you’ll do if you are faced with something you don’t know how to handle. I would ask the customer for a contact name and number, then make sure I completely understand the situation and tell them that I’ll come back to them. I always give them a specific time – even if I say, ‘I’ll ring you between 10 and 12 tomorrow morning’. This gives them confidence that you’ll look into their issue and gives you time to think about it and work out how you can solve it.

Just ensure that you do get back to them at the time you said you would. If you haven’t been able to get them an answer by that time, still ring them. Be honest and say that you are working on the problem, but it’s taking longer than you expected and give them a new time that you’ll ring to let them know the answer.

Responsibility

Responsibility links in with the element of surprise. If you take responsibility for the problem, your customer will respect and trust you in future. Get involved, be honest with them and stay with the problem until you resolve it.

Persuasion Skills

You will have customers who will be happy with the solution you offer. And there will, inevitably, be some that won’t. This is where persuasive techniques come in. Sometimes, a customer will want to know more about a product or service in more detail before buying. Persuasive skills will be giving them more details and turning that into why the product or service is suitable for them (if it is of course). This will obviously be beneficial to your business too.

You might need to use your persuasive abilities to illustrate exactly why the solution you offer is the best for them. You many need to offer an alternative offer – or try to explain in a different way. 

Improves your brand image

Your company brand is linked to your reputation. Part of earning that reputation with your customers is by doing things well, no matter how hard they might be.

Customer service sets the tone for your whole brand. First impressions really count and a helpful attitude assists in shaping that first impression. Everyone likes to have a positive customer experience and friendly, honest customer service. A good communications strategy will help you and your business to be seen as caring and one that really values its customers and their opinions. It should cover everything from how to talk to your customers and how that aligns with your brand and business strategy.

Feedback

Never underestimate the power of your customers. Customer servicing calls can give you valuable feedback about your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. For example, if you are made aware of an issue, you can ask for your customers’ opinions, through feedback surveys, social media and emails. These tools can serve two purposes; gathering feedback about a potential solution and getting you positive reviews and feedback that you can use to promote your business.  

Asking for opinions makes customers feel valued and can help improve your customer retention. If you use their opinions and suggestions, they will become brand advocates.

Measuring customer satisfaction, through the use of surveys, social media polls etc., help you keep an eye on your customers’ overall experience with your business and brand. You can often deal with a potential problem before it becomes an issue.    

Ability to close

I don’t mean closing a sale here. I’m talking about ending a conversation with a customer. Sometimes a customer just wants to chat and can go completely off subject. You need to be able to steer the conversation back to the point. Only end your conversation after you have solved the problem, or told them that you’ll find a solution and get back to them.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and treat their problem as yours. The customer needs to be aware that you care, value their opinion and they need to be confident that you will deal with whatever they throw at you.

Conclusion

It is well-known that customers are more loyal to those businesses that show transparency in everything they do. And they don’t mind paying a bit more if they are confident in your business and its transparency.

Excellent customer service promotes trust and loyalty; customers are more likely to try other products or services that you offer and they are more likely to recommend your business to their friends and family.     

How to solve your customers’ pain points

A customer pain point is a specific problem experienced by your customers at every interaction they have with you and your business.

If you want to build credibility in your brand and gain your customers, and potential customers’ trust, you need to understand their journey and what keeps them happy. If you can find your customers’ pain points, earn their trust, and solve that pain point for them, they will know that you care about them and they will be happy.

You’ll also be one step ahead of your competition!

Different types of pain points

Generally customer pain points fall into four different areas, no matter how big or small those problems are.

Support

Support issues are probably the easiest to resolve. Customers expect to have a certain standard of support from businesses they deal with these days. Whether they have a problem with one of your products, a query related to one of your products or just want more information, they expect to be able to contact you and get the answer quickly.

Some of the most common support issues are those of delayed response, lack of product knowledge, or your business is simply not on your customers’ preferred channel of communication.

These few simple problems can impact your customer retention and also the loyalty they have to your business.

And it’s so simply to resolve. Have options!

Delayed response

This could be solved by ensuring that emails/texts/messages etc., are looked at in a timely manner – look at them on a regular basis a few times a day.

Lack of product knowledge

This refers more to having employees – make sure that your employees know all about your products. Provide cheat sheets if necessary, so they know all the ins and outs of everything you sell.

Put good descriptions of your products on your website and give customers the option of contacting you if they have any problems or questions.

Preferred channel of communication

As well as having email/text/messenger, you could also use some of the more recent tools like live chat and AI chatbots. These allow them to speak to someone in real time.

Finally, always give a contact telephone number, where customers can speak to a person directly, or ask them to leave a message with their number and you will return their call within an hour….AND DO IT!  

Productivity

Productivity pain points often come about because customers expect to have a straight forward and easy experience when they contact a business. They don’t want to spend a lot of time on anything they see as frustrating or inconvenient.

It might be that a product is not how they want it to be, or expect it to be – some kind of inconvenience in using the product. Or it could be that there is some kind of problem with the buying process.

In order to solve this problem, it’s important to convince your customers that your product saves time and effort. This can be achieved by using images and good product descriptions, which explain your product’s features and benefits and exactly how they work and gives value. It could be as easy as having fewer steps in your checkout process.

Financial

The third pain point is financial. This is about the pain of spending money on their business that ends up putting them under financial pressure. This could be through spending a lot on subscription fees or membership fees. Or perhaps paying a lot on repeat purchases. Sometimes, products are advertised as being made to last, but in reality they have to be replaced frequently.

Transparency about pricing also comes into this area. Are there any fees that are hidden that are added on at checkout? Or, perhaps fees go up dramatically and this isn’t made clear.

If you have customers with any of these pain points, your goal could be to show your customers what value they receive when using and choosing your products over your competitors. Also, if they pay a subscription or membership fee, that the value, information and advice they receive is worth every penny. Lastly, be transparent about pricing, then customers know exactly what to expect and there are no surprises.  

Process

A process pain point is about how your business interacts with your customers through your processes. This could be as simple as they can’t get through to the right department when they need to, or that when they submit an order or application for something, that the process is not streamlined enough.

This could be a simple matter of streamlining communication processes to be sure that any queries are answered by the right people at the right time. Make it easier for your customers to contact you and ensure that your products/services are easier to use.  

How do you find out what your customers’ pain points are?

If you don’t know what your pain points are, how can you solve them? It’s important to find out…but how?

Conduct research

There are several ways to conduct research.

  • If you have an email list, you could send out a survey to find out if there are any pain points. Questions would need to be specific and written around the four different types of pain points.
  • Have a look at your sales pitch. Is there something missing?
  • You will have regular customers, but have you had customers that don’t come back for more? Look at your complaints or feedback. There may be a little nugget of information that you’ve missed – a throw-away comment that could give you an insight into why they haven’t come back for more.
  • In the same way, look at all your online reviews. Are there any clues into any potential pain points?
  • Hopefully, you will have worked on a few buyer personas, but there may be other audiences that you could reach, but you just don’t know why those people don’t resonate with your brand. Do some research on your competitors. If you know that your competitors reach a certain audience that you currently don’t, analyse what they do, and how their products or services reach those people.   
  • Look at how your customers interact with your brand. Are there things you could improve? Check that links work on your website and social media. Are you easy to contact?

Customer pain points can be a massive hurdle to you being successful. And finding your customer pain points is not necessarily easy to pinpoint. But, in order to get your customers’ attention and make them want to do business with you, buy repeat products, and use your services etc., it’s crucial to know what those pain point are.

If you can base your products and services on pain points…eliminating as many as you can, your customers will have more reasons to do business with you and there will be less obstacles in the way.

Customer Loyalty programme – good or bad?

What is a customer loyalty programme?

Customer loyalty is where your existing customers return to you time and time again with repeat business. It’s usually because they love your brand, love your products/services and are really happy with the experiences they’ve had with your business.

Over the last several years, we’ve seen more and more companies using customer loyalty schemes or programmes to reward their existing customers, and to encourage them to keep coming back for more. A good example is that of coffee shops. They give you a card and every time you buy a coffee you get your card stamped. When you have 10 stamps on your card, you get a free coffee. Some programmes give you cash-back or use a points system, but they are all basically the same, with the same reasons for using one.

Why use a customer loyalty programme?

They are great for small businesses because they give your customers an incentive to give you repeat custom. Some loyalty programmes reward customers for introducing a friend (and they get a reward if that friend becomes a customer).

These programmes also increase your brand awareness and can help generate a positive return on investment. But, as with any scheme or programme, there are the downsides as well as the upsides. I thought I’d take a look at the pros and cons, so you can be in a better place to decide whether a customer loyalty programme might be good for your business.

The Pros

Customer Retention

According to the advisory firm, Bain & Co, increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost your profits by 25%-95%, so looking after your existing customers is vital for the good health of your business and profits.

Customer loyalty programmes also have the benefit of making your customers feel like their custom is valued and they feel appreciated. This, in turn, makes them want to carry on doing business with you. And it makes financial sense to introduce such a programme as, according to Inc.com, existing customers spend 67% more than new customers. So, the benefits to both the customer and your business is potentially huge to boost customer retention and give them an incentive to buy more.  

Direct communication with your customers

Your customer loyalty programme means that you have access to a direct line of communication with your customers. This makes things a lot easier to build your brand awareness and increase that loyalty by providing them with regular and relevant information. You can collect their email address as part of your loyalty programme and can share news about new products or services, events, any promotions you might be running, as well as any updates to the loyalty programme.

Customers who feel valued and ‘in the know’ about a business they buy from, will not only keep returning to you, but they will tell their friends and family, which could give you new connections and customers.

Data on customer trends

Having the contact details, such as email, of your customers, and the records you keep of sales from each of those customers gives you valuable data. Customer data gives you an overview of your customers’ buying behaviour. You know what their preferences are, you know their buying habits, such as when they are more likely to buy something. This not only helps you with knowing what works and what doesn’t, if you sell products it can help with your stock and knowing what to stock more of. It also helps you with your advertising and promotions planning and helps your marketing, as you can measure the results of special promotions, new products etc.  

It can also help you to segment your customers and find out which ones are profitable and which ones aren’t. This can help you decide which customers to target with new products or new promotions, as you can target the ones that are more likely to buy from you.

Brand differentiation

Loyalty programmes help your brand and can help distinguish you from your competitors. As a customer myself, I know that I am bombarded on a daily basis with an overwhelming number of choices for a particular product or service. The minute you type anything into a Google search, it seems to be picked up by your social media pages and you get loads of adverts about the product you’re looking for – you also suddenly get a barrage of spam emails about the same. I don’t know about you, but I find this extremely irritating! I’d rather stick with a brand that I know and trust.

A loyalty programme can help your customers choose you over the competition and the fact that you offer an incentive to be a loyal customer, this differentiates your brand against the other businesses with a similar brand to yours.

It can also help you in slow seasons, when business is not going very well. Take an airline for example, in the summer they sell loads of plane tickets as people jet off for some summer sun. But in Autumn and Winter, business can be a bit slower. So, they do special low prices on airline tickets to incentivise customers to get away in the slower seasons, at a much reduced price. This keeps the airline ticking over.  

The Cons   

All loyalty programmes look the same

Loyalty programmes are not a new concept and many businesses have the same kind of incentive scheme running. They have similar purchase requirements and benefits for the customers. With the abundance of loyalty programmes around, customers could feel overwhelmed by the choice, and this can make it harder for businesses to generate excitement for their programme. So you need to create something unique and that stands out from the others…this is not easy.

Loyalty costs money

Creating a customer loyalty programme does cost money. Any discount you give is going to affect your profits. Even a small discount can seriously impact your profits. For example, say you give a 5% loyalty discount. A product that costs £50… is £40 in costs and £10 in profit. If your customer buys that product for £50 with their 5% discount, they will pay £45. So, from your business point of view, you still have to pay your £40 costs, so your profit will be £5 – this is a 50% decrease on what you normally earn. You could help this by putting a timeframe on the discount – 5% off for the next month. The losses you suffer could be lessened by the increase in business from that customer.

Your loyalty programme has to be worth the time, money and effort you put into it. If it is proving to produce more repeat business, it could still be worthwhile financially, especially if you’re selling more to a loyalty programme member than normal. It’s just something to be aware of.    

Is the behaviour you witness actual loyalty?  

It’s hard to tell if your customers are loyal to you and your brand, or whether they just buy from you out of habit or because you’re closer than anyone else who does the same. We often look at a frequent customer and think they are loyal, but loyalty is an emotion which can’t really be measured. So how do you get around this?

This is where you can use marketing tactics to find out just who is loyal. You could reward customers for referring family and friends, or for writing a good review. This will show who is actually willing to stand up and vouch for your brand, stating the reasons as to why they like it.  

Another way to keep that loyalty to your brand is to include customers in your advertising – what better way to advertise your product, than to use a photo of a real customer using your product, or talking about the excellent service you give.

Data does have its limitations

As well as being a good thing, data does also have its limitations. For one thing, it doesn’t give the full picture of your customers’ overall purchase behaviour, as it can’t know what they’ve bought from other brands or shops. You also can’t tell from data if a customer is buying from you just because it’s at the right price and others may give repeat business just so they get the benefits of a loyalty programme.

You could survey your customers to find out more about their loyalty, but some will be reluctant to provide information about where and what they buy elsewhere. They might even feel offended by it.

Conclusion

There are clearly huge benefits to having a customer loyalty programme, but it’s important to be aware of the downside too. And not all programmes are successful, as the marketing and implementation is crucial to their success. However, they can help you generate more business and be rewarding for your customers.

Look out for next week’s blog, when I talk about how to promote your customer loyalty programme.

In the meantime, would you consider running a loyalty programme for your small business? Maybe you do already. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all aspects. Please comment in the comment box below.

Thank you for reading!   

Discover my 7 Cs of marketing

In a previous article I’ve talked about the 7 Ps of marketing, which are a set of key principles that are at the heart of all marketing strategies. They are often referred to as the ‘Marketing Mix’.

Today’s article is about the 7 Cs of marketing and why you need to get your business online. These Cs are the ones that I think are important. Others may prefer other Cs!    

Credibility

Millions, yes millions, of people from all over the world go straight to the internet first when they want to buy something. Be it products or services, we all check out the internet for advice and information.

If your business, small or large, is online, then you are more likely to be found for what you do or what you sell. Potential customers can see your reviews, can look at your pricing and products, find out a bit about you etc. etc. And this gives your business more credibility.

Having a website is the obvious choice as you can explain everything you do all in one place. You can show your products or talk about the services you offer in detail. People can see who you are and what experience you have; you can list your qualifications and experience and more importantly, your website shows you are human. Your website will have contact details, so you can be reached and your potential customers can therefore get in touch if they want or need to.  

Customer

The customer! Ah, yes, now this is what everything in your business hangs on. No customers? No business.

This is why your business marketing strategy is so very important, (and why I bang on about it a lot with my customers)!

Your marketing strategy helps you find your ideal customer or your target audience. You discover where they hang out, what they’re interested in, how you can pull them in. Your strategy is about getting into the head of your customer and you can only do this by getting to know them.

Any content you put out needs to speak to your customers, be engaging, entertaining or educational. Once you’ve posted content, on whatever social media site you choose, or online, ensure you reply to every comment. Reply to those comments with a question and get a conversation going. And post consistently. You won’t hold your audience’s attention if you are posting once a month, but every day or every couple of days will keep their attention.

Doing your target audience research will let you know which social media sites they use, so you can target that site. Make sure your business is listed in ‘Google my business’, so you can be found locally. And there are loads of free, online business directories out there that you can be part of. Anything that helps your business be found online.

Consistency

I’ve already mentioned this, but consistency really is a key factor in marketing. You don’t just show up once, or just when you feel like it. You need to be showing up, delivering valuable content and products to your customers day in, day out.

If you have a website, which I highly recommend, start a blog and show your audience that you are an expert in your field. Share your blog to social media sites. Show up every day on social media and give something that is engaging, entertaining or educational. Make your audience laugh, teach them something new or point out something that they didn’t know.

Give your customers confidence in your ability to engage with them. They will see you as the ‘go to’ person and in time, this will convert to loyal customers. Consistency is what keeps your customers attention…it takes a long time to build up a customer base. And minutes to lose it. If you are not delivering, your customers will go elsewhere.   

Creativity

For me, creativity is about being original. Not about being the same as everyone else. For this reason, rather than use everyone else’s 7 Cs of marketing, or the industry standard, I’ve gone with what I feel is important. When I am helping small businesses with their marketing strategies, these are the things I concentrate on.

Creativity is HUGE! We are all constantly exposed to all sorts of advertising and, if you’re in marketing, you have to find new, creative, innovative ways to target your audience and get their attention. Creativity gets your brand noticed and makes your messages more memorable.

A lot of people out there buy things using their emotions, not for practical reasons. Being creative with your messaging enables you to communicate the emotional reasons for buying from you.

Every touchpoint you have with your customers is an opportunity to be creative and help your customers experience your brand in a positive and unique way.

Community/Communications  

I’m going to cheat here and do a ‘2 for 1’ offering! In my opinion, these two go together. Marketing is about communicating great messages to your target audience that reflect your brand, engage them and eventually convert them to customers. By regularly posting on social media, you will build up a community of people who follow you, who like your posts and engage by making comments, or asking questions.

You can set up your own social media groups, so customers can sign up for more in-depth information from you, or maybe coaching in a particular subject. They have to be a member to get access to this information – you may have a few freebie checklists, or helpful hints, or maybe even an e-book that they will get if they sign up. Building this kind of community really helps establish you as an expert and you gain the trust and respect of those who sign up. You’ll be recommended by them and so will grow your audience and also your customer base.

I haven’t mentioned communications specifically, but it runs through everything I’ve just talked about. Digital marketing, or online marketing, is without doubt, the most effective way to communicate with your target audience. You can talk to millions of people from all over the world.

Communication is at the heart of every business, big or small. Regularly communicating with them allows your customers to ask questions; it makes them care about your business; be loyal and recommend you to their friends and families. Most important of all, communicating shows you care, shows that your customers are valuable to you, that they matter and that you value their opinions.  

If you have a website, set up a monthly newsletter and ask your customers/potential customers to sign up. They will then hear from you every month. You can use that newsletter to talk about new trends, new ideas, ask questions, teach them something, share your blogs, share new products and show them your human side by sharing what you’ve been up to away from work. The list is endless, but it will be engaging, entertaining and educational which is what marketing is all about.    

Customer Service

I can’t stress enough how important good customer service is. Whether you’re looking for new customers or making sure you keep the ones you have, it’s important to make them all feel valued and wanted.

When you have been in business for a while, you will start to recognise the problems that your customers face. If you can answer those questions and solve those problems, they will become loyal customers who will recommend you to their family and friends. If you have a list of common questions that you know your customers need an answer to, put an FAQ section on your website and point to it from your social media pages.

Monitor your social media pages and email – if your customers ask a question, make sure it is answered promptly. You might be trawling a group chat or forum and see a question that you know the answer to – don’t hang around, answer it straight away. Show you are an expert.

You can also give your customers incentives to keep their interest and reward them for being good customers. You can offer freebies or special deals if they join your mailing list…or membership to a closed, member’s only Facebook group.

And, most importantly, say ‘THANK YOU’ to your customers. Make them feel valued, that you care and that you appreciate their custom.

Conversion

There are lots more Cs I could use, but this has to be my seventh…Conversion. It’s the reason we do all the marketing, spend hours on blogs and engaging content. We are trying to get new customers…that doesn’t mean this is the be all and end all, but it is necessary to pay your mortgage and bills!

Knowing your audience and what they want…what their pain points are, will all help you to convert your audience into paying customers. The first thing to do is to make sure you keep track of your customers and potential customers. If you have subscribers to your email, they will all be at different stages in the marketing funnel. Some will be at the bottom, just starting to engage with your business, taking an interest in your content, products or services, but not yet ready to buy. These still needs lots of nurturing by producing that all important engagement, entertainment and education that I keep banging on about!

Next up are the ‘Market Qualifying Leads’ (MQL). They might have come to your email via a free download, (checklist, workbook etc.). And they might have signed up to your newsletter to find out more about you and your business and what you have to offer. They will respond well to receiving more information, but not necessarily to the hard sell. They won’t want to feel any pressure to buy, nor will they want to be bombarded with sales emails. That will just put them off and they will unsubscribe and you’ll have lost them.

The next group are ‘Sales Qualified Leads’ (SQL). This group may have been subscribers to your email for a while, downloaded several freebies, and maybe taken part in some free training. They will be engaged with your online content, following you on social media – and maybe a member of your social media private group. They will be familiar with your business, know how you work and what you stand for. There will already be some trust and respect for what you do. They might start asking specific questions which qualify a meeting. They’ll already know that you can solve their problems, and that you know their pain points, and will now be ready to move on to get the solutions for themselves. They might be open to coaching, or paying for a course, buying an eBook, or buying your products or services.      

  • Always make sure you follow up on new contacts, engage with them as much as possible.
  • Ask questions, show an interest in them and be genuine!
  • Always listen to your customers. You may hear something that you hadn’t thought of – another way that your products or services can solve their problems. Or you might hear something that the customer doesn’t realise is a problem, so you can then educate them into recognising that problem – then offer the solution.
  • Whenever you put content out, make it easy for your potential customers to contact you. Add a Call to Action so they know what they need to do next.   
  • Include testimonials so you have proof that what you offer or do actually works and that you give value.

And…I am at the end of my list of 7 Cs of marketing. I hope you have found this useful. Please follow my blog for more articles to help you with your marketing.

You can also follow me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/cindyfreelancewriter and on Instagram http://www.instagram.com/cindymarketingconsultant     

9 ways to keep your customers coming back for more!

Happy customers are those that love your products or services; they will recommend you to their families and friends…and they will keep coming back for more.

It’s so important to realise that in order to keep your customers happy, so that they do come back for more, the service you provide needs to be excellent. But not just providing excellent customer service, you need to have that genuine desire to delight your customers, making them feel valued and important. Customer service is not about selling your products or services, it’s about the whole experience that someone has when dealing with you; what you make them think and how you make them feel. There are several ways to do this ….and so keep them coming back time and time again.

Know your products or services  

First of all, you need to know every single product or service that you offer inside out. Know how they work, anticipate what questions your potential customers will ask about each one and know the answers so, when a customers asked, you can immediately reply. Think about what your existing customers have asked you in the past and keep a record. There will always be a list of common questions.

Be approachable

Be approachable   

Customer service is all about being friendly and approachable – it starts with a smile. When I worked for a global corporation, we were told that when we answered the phone, we must smile as it comes through on the call, even though the customer cannot see you…and it is true.

If you are meeting a customer face to face be welcoming and, if they buy something from you, thank them. This is so simple, but so important – it shows you value your customers and are grateful for them choosing you above your competitors.

Give a little respect!

Sometimes customer service can involve emotions; your customer may be upset, angry, happy, joyful, tearful…you can see every emotion. The most important thing is to keep neutral – NEVER let your own emotions get in the way of seeing your customer walk away happy with the service you have provided. Upset and angry customers can always be turned around by you understanding their issue and asking them what you can do to make it better. This takes me onto…

Listen!

Listen to your customers

This is probably one of the most basic rules of excellent customer service. Listen intently to what they are saying and be aware of body language as someone can be talking to you as if they’re mildly annoyed, but their body language could be telling a completely different story.

When your customer tells you something they are not happy about, or makes a suggestion that something you do could be improved, repeat what they have just told you. This shows them that you are listening to them and also that you value what they’re saying. Ask what you can do to rectify a mistake, or complaint….or ask how they think that something you do could be improved. Then it’s important to take the answers on board, write them down and tell your customer that you will deal with it personally and get back to them within a specified time-frame….and make sure you do! If within that time-frame you don’t have an answer, contact the customer anyway, even if just to let them know that you haven’t forgotten them, but that the issue or whatever, is taking longer than you expected.

Respond in a timely manner

If you use social media and customers make comments, respond as quickly and efficiently as you can. The same applies to emails…respond quickly. You may not be able to answer the query immediately, but responding quickly, if only to say you’ve seen their comment/received their email and that you’ll get back to them with an answer.

Your feedback matters

Ask for feedback on your products/services 

As a small business, it’s important to keep in touch with your customers, so it’s always worth giving a customer a call, or send an email, thanking them for their custom and asking for feedback on the product or service you provided. This often produces very positive comments, which you can then ask them to put into writing or to leave a review or comment on your website or social media page.

You could also conduct a customer survey, use a feedback form … just try and make it common practice to ask for feedback.

Use the feedback you receive

If you ask for formal feedback via a survey or feedback form, it’s important that you act on the feedback you get. Review all the feedback you get, identify areas where you can improve and make any appropriate changes to your business. You may even get an idea for a new product or service you hadn’t thought of from feedback.

Keep your word

If you promise to do something for your customer, do it! Never break a promise or under-deliver. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver.

There are times when you can’t deliver what you’ve promised…speak to the customer, apologise and explain why and offer an alternative.

Reward your customers

Customers love to feel valued and a simple way to do this is to thank them for their custom – a simple thank you card sent with their order will go a long way.

It’s also good to encourage them to recommend you to friends and family – how? Offer an incentive. If a customer refers a friend and that friend buys from you, the customer gets 10% off his next order with you or receives a small gift.

You could also run a loyalty scheme or loyalty card – every time a customer buys from you they get points on a card – when the card is full – say having bought 10 items, they get a free gift or their next item up to a certain value, free of charge. Online card companies do this a lot.

Conclusion  

Excellent customer service is all about making your customers happy. If you have happy customers, they will be loyal to your brand, will recommend you to their family and friends and they will definitely be back for more!

If you have any other ideas on how to keep your customers coming back for more, please leave a comment.

Supercharge your customer touchpoints

This sounds like just another one of those buzz word things – so what am I talking about?

Every business wants their customers to be happy with the service and experience they receive. But, unless you have your customers in mind at every single touch point, you could be missing out on some great opportunities to delight them and keep them coming back for more.

What is a touchpoint? According to SurveyMonkey, the definition of a touchpoint is “…any time a customer or potential customer comes into contact with your brand…before, during or after they purchase something from you”

meeting-1002800_640You may have great products, delivered on time and with a smile, but if your advertising isn’t on target, or they receive billing mistakes, or have to deal with a clumsy and clunky website, you can scare your customers away. Luckily, these touchpoints are easily fixed and within our control.

Let’s take a look at the general touchpoints a customer will come across…these are just some examples.

Before a sale – Social Media sites, Website, Customer reviews, Advertising/Marketing.

During a sale – Shop or office, Catalogue, Phone.

After a sale – Billing, Emails, Newsletter

Make a list of the touchpoints your customers have with you, then look at them in turn, e.g. your website…is it easy to navigate? Do the tabs point to the right things? Do the links work? Are you easy to contact? Do customers get a quick reply if they do contact you?

Supercharge your touchpoints

Now it’s time to supercharge your touchpoints for a better customer experience.

Personal touch – Try and speak to a customer wherever you can as most people like to beard-2286440_640be treated as individuals. I prefer to speak to a real person, not an automated service as I can ask questions and, if there is something I don’t understand, I can simply ask. It is also easier to build a relationship with your customers if you actually take the time to talk to them, as it makes them feel valued. They will feel that they are important to you and your business, that their custom is appreciated and that their opinion matters.

Consistent Service levels – Be consistent across all your dealings with customers, not just on the phone. You have won their custom and now it is time to build their loyalty and gain that all important customer satisfaction. So, not only ensure that you give excellent customer service on the telephone, ensure that they receive the same experience if they email you, such as a prompt reply, with the answer or solution they want wherever possible.

Know your customers – Know what your customers want and who they are. If you can team-2651912_640.pngsolve a problem for a customer, do it…they will always remember that you went that extra mile…and will recommend you to family and friends. Something that you did this year that went really well, might not work next year – never make assumptions where your customers are concerned. One of the simplest ways to know what your customers want is to ask them. This could be via a courtesy phone call (but be careful not to be a nuisance), via a short survey or hold an event, where you can interact directly with your customers and they can see who you are and meet you properly.

Resolve any mistakes – If you make a mistake, own up to it and put it right quickly. Don’t blame anyone else, just resolve it and offer some kind of compensation, such as 10% off their next order. The four step system is a good way to deal with complaints.

sculpture-2275202_640Listen to the complaint…don’t argue or put the blame on someone else – the customer doesn’t want to hear this – he/she just wants you to listen to what they have to say.

Acknowledge the complaint – let the customer know that you understand their complaint by relaying it back to them. This not only shows that you have been listening but gives hope that something will be done. Thank them for bringing the situation to your attention and assure them that something will be done.

Solve the complaint – if you can, resolve the issue, keeping the customer informed along the way. In the first instance, after you have acknowledged the complaint, say that you will look into it and will get back to them within 24 hours – even if you haven’t resolved the problem yet, ring them within 24 hours to let them know what’s happening. Keeping them informed every step of the way is very important in keeping that customer in future and lets them know that they are a valued customer.

gift-553150_640Thank them – you have already done this when you acknowledged the complaint but do it again. If the issue has taken or is like to take a long time to resolve, maybe offer them some kind of compensation – a money-off voucher or a free gift.

Appreciate your customers – Let your customers know they are valued, e.g. send regular customers a ‘thank you’ card, or give them a money off voucher for being loyal, or ask if they’d like their purchases gift-wrapped.

It’s also really crucial to look past the sale…once your customer has bought something from you, don’t make it the last time they hear from you…follow up the sale and ask how they are getting on with the product. Are they happy with it? Do they think it could be improved? Do they have any questions about that or any other product that you sell? They may tell you about a problem they have that you can solve for them, or give you an idea for a new product.

smiley-163510_640If your customers are really happy with the goods and/or services they receive from you, ask them if they could write a short review, either on your Facebook page or on your website…or if they prefer, they can send to you on email. Ask if it’s OK to share their review with other customers and potential customers.

Whether your business is a huge concern, or just a one-man/woman team, excellent customer service must be at the heart of everything you do. It can take extra time and resources, time and money, but good customer service leads directly to customer satisfaction, which can generate great business for you via word of mouth. It can also you’re your business thrive and ultimately be a success. Never underestimate the power of good customer service – it’s your businesses life-blood.

 

How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

The Content Marketing Institute, which is an online resource for information on everything marketing related, defines content marketing as…

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”

Stuart Miles (7)The key word here is ‘valuable’ content; content that will speak to your customers, content that they want and need, maybe information that solves a problem they have. In order to do this, you need to know your existing customers and research and get to know your prospective customers, so you can deliver that all important content. It may take some time to get it right, but when you do, you will have the opportunity to expand your business, build your reputation and ultimately be known as an expert in your field.

Once you can provide the right kind of content, it brings much more to your ‘table’.

More traffic to your website

If you can solve a problem that your customers have and write about it on your website, when potential customers search online for a solution, they will visit your site. Stuart Miles (6)Depending on what you do, that could lead to a sale or a request for your services…and they are likely to return to your site in future.

If you can find a way to tailor your content to your target customer’s needs and wants, they will trust you and you will get repeat business.

More sales

When a person finds a site they like, that speaks to them personally, or they feel that it speaks to them personally, they will return again and again. And if they are returning, they are more likely to turn into customers. As everything is online these days, we all turn to the internet if we want to buy something; I like to read about what I want to buy first and find out as much as I can about that product before I buy it. I am more likely to buy from a business that knows what they’re talking about and one that seems to know my needs.

Enhances your brand

It sounds a bit rude to say this, but it is fundamentally true – people are generally interested in themselves, in their likes and needs. This isn’t about being selfish, it’s human nature. When someone first looks at your website or interacts with your David Castillo Dominicibusiness, they are not in the least bit interested in your brand, no matter how hard you’ve worked on it. They are more interested in what you can do for them. If you provide something that makes their life easier, less stressful, and cost-effective and generally entertain them, they will then become interested in your brand as they will see it as something they relate to.

If you are consistently publishing new, unique content on your blog or website and then promoting it on social media, more people will get to see your name and start to relate to the things you write about. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to tell their friends and so your audience starts to grow and they become more aware of your brand.

Content marketing is cheaper than other forms of marketing

The title of this last section basically says it all. If you can research and write your content yourself, it is more economical as you’re not spending money on getting someone else to do it for you. You’ll also learn so much from the research you do, that you’ll find more content as you go.

Stuart Miles (5)When you publish your content on your blog or website, make sure that you promote it on every social media site that you have…with maybe a jig around of the title or introduction. You can also contribute to larger sites to get your name out there.

Finally, with content marketing, you are attracting customers to you because they’re interested in what you have to say…and ultimately they will come back again and again.

If you want to influence your audience to your way of thinking and to look at your products or services, you must provide them with something they want or need, be their solution, show them that you provide valuable content and that you value their custom.

 

Images courtesy of 1-3 ) Stuart Miles, 4) David Castillo Dominici 4) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Build a positive brand identity

Build a positive brand identity (2)We all want our businesses to stand out from the crowd. Although it takes some time and effort, it’s worth it to have a unique identity that is instantly recognisable. Here are a few ideas that can help you along your way to having your own brand identity.

You may not think it important for a small business to have a brand, but having a brand is one of your greatest assets. Lots of big companies try to look like small businesses in order to appeal to customers who prefer to support smaller, independent brands. Your brand isn’t just about your logo, slogan and design scheme, but also about the experience your customers get at every touch point with you.

Stuart Miles (6)The first thing to do is to think about a mission statement for your business, which is a short sentence about what your purpose is. We all know Nike’s tagline, ‘Just Do It’ but did you know that their mission statement is ‘To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’. So their mission statement encapsulates everything that the company is about and wants to achieve in one short sentence. This is no mean feat, but achievable for your business with a bit of thought. You could always get a few friends round and have a ‘get my mission statement’ party…but make sure you work on the statement before you start drinking…or you could have some very interesting stuff!

It can be easier to think of your brand as a person – what does it like or do? How does it help people? What do you want customers to remember about your business? It’s important to be consistent across everything you do and give the same high quality service and friendly attitude to every customer, so they all have the same or similar experience. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a complaint – be consistent; apologise; find out what went wrong and why and then try and put it right, keeping the customer informed. By doing this you can often turn a complaint around into something positive and turn the complainant into a loyal future customer. I think that the main thing to remember is to always consider your branding with every interaction with a customer.

So, now that we’ve looked at the experience you want your branding to give you customer, it’s time to look at the more practical stuff – business name, logo, colours and design – these are important and help shape your brand, but you need to know what the mission statement of your business is first before you begin, as this helps everything else fall into place.

Choose a business name – what name you choose will depend on what you do. I chose to use my name, coupled with what I do ‘Cindy Mobey Freelance Writer’ – does what it says on the tin. But you might want something that is catchy and captures the nature of your business. Think long and hard as once it’s out there, that is how people will see your business.
Logo – Once you have your name, you could incorporate that into a logo – again to make your business recognisable. As well as an overall logo, you could also have smaller logos for individual product lines.
KeeratiBrand Colours – The colours you choose are more important than you might think – according to research by web design and marketing company, WebPageFX, people make a subconscious judgement about a product in less than 90 seconds of viewing, and a majority of these people base that assessment on colour alone. In fact almost 85% of consumers cite colour as the primary reason they buy a particular product and 80% believe that colour increases brand recognition. Wow! That’s quite powerful.
Tagline – The most important thing with producing a tagline is to be succinct. Your tagline captures what your business does and its values in one, very short sentence. For example, Nike use ‘Just do it’ – L’Oréal use ‘..because you’re worth it’ – both very powerful brands with very simple, catchy taglines that tell you what they want you to remember about them. In order to help you come up with your tagline, concentrate on the features of your business, how your products make people feel. Make a list of all the good things about your business …do your products enhance someone’s life?…make them feel more beautiful?…provide solutions to your customer’s problems? Then brainstorm words that describe those things – it might be worth getting a few friends together to help you brainstorm. Once you have a few words, you can come up with a tagline.
boulemonademoonFonts – When looking at your brand for the first time, people will notice the colours and also the font – the way the brand name is written. There are so many different fonts, so try and choose one or two that enhance your business name…for example if you sell vintage jewellery, look at a vintage font.
Tone of voice – Most big companies go for straight forward language or the ‘plain English’ approach. This helps customers easily understand what you’re saying without having to wrestle with big words, long sentences or jargon. Keep the language simple and friendly and you can’t go far wrong!

I hope this has helped you think about what you might like your brand identity to be – let me know if you have any other ideas, or if you need help to set the brand identity for your business.

Images courtesy of 1 & 2) Stuart Miles, 3) Keerati 4) boulemonademoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Grow your customer base

 

agree-1238964_640Our customers are the lifeblood of our businesses, so it’s crucial to gain new customers and to retain the existing ones. At this time of year, I’m always thinking of ways that I can grow my customer base, so after a brainstorming session, here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with…

Collect email addresses

It’s a great idea to take your customers’ email addresses when they buy or contact you. You can use these addresses to let them know of special offers or to send them your newsletter. But, please note that the data protection act states that you need to have written permission from customers expressly saying that they agree to be contacted via email or to receive a newsletter, (they agree to opt-in), so please ensure you get their permission.

Newsletter

Research suggests that people don’t like to part with their email address unless they are going to get something in return. A monthly or bi-monthly newsletter is a great way to let your customers know about your business, what’s new and any offers you have running. A newsletter needs to be of value to your customers, so include…

  • Relevant information about your business and what you can do for them – people are interested in what value you or your products can add to their lives
  • Details of special offers or new products
  • Valuable, unique content that customers can’t get anywhere else. The more valuable your emails are, the more people will sign up

news-226931_640Develop a calendar for your newsletter, planning specific activities that run throughout the year, for example, something around special times of the year; Valentine’s day, Easter, Christmas, Halloween etc. It’s also important to promote your newsletter everywhere; on your website (via an opt-in link or ‘sign up to our newsletter’ page; put it on the bottom of your email signature or on invoices and receipts; include details in any order you send to customers and if you speak to a customer on the phone, ask if they’d like to receive regular updates from you about your products.

Events

If you go to an event, or have a stall at a market, there are ways to attract new customers…

  • Have slips of paper where people can give you their email address – include a statement saying they agree to opt-in to your newsletter and maybe have a fishbowl or something similar where they can ‘post’ their slips
  • Give away small samples in exchange for an email address so you can let them know about your products and future promotions
  • Include your business card and a flyer with every purchase, which gives details of your website and newsletter
  • If you’re at a tradeshow, you might want to run a short presentation on a laptop giving details of your business and what you can offer customers

Recommendations and referrals

Don’t be afraid to ask your existing customers for a recommendation. If they like your products and are happy with the service or services you provide, they will be happy to write a few words stating just that. Then you can publish this recommendation on your website and social media pages. Potential customers viewing your website will be able to read your recommendations and know that you are trustworthy and provide a fabulous service. It’s reassuring for new customers to read about how a previous customer has been satisfied.

You can also ask your customers to refer you to their friends and family. You could provide an incentive, so if they recommend you and that person becomes a customer, they get 10% off their next order.     

Survey

checklist-2077022_640Ask for your customers’ opinions on your products or services. Is there something you could be doing better? Customers like to feel valued and it is good customer service practice to ask a customer what they think, listen to their answer and act upon it. It shows you listen. You could run a short survey and ask opinions – again, give an incentive to reply. You could put something like this at the beginning of the survey in the introduction… “We place a high value on our customers, so we would like to ask you to take five minutes of your time to answer a few questions about the products and services you receive from us. If you complete this survey, you will receive 10% off your next order as a thank you for giving us your opinion.” People like to be asked to help, like to give their opinion and most of all, like to get something in return so they feel that their opinion matters to you.

Provide great customer service

When asked why they go back to the same business over and over again, people often say it’s because of the friendly, helpful person they interact with. Customers remember if they are treated well and a positive customer experience will result in repeat business. Going the extra mile to meet your customers’ wants and needs is part and parcel of giving good customer service.

confident-3082818_640How do you ensure you provide good customer service? Well, firstly make sure that there is a clear and easy way for customers to communicate with you – in person, by phone or email and that when they do contact you, you reply in a timely fashion. Always have a positive and friendly outlook and attitude to your customers. Pay particular attention to any customer concerns or complaints. If a customer complaints, they are giving you the opportunity to resolve a problem – if you do this in a fast, effective and friendly manner, they will remember that and refer you to their friends and family. Always remember that the reputation of your business relies heavily on providing excellent customer service.

‘How to…’ leaflets on your website and/or video on YouTube

  • Produce ‘How to…’ leaflets or articles on your website. People love a freebie – promote on your social media sites
  • Produce short, instructional and informational videos on YouTube and a link to it from social network sites, website and blogs

These are just some ideas on how to grow your business and get more customers. If you have any other ideas, please let me know…I’d love to hear from you. Contact cindymobey@outlook.com

10 quick wins to get more customers

2
If you work for yourself, you will always be looking for new ways to get more customers, especially at the start of a New Year – New Year, new start!

Here are a few ways to help you find those all elusive new customers…

id-100123066Make yourself or your business the answer to a problem. Is there a problem out there that you can solve with your products or services? Do some research online and find out…then market yourself/your business, letting people know that you have the solution to their problem.

Follow up on previous sales. Once you make a sale to someone or provide them with a service, don’t forget to follow up with them a month or so down the line. Just dropping them a simple email to say ‘Hi, hope everything is OK ‘and ask if you can be of further service to them. If you sell a product, or range of products, perhaps you can suggest one to them that they haven’t tried before. If you provide a service, perhaps there’s another service you provide which they hadn’t thought of…you just need to point out that they need it and why!

Know your audience. It’s much easier to sell your products and services if you know who you are targeting. Do you know who your target market is? Take a few minutes to think about what makes those people tick…what makes them happy, sad, relieved … how can you address any issues to make their life easier?

Back to basics. Take a fresh look at your website and social media pages. Update your profile picture so it’s current, and make sure you are posting regularly. Make sure your website is up to date and that all the links work. Is your logo and online persona still relevant to what you do? If not, think about a re-brand. Make sure you have plenty of business cards and that they have all your up to date information on them. Distribute them to places where your target market may be….and think about getting flyers done to advertise your business…remember, that although we live in a technological world, not everyone is online, so there is still a need for hard copy advertising.

id-10040854Network with others. Find local groups or networking events, where you can meet like-minded people and exchange business cards and details. If you have a product and there’s a local trade fayre, go along and give out flyers and talk to as many people as you can. Don’t forget to also network online too – places like Google + and Facebook groups are great for this.

Get yourself interviewed. Approach a local newspaper or radio station and try and get yourself interviewed about your business. You can take the tack of putting yourself forward as an expert in your particular field.

Are you selling online? If you sell a product at markets and trade fayres, do you also have an online presence…and I don’t mean just a website. You could think about setting up an online shop – this can be very lucrative if it is marketing correctly.

Interview someone in your niche. Arrange to interview an influential person in your niche…someone who is an expert or leading authority on the kind of thing you do. You could interview them as a podcast or use it for a blog post. Either way, once published, that person will tell his/her contacts about the interview and point people to it…and you will get more traffic, which could lead to sales.

Offer a free trial of your product. Everyone loves a freebie and giving something away is a great way to get new customers. Make the free trial available for a limited time only, so instilling the idea that if they want a bargain, they need to do it ‘now’. Once they have the free trial, ask them for feedback so you can make improvements if necessary. If they love your product, they will look at your other products…you can also point them in the direction of another product, “If you liked XXXX, you should try XXXX – I’m sure you’ll love it!”

id-100282052Think about setting up a workshop. Although not exactly a quick win, is there somewhere local where you can share your knowledge through a workshop? People still enjoy learning face to face and this can bring you great new contacts. If you prefer to teach online, you could set up a webinar.

When you have gained new customers, which strategies have you employed? And what did you find was the most successful? It would be great to hear from you.

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net