I love my local grocery store.

Sure, it’s a tad bit more expensive and sometimes has fewer options than the larger, corporate stores in my neighborhood, but they’ve made me fall in love with them. Why? Every time I shop, I’m greeted with a warm smile. They often have samples so there is an enticing aroma that is so inviting. They have friendly employees in every department, so when I have a question I’m no more than a few steps away from an answer. They listen to me, and have even added a couple of products to their shelves based on my requests. They simply make me feel special.

I’m not alone either: A 2014 survey by American Express found that 68% of consumers said they’d be willing to spend more with a company that provides better customer service. That’s a hefty portion of consumers considering we live in such a price conscious society. Furthermore, 74% said they have spent more in those same situations. In this age-of-amazon, it seems rare that customers would choose experience over low prices, but there is truly no substitute for great customer service. Businesses should be keen on this as for years now customer service is the new marketing. Happy customers are returning customers.

SIDE NOTE: Word-of-mouth marketing is far from dead. Happy customers on average tell 4-6 of their friends of their good experiences, and essentially is free marketing for your business. These honorable mentioned are incredibly (and increasingly) important in this “review-heavy” era of internet. No call center or CSR can match the honesty and candor of a happy customer.

Here are 5 ways to help your customers fall in love with your business.

1.     Be genuine and treat them right

Customers want to talk to real people, not robots. But sometimes when your primary interaction with a customer is via the internet, this can be a bit of a hurdle. Talk or write to them like you are talking to a person, not a press release. Try to avoid canned and non-personalized responses whenever possible.

When troubleshooting, try to not come off too strong—If your customer has a problem, be empathetic and understanding. A third of consumers report in the past month receiving poor customer service, and of those 58% told friends or family. This is exactly how word of mouth can work against your business. Be patient and put yourself in their shoes—always take every communication with customers as an opportunity, not an obligation.

2.     Encourage feedback and reviews – it’s the last honest medium for customers to trust your business

Customers are the lifeline of any business, and understanding how to better serve them is key to staying competitive and keeping long-term customers.  Not only does feedback help you curate your business to demand, nowadays, reviews are incredibly important to the buying process; especially online. Reviews provide consumers with an opportunity to hear from your customers on your products or services and builds immediate trust. A high number of reviews with a healthy ratio of good reviews helps build trust and converts potential customers into paying customers.

3.     Transparency

Honesty is crucial to success in the digital age. Similar to tip #1, it must also be genuine. But what exactly does it mean to be transparent and what are the differences?

Transparent Not Transparent
Providing shipping status, tracking number, carrier, and an estimated delivery date for an order. Accepting payment and eventually sending a product to a customer
Break-down of real costs associated with purchase and ownership of a product prior to purchase. “Plans as low as $49 per month!*”
“Thank you for contacting support! A customer service rep will contact you within 24 hours. If you need immediate assistance please call: xxx-xxxx” No “contact us” section on website

–       Transparency is not being afraid of consumer feedback

–       Transparency is providing honest answers

–       Transparency is being proactive to customers not reactive

One of the best ways to promote transparency to your customers is by using up-to-date, modern business systems, like VersAccounts. Providing things like real-time stock levels, to up-to-date order tracking are just a couple of ways to proactively communicate with your customers.

4.     Consistency

Want to know what makes Starbucks so successful? A consistent product and experience. Customers love that they can go into any one of Starbucks’ millions of stores and aside from maybe spelling their name 10 different ways, they are going to get a quality product consistently. The same goes for any successful brand; Amazon, Zappos, REI, etc.

To be consistent, businesses need to set the standard high and make sure that every employee and process is meeting those needs. If it’s a service business, employees need to be trained to adhere to the same protocol and techniques set by the company. If it’s a product, each product needs to be built of standard quality, and processes need to weed out products that don’t meet those specifications; also, product delivery needs to be consistent (handling time, shipping estimates, etc.)

For consistency – business should be looking specifically at the business systems they use to support this endeavor. Modern business systems, like VersAccounts, promote and enable consistency in your business without

5.     Integrity – Follow through on your promises

Your business is only as successful as the integrity it maintains. Say what you are going to do a follow through on it. If you say you will or can do something for a customer, do it!

You can easily manage your customers’ expectations by setting realistic company goals and policies. If your shipping policy states that orders will leave the warehouse within two business days – keep that promise. If day three comes and the order hasn’t shipped, you owe your customer an explanation, even if they haven’t asked. If you’ve ever experience this level of integrity of a business, you’ll know that simple communication is extremely valuable. By setting these clear goals, promoting follow-up, and creating a consistent experience, your customers will learn what they should expect from you in the future.

Finally, don’t be afraid of making exceptions, especially if they are easy for the company and beneficial to your customers. From accepting an expired gift certificate, to extending a return policy a few days, customers will appreciate it more than you know.

We hope you’ve found these tips to help your customers fall in love with your business helpful. Download our e-book for more tips and tricks on helping your business succeed in the Age of Amazon. In it you’ll discover six strategies to stay competitive and grow your business!

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