Engaging with your customers
Posted at 09:25:46 by Jacky Leonard
Here we are for the third and final Blog on the topic of engagement.
This time it’s about the people you do business with…your customers. Your staff (if you have them) and your end users are the most important people you’ll deal with. Like them, or loathe them, the simple fact is, without them you don’t exist. These days’ clients are very discerning; they want a personal service; after all, who wants to be treated like a number? Transacting is not enough, you have to create exceptional experiences and positive interactions that WOW your customers into returning and leave them desperate to tell their friends how fabulous you are.
The thing is, your clients don’t owe you anything, especially their commitment, unless there’s something in it for them. The essence of any interaction is mutual exchange. You’ll find it much easier to sell the benefits of your service if you find out what interests, excites and motivates your clients. So how can you do this consistently? Do you, and every member of your team deal respectfully with all customers treating them as a person, not a process, and an individual, not a collective?
Here are 5 simple tips to engage effectively with your customers:
1. Say my name
What’s in a name? Well a lot actually! Destiny’s Child, had it right, it’s so important to use someone’s name as it makes your interaction far more personal and friendly. Exchanging names is even better. Don’t wait to be asked…give them yours early in the conversation and let them know you’re available to help them whenever they’re ready. Knowing and using your customers’ names and remembering something about them helps build rapport and develop a more positive relationship. Be sincere and genuine in your approach. Good manners cost nothing and a “please” and a “thank you” go a long way too.
2. Be interested
Yes, I’ve mentioned this one in previous Blogs and I make no apologies for highlighting it here again. I can’t emphasise it enough; it’s really that important. You’re not there to entertain them…unless you’re an actor, comedian or circus performer. Your role is to provide a service, or better still an exceptional experience. To do that you must ask, before you tell, or sell i.e. find out exactly what their challenges are, what they want, or don’t want and how you can find a solution that’s the best fit for them.
You can’t possibly provide a personal service that meets the customers’ requirements unless you take some interest. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be well on your way.
- Ask questions and listen to what the client has to contribute
- Summarise, so you’re sure you understand
- Ask more questions to clarify if you’re not sure
- Listen for what they want, what they don’t want and their possible objections
- Tell them how you can meet those specific needs
You can’t do this effectively unless you really show you’re interested in them. There’s an old adage, peopledon’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It may sound corny, but it’s true.
3. Tune in
This leads us nicely on to my third tip…tune in; I mean really listen and make every customer feel their getting your full attention. You’ve probably heard of every customer’s favourite radio station? WIIFM…What’s In It For Me? You have to tune in to it before you begin any interaction and try to put yourself in the customer’s space. If you’ve done your market research you’ll probably have a very good idea who your ideal client is, where they’re based, what’s their pain and what they’re about. That puts you on the same frequency, but you will still need to tune in and eliminate the static before you can get a clearer sound bite of specifically what they want.
Be attentive, ask relevant, open questions and focus on their response, without pre-empting it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ve heard it all before, particularly if you’ve been in the same business for a long time. Remember, every customer is different, each have their own challenges, budget and outcomes. You just need to take the time to listen without prejudice, preconception or pride before you reveal how you can help.
Removing that third P, pride is particularly relevant when dealing with complaints. If you find yourself thinking I’ve heard this all before, stop and ask yourself why you haven’t addressed it earlier. If you don’t bother listening, your clients they’ll spend their money elsewhere. Many won’t even bother to tell you what they want unless you ask and if they’re dissatisfied with your service they’re more likely to whinge and leave than complain.
4. Keep your promises
Most customer complaints come from a failure to meet their expectations. They’ve seen your promotional material, read your website, or even had a recommendation from a friend. This and their past experiences of similar services have coloured their perception of what they should expect from you. Imagine how disappointed they’ll be if you fall short of these expectations.
Review your promotional materials, listen to your customer interactions and check if they match the service you provide. You want customers to at least get what they’ve expected so they continue to choose you as their service provider, leave with a good feeling and refer others to your business.
It’s far better to under promise and over deliver, but if you really want to impress how about over promising and over delivering!
5. Check out the customer’s perspective
Be careful not to make assumptions about what you think your customers want; it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you know everything your customer’s heart desires, when the opposite is quite often the reality, particularly if you’ve been in the business for a long time. Ask and consider...
- What’s most important to your customers?
- Why do they use your services rather than your competitors?
- What one thing could you do to improve the quality of their visit?
Do an MOT; a Moments of Truth exercise. It’s a bit like mystery shopping your own business to find out what it’s like from the ‘other side of the counter.’ Check out all the systems, procedures and stages in your client acquisition process. How easy is it to buy from you? Looking objectively at your own business is not as easy as it may seem, however it’s really important to keep customer focussed. So if you can’t do it, engage someone that can.
There are professional mystery shopping organisations, or you could brief a trusted friend, colleague or existing customer. Also, consider what opportunities you have for your customers to give you their feedback and create a dialogue with you. Then when they do bother to comment, let them know you appreciate their feedback and remember to inform them what action you’ve taken to enhance your services, particularly if it was something that the client requested. If you receive a complaint, follow it up and do something about it. It is possible to create a good experience out of a bad one, if you really value your customer.
So there you have it. Which one will you start with today?