Jul 15th, 2010 by Jake W Hayes
I was recently speaking to a class of entrepreneurs who were preparing to start their first business. It was an open discussion about customer service and I was the guest speaker. We were brainstorming about ways to build customer loyalty. The idea was put forward that they should seek to surprise the customer “in a good way”. This thinking is common among new business owners. It is a dangerous strategy and all too often has the opposite effect. Here is why it is hard to surprise a customer “in a good way”.
- Trust. Your customers come to you because they trust you. The fundamental basis for that trust is that you and your product are reliable. Or to put it another way they trust you because you are predictable. Nobody wants a $20 steak at McDonalds. It doesn’t matter which McDonalds you go to, the food always tastes exactly the same. As soon as you try to surprise your customer you are eroding their trust in you and your product. Instead, build trust by increasing anticipation. Send your customer a note that a gift is coming. Not only is this one more promise delivered, most times the pleasure of anticipation will be what your customer really remembers.
- We could do better, if we wanted to. Think about it. Your loyal customer has been a regular purchaser of your product. Then one day you decide to reward them for all their loyalty. You deliver a product that is twice as good as what they have been getting for the same price. And then you tell them that next month you will go back to delivering the same old product. What does that really tell the customer about how you value them? It may come across to them that you could do a better job every month if you really wanted to. Rather show your appreciation with something unrelated to your product.
- Unearned Praise. Have you ever had the experience of being publically applauded for something you did not do? If you have not you can imagine how embarrassing and disconcerting such an experience would be. When you surprise your customer, especially in front of their piers or employees, you may be recreating that experience. I know someone who walked away from a slot machine payout because the flashing lights and alarm brought too much attention. Most people do not like attention they do not think they have earned. Instead make sure your customer knows why they are being appreciated.
- Diminishing Returns and Cost. If you really want to surprise your clients, it makes sense to make it big. I am not talking about a new car big, I am talking about a gift basket big. But what about next time you want to surprise them? You end up going bigger. After the while your customers begin to see the surprise as a perk. Something they expect. Congratulations you have just created a very expensive rewards program. A rewards program should be logical, documented and most importantly budgeted.
Your customers deserve appreciation and a properly designed appreciation program can build a loyal customer base. Make sure that your appreciation has the desired effect. There are great ways to keep the WOW factor. Even an annual drawing for a cruise can excite your customers as long as it does not surprise or embarrass them. Take a minute to share in the comments how your vendors have successfully or not so successfully showed you their appreciation for your business.
Jun 28th, 2010 by Jake W Hayes
It is an interesting observation that that there are people in the world who we do not like, yet we are surprised and offended to find out there are people in this world who do not like us. My five year old twin daughters just finished up their year in 4K. Other than Sunday school at church it is there first time they have had regular interaction with a large group of children their own age. It has been an interesting learning experience for the whole family. As twins, they have some built-in social skills and have always made friend rather easily. However, before going to school they never had anyone say “You are/aren’t my friend”. It has created an interesting dynamic. They were understandably crushed the first time someone told them “You are not my friend”, and it was a hard story to listen to as a parent. They made it their quest to make that child “their friend”. This quest has come at a cost, both in giving up turns on the playground swings and on five year old emotions. We have struggled, as parents, over the last month as we try to instill in them the true meaning of friendship.
To us as adults, we see this as a normal part of growing up. We all have gone through the same experience of learning what true friendship is. Most of us have only a few true close friends and many acquaintances. This is the normal, healthy way that social relationships work… at least until you start your own business. We invest our time, money, and dreams into your new business. We work so hard and are so excited about our new product. And somehow, we all return to K4. We get off the school bus with almost no concept of what friends, (or more specifically customers) really are. We expect everyone to embrace us with open arms. We are surprised and offended to find out that there are people who do not want our product. Even worse we find out there are people who prefer our competitors products over our own. We make it our quest to convince make them our customers. This quest too comes at a cost.
It is a valid marketing tactic to offer potential customers discounts. It is necessary at times to reduce a quote to capture a high potential customer. But too often we spend time and money trying to hook a potential customer that we just want to be our “friend”. We spend money and more importantly time trying to wine and dine potential contacts who are not potential customers. We adopt high pressure selling techniques that never accept no for an answer. We think that we are being persistent, but from the other side of the table it comes across as desperate, naive, and even annoying. We take every no too personally. It wears on our own confidence and adds stress to the business.
I often ask new business owners who their ideal customer is. Too many times I hear the response “everybody”. They haven’t taken the time or disciplined themselves to seriously consider who is a high value customer and what is the customers true potential value. I am not saying that we should have a users mentality or only consider what is in it for us, but it is an important piece of the equation that new business owners rarely consider. You will have customers who you will regret working with. It has been my observation that most of these troublesome customers are ones that we have tried too hard to get and we have been too proud not to get.
As you move forward building a successful business, count the cost of each potential customer. Don’t take it personally if some just don’t want to buy from you. Remember there are great products being sold by great people who you did not buy from either. Add a comment about the last product you did not buy and why. We could all learn from ourselves what it is like to be a customer again.
Jun 3rd, 2010 by Jake W Hayes
DWEN (Dynamic Women Express Network) is for savvy and ambitious women who are determined in their vision to succeed. Women in Greenville, SC area now have a place to network in town. Dynamic Women Express Network is a network of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA). We are on a mission to bring together women of diverse backgrounds to empower them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking and support. If you are a professional woman, we are here for you! The next event is coming up on June 8th.