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I was recently in San Diego for the weekend to take a break from the Palm Desert heat. Coming to the desert for work in the summer has been a bit of a shock. Thankfully cooler weather is only a two hour drive away. We were meeting up with friends who suggested we try this new bar called the Noble Experiment downtown in the Gaslamp District. It was explained that you needed to have reservations and it was a very small place that was “speak easy like” and only seated twenty four people. My first thought was, “oh great I am going to be judged through a tiny sliding peep hole” and then deemed worthy or not to be allowed in to spend my money. At 44, my days of waiting in line at a club are long gone and the need to be a part of the “in crowd’ are past memories. We got there at 7PM sharp and waited for a few minutes and were actually seated very shortly thereafter. Someone had not shown up for their reservation. The bar was an eclectic mix of décor, from the 70’s wood paneling just like I ripped out of my house when I bought it, a wall of golden skulls from some movie set, and a renaissance ceiling complete with a chandelier. Oh, and let’s not forget the digital painting of a deer complete with blinking eyes on the wall. They specialize in making vintage cocktails from yester year, kind of a pre prohibition era joint. What they also specialized in was exceptional customer service. The staff instead of being elitist was instead incredibly well trained and super friendly. What a pleasant surprise to hang out in a cool place with no attitude. Like attracts like because as the place filled up with a mix of suits, hipsters, and regular people like me the vibe was happy relaxed with both staff and patrons enjoying themselves.
It got me thinking about why so many businesses go under not just the competitive restaurant and bar industry. Of course not having a business plan is number one on the list. Number two is a lack of training in customer service. With the exception of companies like Disney, Nordstrom, and the Ritz Carlton I think nowadays many of us are surprised when we get exceptional service. In an era of amenities being taken away and extra fees being added to everything we do, good customer service goes a long way to keeping us loyal. I was talking with my PR person this past weekend and she mentioned she was running out to a certain grocery store and I said how I didn’t like to shop there because of the layout and selection. She acknowledged that but said she enjoyed going there because it was like “Cheers” and everyone knew her name and was friendly. She chose to shop where there was less of a selection and esthetic because she was treated incredibly well.
We all have lost clients due to the economy yet what are we doing to keep the ones we have? Many businesses are losing clients without really hearing why or understanding what caused the client to defect. Customer service and client retention should be carefully monitored and at the top of every business’s list. Strong follow up with products such as Demandforce are terrific and compile data however, by identifying what drives your customer loyalty and engagement, you can begin to develop techniques and add in “extras” that will have a direct impact on customer retention and subsequently, profits.
Give Them All You’ve Got and a Little More
Successful businesses first identify and truly understand their client’s expectations. Then they create structure and protocols to ensure the team is exceeding the base expectation consistently. Take the time to review with the staff the expectations of your clients. Be absolutely confident that the entire team recognizes and acknowledges how your company plans to exceed those expectations with each and every client. Then it is time to give a little more. What extra add on or complimentary upgrade can you offer that provides the client a little “Wow Factor” and keeps them with you. A high perceived value with little product cost associated with it.
Build Opportunities for Repeat Business
Monitor what clients are asking for. Engage your staff to ask client’s what they are interested in. Offer products and services that complement client’s desires and existing purchases. Make good use of your software to track and categorize any and all feedback you receive. Post reviews to your website if possible. If technology is more of a burden than a blessing to you, keep it simple. Create a folder entitled “Ideas”, place it in the break room and encourage the staff to submit thoughts and feedback from themselves and their clients. Don’t let great ideas go to waste because it is the wrong time of year when the idea is presented.
Invite your top 25 clients who spend the most money with you and have not enjoyed a certain product or service you offer to come in and or experience it complimentary when possible. Many of you are already paying for fixed staff costs and if it is a service you offer, the resources may be just sitting there on hand. Get it into action. If a series of 5 is needed offer three and a special value on the remaining two services. Your clients will love you for it and most likely buy some new things. Make sure to offer the services on your least busy days.
Be a Challenge Solver
By quickly resolving client complaints, the business will build ‘emotional’ loyalty, which is a most valuable asset. Clients have all been disappointed at one time or another about a service that was provided, a product that was purchased or the way they were spoken to. What many companies miss is proper follow-up ensuring that an acceptable resolution within a fair and reasonable time frame has been made. Create protocols for the team to follow and monitor these factors regularly.
Go Beyond the Basics
While points and rewards do encourage repeat business, these programs do not actually build loyalty. True loyalty comes when clients purchase products and services without being bribed to do so. One key way of making better use of a reward/referral program is to use the information gathered behind the scenes to improve the offering and providing more meaningful and personal services and products. Create an incredible experience that makes them feel special. People will “invest” their hard earned cash in a great experience.
What is on Their Mind?
Everyone enjoys being part of something ‘bigger’. Create short surveys that are unbiased and well structured, with questions you really want answered. Remember, much of a survey’s success has to do with how it is presented. Write the questions keeping in line with the culture of your organization. Offer the survey in a fun, light-hearted way, if that is how your business presents itself to the public. If you are socially wired, priding yourself in being on the cutting edge of technology, create a survey for your website that is interactive. The goal is the same, get feedback from the end user, the client. Offer an incentive to fill it out. Get a vendor to give you some freebies to raffle off for all surveys collected in a given month. What gets rewarded gets done.
Work That Feedback
Gathering the feedback from clients as to what interests, inspires and impresses them is only one piece of the puzzle. Be sure to turn the feedback data into information you actually use. The first step is to centralize where this data is gathered. Second, assign a manager to process the data into information that can be used. Third, review the results of the survey with the key players and decision makers of the organization. Finally, do something with the information! Reacting to surveys in a timely manner builds additional trust and loyalty with clients by showing that you do listen and care about their needs and wants.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
Now that you have started to focus on identifying what creates loyalty in the present, develop plans and ideas for building more in the future. Trends, needs and desires of the clients changes over time. Make good use of the feedback data and information gathered by brainstorming with the staff and decision makers to understand how client intentions and motivations are changing. Look at not just what services and products they buy but why they buy. Insight from the team and clients is the best and most profitable way to build loyalty in the present and into the future. Perhaps long and luxurious has turned into fast and affordable for your clients now. Give them what they want.
Customer service is to ensure that client loyalty is earned and not just expected, and is every owner, team member’s responsibility. After all, everyone wants to feel like “Norm” when they walk in your front door.
Yours in Success,
Essentials Spa Consulting LLC
Durocher Enterprises Inc.