Consumer trends point to a huge uptick in spending during 2015 as the recovery from the previous severe economic downturn continues. This makes it a good time for businesses to expand their customer bases, earn more repeat business and improve customer service. Bad business practices drive away customers, decrease sales and reduce profits during times of prosperity. Several pitfalls that may seem like good practice at first can drive away your customer base.
Surprising customers with hidden fees, price markups and small-print legalese does not win loyalty. Your company may earn short-term gains thanks to the extra revenue, but when your customers add up all of the extras, they are likely to leave to find more straightforward value somewhere else.
Arguing with Clients
Fighting with clients means you believe the customer is wrong, and no-one likes to be wrong. Where possible, treat people as if they are right, even when they are wrong, pointing out ways that both you and the customers can win. Handle your customers with care, and they'll take care of your business in the long run.
Have a Nice Day
Ways to alienate your customer base include common but meaningless phrases such as "have a nice day." Instead, rewrite sales scripts to allow your staff to provide varied greetings and salutations to customers. Let your staff actually talk to customers and use more genuine social interactions such as discussing weather reports for their locales or making enquiries about the previous weekend.
Automated Phone Systems
No-one in your customer base wants to press 10 buttons or say the words "yes" or "no" 20 times before speaking to an operator or an agent. If you must have an automated phone line, make reaching a live person quick and easy. Otherwise, have a real person pick up the phone.
Lack of Transparency
Businesses should not hide the details of their operations or disguise how much things really cost. Provide basic consumer information to your full customer base, but make sure that any angry customers are kept particularly well informed. Things are unlikely to go horribly wrong, but prepare for this eventuality by making sure staff are informed and empowered.
Where Does the Buck Stop?
Every customer should know where the buck stops, and company leadership should empower each employee to solve problems at the appropriate level. The owner or business manager has the final say for difficult issues, but many everyday complaints can be handled at an earlier stage with good guidelines and staff involvement. Leadership figures must lead by example, as their attitudes affect how lower-level employees handle customers. Everyone should take responsibility for customer service, even if they need to seek help to get the right resolution; the right attitude is always "the buck stops with me."
Cutting Corners to Cut Costs
When cuts happen, you tend to cut out customers as well. Cut corners in sales and customer service when you reduce expenses, and the customers suffer in the end. Cut enough, and there is nothing left for customers to be loyal to. Without customers to buy products, you make zero sales and zero money.
A loyal customer base provides vital repeat business for your company. These people create sales through word-of-mouth advertising, so don't drive away customers with short-sighted mistakes.
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