Regardless of your industry, the ability to turn occasional buyers into repeat customers is key to building a sustainable business model. Despite the amount of money invested into your marketing and promotional efforts to build relationships with customers, small operational changes often have the most impact on client satisfaction.
In fact, a study conducted by researchers at Harvard Business School revealed that increasing customer retention rates by as little as 5 percent can yield profits up to 95 percent.
Here’s a look at four business changes that can make your clients love you:
Revisit your phone menu
Time is an important and scarce resource. Examine your processes to identify where time is unnecessarily wasted, starting with your phone menu. If your phone system offers a “press 1, press 2, press 3” style of menu options, confirm that you provide an alternative to connect instantly to a live human being, before making the customer wait through a lengthy list of irrelevant options.
When customers are placed on hold, set standards around the maximum amount of time a customer is made to wait. For example, Stella Service reports that Ralph Lauren has an internal mission that a caller never waits for more than 30 seconds. At Land’s End, callers don’t wait on hold for more than 12 seconds.
Put the same types of non-negotiable service thresholds in place to ensure that customer experience is a high priority. Though you may not have the manpower of a large corporation, you can leverage cost-effective tools that replicate the same types of state-of-the-art service.
For example, by simply using Google Voice (a free tool) you can forward after-hours calls to your cell phone. Though customers may leave a voicemail, you’ll ensure that you receive the message immediately, so you can respond quickly if necessary.
Set standards for issue resolution
In tandem with its wait time metrics, Ralph Lauren has the goal of resolving customer issues 100 percent the first time the customer expresses it. You can do the same in your small business by empowering your employees to make the business decisions that result in happy customers.
Train employees thoroughly on policies and practices, but give them the freedom to make the business “judgment calls” that will solve a customer’s issue. Sometimes those choices might cost your business a bit of money, but it will likely pale in comparison to the cost of a lost customer; particularly if he or she shares that poor experience with others.
Related Article: How to Use Social Media for Customer Service
Optimize your online presence
It’s estimated that nearly half of web users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. Ensure your desktop and mobile sites are optimized to load quickly, and are designed in a functionally appropriate manner for first-time visitors and clients.
If customers have the option to “log in” to a secure or personalized portal, avoid “forcing” customers to use passwords made of combinations that are not easy to remember (such as requirements to include a certain number of capital and lowercase letters, or punctuation marks). Analyze your site metrics to determine the keywords customers use to search for products.
Optimize your product descriptions, page and category titles and site architecture appropriately so site visitors find what they need with ease.
Make traditional payments obsolete
The limited patience of today’s customer applies to brick and mortar storefronts and online experience; even if wait times are only a matter of perception. Duke University researchers found that consumers are likely to abandon a purchase when they perceive that a checkout line is “too long”; even if the line size isn’t significant, and moves quickly.
With mobile payments, you can create a consistent image of “on-demand” service by equipping every member of your customer-facing team with the capability to complete customer purchases from anywhere, whether in person or on the phone. Likewise, invoices that are sent electronically and with the option to pay securely on your website or via mobile payment with a credit card when it’s convenient for your client transforms your relationship from vendor to partner.