Your customers are a fickle bunch. Your job is to make doing business with you as easy as possible. Start putting up barriers and you are asking your customers to seek the same product or service elsewhere.
There are a few basic items, besides your goods and services, that your customers want. These are:
1. You need to be available when they need you. 2. Your customers should be able to pay you with what they are most comfortable with. 3. Your customers want a guarantee. 4. Your customers want it to be easy to reach you.
If you are in the logistics business and most of your customers are domestic households, then why would you restrict your hours of operation to 0900-1700. It is a fact that most households are a two income family unit. This means that there is usually no one home during the day. Why would a customer use your services if you only offer a delivery service during these times? Alter your delivery times to include pre-8AM and post-6PM. I would imagine an immediate jump in business – even with an out-of-hours delivery surcharge.
If you are a service provider, such as a plumber, advertise that you are available 24 hours a day. I guarantee you will get very few calls at 3AM, but you will generate a lot of “normal” business purely based on your 24 hour availability. If you do get a call at 3AM, then people will understand the surcharge and the job will still be worthwhile – even if you initially send out the apprentice.
Accept every form of payment option. Today, credit cards and eftpos are standard payment methods. Some people use cash, but no one will accept a personal cheque. If these are the payment options that are currently being used, then these are the payment methods that you accept. Don’t insist on cash if a customer wants to pay with a credit card.
Normally, if a customer is not satisfied with your product or service you will correct the error or offer their money back. You will do that because consumer laws say that you are legally obliged to do that. How many of your competitors offer a 100% guarantee? I bet that very few of them will. So if you advertise this then your customers will automatically see you as more reputable than your competitor – after all they cannot lose.
If you operate in an extended geographical area then customers need to be able to call you for the cost of a local call – fortunately bundled internet VoIP calls are the same (either free or the cost of a local call) for local or national calls and sometimes calls to mobiles.
If you use email as a communication tool, then answer emails promptly – getting back to customers two days after you receive the email is beyond the normally expected email reply times. Emails should be responded within an hour, and within 24 hours at the most. Set up auto responders to inform your customers that you have received their email and you will get back to them shortly. The same rules apply for web-based contact forms.
Unless you are legally bound, don’t advertise your business address as being in the Cayman Islands. Use local addresses where possible.
If you are fortunate enough that your customer has your business card then make sure that all your contact details are clearly displayed on the card. Use the same or similar format for all your brochures and other advertising material.
If you rely on Google searches for customers to find you, then you need to make sure that the search paths that a customer will use will funnel towards your site and contact details. This means ensuring that you have sufficient Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) that tangible search queries will result in your details coming up high on the search result list. There are a number of techniques that can be used to increase your website rankings, but because the Google algorithm can change, what might have worked in the past (such as keyword stuffing) will no longer work. Let the experts perform your SEO if you do not have the required skillset. As a general rule of thumb, if your site does not rank in the first page of results then adjust your SEO or alter your online funnelling techniques.