Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Modern organizations implement in-depth market segmentation focusing on customer acquisition and retention, which is achievable through the development of mutually beneficial long-term relationships with key customer segments. Often, large firms take their customers for granted considering that because they are dominant in their sector, they can always retain their customer base by sustaining their competitive advantage. However, unlike what organizations believe, customer experience is the differentiating factor that makes a company a leader in customer satisfaction.
Building good customer experience is harder than it looks, especially when it comes in developing a personal contact with customers. Business owners need to appreciate their customers and make them feel important for their business and part of the reason why the business exists.
Here are ten ways to create superior customer experience by building strong customer relationships in the aim of maintaining and, if possibly, expanding the customer base:
1) Know your customer
Each customer is unique and as such he/she has unique features. Business owners need to know their customers, their needs and wants, their individual characteristics, their cultural traits and more generally, anything that can have a major impact on business communications. Besides, it is very important to know their customers by first name and address, especially if it is about a local business, because this makes the customer feel much appreciated and highly valued. Customers need to be treated as individuals and be complimented because such behavior creates trust and builds rapport with them.
2) Find common views with customers
In majority, customers base their purchasing decisions on who they are buying from, not on what they are buying. Generally, customers feel closer to businesses that share common views with because they need to feel connected with the firm that takes the extra mile and goes beyond being a provider of products or services. Therefore, businesses that find common grounds with their customers are more likely, not only to offer good customer service, but also to enhance customer retention and loyalty.
3) Be positive, friendly and trained
Customers love to do business with business owners who are positive and optimistic. By reflecting a positive attitude, employees or business owners make customers feel comfortable and willing to do repeat business with the particular firm. This may lead to customer loyalty and consequently, can boost sales and profitability. However, a positive attitude is better sustained if employees are knowledgeable and well-trained because they can offer assistance to customers without the stress of failing to satisfy a particular customer need as a result of being under-qualified or untrained.
4) Develop listening skills
Customers love to talk about their needs and business owners have to be good listeners to convey value and importance to their customers. By developing and using active listening skills, employees or business owners create a relaxed environment that facilitates communication and encourages customers to ask questions and state possible complaints. Good listeners understand their customers, give them their full attention and make them feel significant for the business. In other words, customers become the driving force and business owners follow by identifying customer needs and focusing on meeting these needs. Besides, the body language is very important to show that there is genuine interest in what the customers say.
5) Build trust and confidentiality
Failing to build trust with customers is detrimental to a business’s success. Customers need to feel they can trust the firm. To achieve that, business owners have to cover three main areas: a) Employee training so that employees are knowledgeable, polite, pleasant and willing to help customers; b) Handling customer complaints responsively and responsibly so that customers feel they can be listened to, even if they are not right to raise a complaint; and c) Taking responsibility for mishandlings so that customers feel they can trust the company.
Overall, it is not easy to build customer trust. Business owners need to build trust in their business, their products and services, their sector, their marketing strategies, but above all in themselves to make customers trust them.
6) Exceed customer expectations
Businesses should be able to exceed customer expectations to keep customers satisfied. This means they should conduct a competitive analysis in order to identify what competitors offer and make sure to offer product differentiation. In any case, businesses cannot afford not to meet their promises because they stand the risk of creative negative word-of-mouth advertising and considerably shrink their customer base.
7) Appreciate customer feedback
It is very important for a business to know what customers are thinking about its products and services. Businesses that isolate themselves from their customers contribute to their own decline. In contrast, businesses that exploit the opportunities offered in their environment can adjust their policies to customer needs and become more successful through customer feedback. Therefore, customer feedback should be both encouraged and welcomed so that businesses know how they could improve.
8) Learn to apologize
Businesses make also mistakes and they need to apologize for them. When something goes wrong and customers find out, it is expected that the firm will undertake responsibility for the incident and that it will apologize for the incident. Although customers are not always right, they need always to feel they brought up a special situation to the business’ attention and for that they should be thanked for. In other words, customer complaints need to valued and customers need to be thanked and appreciated for bringing up a problem, which wouldn’t be solved otherwise.
9) Know when to use humor
Humor is a very important element of business communications. It can create a relaxed atmosphere and make customers feel comfortable and open to communication. However, it is very easy to get humor wrong and instead of working for the business, humor may work against the business. To avoid such an event, employees or business owners should possess the right instincts about when to use humor. Moreover, it is imperative to use humor strictly about situations and never about people. In doing so, customers can break down the mental barriers of the firm and see the human side of business.
10) Be open to change
The new market realities are driven by rapid technological changes, globalization, and fierce competition. Businesses that want to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage and boost their profitability, they need to adjust their business practices in order to remain competitive. Through positive change and employee empowerment, they identify their weak areas and improve allocation of resources in order to achieve successful operations.