Every customer counts. Especially when you consider the changing face of 21st-century business. The digital age has really leveled the playing field, enabling small to medium-sized businesses to compete with the multinational corporate leviathans on their own terms.
Better still, consumers (especially younger consumers) are becoming increasingly savvy to the benefits of buying from smaller businesses and in many cases will favor a smaller business over their corporate counterpart.
Sounds like the deck is finally stacked in favor of the little guy, right? Well… yes and no.
The plethora of competition out there (especially for businesses that exist in the digital realm which transcends the inherent limitations of physical premises) means that customers can afford to be more fickle than ever.
With all those competitors just standing by poised to take your customers away from you, your strategy for attracting and retaining customers needs to be absolutely airtight.
Not only does every customer count, every customer contact counts.
The trouble is that the owners of SMEs are generally so busy with the daily operation of their businesses that they lack the time to take a step back and think strategically about their products and processes.
This can be disastrous, especially if you or your employees routinely engage in these bad habits which are proven to send customers running into the arms of your competitors…
A Poorly Maintained Premises
Today’s digitally savvy entrepreneurs often throw money and resources at their online presence to ensure that it makes the exact right impression on the users which could one day become customers.
This is all well and good, but your physical premises should ensure that very same level of attention to detail.
Your branding should be consistent with what customers see in the digital realm and needless to say the exterior and interior should be spotlessly clean and well merchandised.
Even a lingering odor caused by a lack of investment in drain cleaners can send customers running.
Your stock should appear attractive and plentiful while your window displays should be rotated in accordance with seasonality and changes in your given industry.
If your display boasts a dusty selection of last season’s stock this may give an impression of poor organization, mismanagement or simply that you just don’t care.
Poorly Treated Employees
Let’s face it. When you walk into an establishment you can usually ascertain within a minute or two how well the staff is treated.
We’ve all dined in restaurants or cafes or shopped in stores where the clerks and service staff have worn their poor pay and conditions on their faces.
These employees likely had the same values and processes instilled in them that you strive to instill in your employees but their employers clearly didn’t bother to incentivize them to aspire to excellence.
If your employees have little or no incentive to deliver the standard of customer care you expect, how can you expect them to bring their A-game every day?
An Amateurish Online Presence
All entrepreneurs know the value of a potent online presence, even those for whom the digital realm is a baffling and forbidding place.
However, in their efforts to keep overhead costs to a minimum, some entrepreneurs may put their faith in the wrong platforms or under-invest in establishing a professional looking online presence.
Branding is no longer a fun novelty, it’s an essential tool in the entrepreneur’s belt. It’s inextricably linked to the identity, ideals, and characteristics of your business and it should be reflected in every element of your in-store POS, your online presence, your digital content and your customer interaction.
As important as branding is, however, you can take it too far. There’s a universe of difference between targeted marketing and oversaturation.
Ram your brand down people’s throats and you’ll raise awareness of your business in all the wrong ways.
Failing To Deliver On The Promise Of Your Brand
Your brand should represent a promise that you make to the customer. You may promise to be more caring and personal than your competitors or you may promise to be more technically led and cutting edge.
Whatever the promise of your brand you can toxify your business by failing to live up to it. If you place outstanding customer service at the forefront of your brand, don’t be surprised if customers are lining up to complain when the service they receive is poor or even just good.
High-pressure Sales Technique
If you believe in your products they should be able to sell themselves, and the plethora of competition out there should not lead you to encourage your employees to use high-pressure sales techniques.
These may give your sales a temporary boost, but this will rarely be sustainable.
Customers who are bullied into a sale are pretty unlikely to return to be bullied a second time. Don’t send a customer into the arms of a competitor for the sake of a quick sale.
Sacrificing Quality In The Name Of Efficiency
At some point, we started using “efficient” interchangeably with the word “fast.
An efficient operation is usually fast, but fast operations aren’t always efficient. In our constant quest to be as efficient as possible, it’s all too tempting to rush customers through the sales process with an eye to closing the next sale but the sense of efficiency that this creates is always superficial.
Ensure that your processes are refined and that your employees follow through with them effectively and the efficiency should take care of itself.
Overlooking Your Employees’ Non-verbal Communication
A great many businesses brief their employees exhaustively on what to say to customers.
Unfortunately, few of these enterprises realize that what their employees say out loud is only 7% of what they’re actually communicating with their customers.
There’s nothing more off-putting to a customer than a beautifully composed greeting delivered in a dead-eyed monotone without the vaguest hint of sincerity or comprehension.
Even a warm and sincere smile can make a universe of difference to a customer.