Put your customers in control and you'll grow your business faster and more efficiently than ever before. Here's how.
Customers like to be cared for, but they also like to be in control. When they contact your business they want to know that you will not only get them what they need, but that you will also make it easy for them to do so. In each aspect of your business, find ways to put your customers in charge, and watch how it can grow your business.
1. Give customers options that will help them.
Lots of companies feature a "suggestive" selling tool on their website to show customers other items they might like. Using the tool this way can be helpful, but it is often done primarily with the hope of getting the customer to buy more. What if, instead, you approached it with the intent of helping the customer buy right? The suggestive selling tool on your site can be used to indicate possible substitution items when the product a customer chooses is unavailable, which allows your customer to make a buying choice rather than walking away empty-handed. The same tool can also be used to point out better value items—affording your customers a chance to save on one item so they have the resources left to try other products you offer. Rather than a random service, the tool then becomes a mechanism for avoiding backorders and helping customers to better understand buying options. In the process, it creates a clear-cut path to the checkout. Customers never mind being sold as long you are selling them what they need.
2. Eliminate buyer's remorse between purchase and delivery.
Customers now confidently make buying decisions at lightening speed, but they are still vulnerable during that period of uncertainty called the "delivery window." From the moment they buy, they are waiting. As they wait, their impatience grows, and so does their sense of discontent—with their perceived delay and with your company. Despite this fact, many businesses still do not communicate aggressively with the customer during the delivery process, which leaves the customer feeling helpless. Empower your customers instead by automatically sending them tracking information in a proactive email with a link allowing them to click once and directly chart the progress of a package rather than requiring them to log back onto your site to access their shipping details. This simple follow-up can easily be done with technology from whichever shipper you use. This also allows your sales reps to focus on selling, instead of fielding parcel inquiries. It also allows empowered customers to view the delivery as painless, and remain focused on the satisfaction they felt towards your company when they made the purchase in the first place.
3. Fight for customer feedback.
Now, more than ever before, customers have an easy time finding new products. If they don't find what they want at your company, they can go elsewhere in a matter of seconds. The best way to retain your customers is by keeping their needs in mind at all times, and by letting those needs drive your business. The opportunities to ask for feedback are myriad. For example, allow customers to rate products on your site honestly, but be sure detailed feedback is a requirement in order for a low-star rating to be published. Then make sure to read what the customer did not like about his purchase. If you use the feedback to change your products for the better, you will win the customer back almost every time. And even when you don't, his input becomes a priceless roadmap to do right by the next customer. In the end, customers want what they want for a reason, and all you have to do is enable them to share that reason with you. Giving your customers an easy way to offer feedback lets them vent, and can save you thousands of dollars in product mistakes and lost sales. Make getting feedback the most highly valued aspect of your sales process—more important than sales quotas and calls made—and you will create a powerful organic growth machine.
Customers think like owners when it comes to making purchases—they like control and want to manage their experience carefully so they get what they need. Put the power in their hands in every way you can, and they will love your company for having done so.
In 2004, VANESSA MERIT NORNBERG opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009. @vanessanornberg