The key to any great business is fostering an excellent relationship with its customers. Much like a relationship with a friend or significant other, customers want to go somewhere their business feels appreciated, where they feel confident about their purchases, and where they can turn if they have any issues. Fostering that relationship can lead to long-term, fulfilled success of your business venture.
The “Cheers” Factor
“Sometimes you wanna go / Where everybody knows your name / And they’re always glad you came.”
Sure it’s a theme song, but it couldn’t be more true. Get to know your customers. Nothing beats being greeted on a first name basis or walking into a place where everyone’s happy to see you. When a customer feels like you care about them, they’re a thousand times more likely to give you their repeat business. Take an extra minute to nurture a relationship with your customers. Not only is it emotionally rewarding, but your cash register will see the benefits too.
Let’s Be Real
In our digital world, social media can be a powerful tool in growing your business and keeping your customers up-to-date with what’s going on. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, you name it. To keep up with the times, a business needs to be plugged in. But just because it’s online doesn’t mean it can’t still be genuine.
Because it’s the internet, customers can easily see if you’ve sent the same form response to everyone who has commented on your Facebook wall. Try not to be a nameless, faceless entity. If a customer reaches out to you on a social media, take a moment to send them a friendly, personalized response and let them know you care.
Knowledge is Power
It goes without saying that your employees are your most valuable tool when it comes to making and keeping happy customers. They’re the smiling faces of your company, but they’re also the front lines of defense if an issue may arise.
Don’t keep your employees in the dark. Whether they’re only seasonal staff or full-time help, give your employees the tools and training they need to help your business succeed. It may seem like a no-brainer but if you run a vegan restaurant, educate your employees on what is and is not vegan. Do you cater to specific food allergies? Make sure your wait staff knows what ingredients go into a meal. Are you offering a coupon? Let your staff know what it applies to.
Training your employees to help themselves in turn allows them to better help the customer and to ensure you keep the customer coming back for more.
See Where They’re Coming From
The Golden Rule is crucial to providing excellent customer service. Treating the customer how you would want to be treated if you were in that same situation gives you a little bit of perspective on the matter.
Try to put yourself in this customer’s shoes for a moment.
Your restaurant is opening in a week, and you just found out the ice machine you ordered (and the one you were specifically told would only take a few days to ship!) suddenly won’t arrive for another month! Wait, what?!
This was the experience I recently had with a customer. He had placed the order online after verifying the lead time with of our Sales Representatives earlier in the day. When he received our courtesy email a few days later informing him of the extended lead time, he was a little less than thrilled.
The next step you take in the situation will determine whether or not you keep or lose a customer. Instead of saying “Sorry, buddy. It is what it is!”, why not try empathizing? Try to explain that you completely understand why they’re angry, that their feelings are valid, and that you’re going to do your best to rectify the situation. Be an advocate for the customer’s needs (as long as those needs are reasonable, of course). Most angry customers just want to be heard and they want someone to know they’re upset. Acknowledge their concerns and let them know that, for lack of a better phrase, “I feel you, bro. Don’t worry, I got this.”
In this case, we were able to find an alternate ice machine that fit the customer’s needs and was in stock and able to ship same day. Of course, we can’t always get that lucky. But the bottom line is to let your customer know you understand their frustrations, and you’re going to try to make it right.
Ahead of the Game
In their book A Complaint Is A Blessing, Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller state that “the average person who has a complaint tells 9-10 people about it with 13% telling more than 20 people.” Be a step ahead with your customer care, and prevent those negative experiences before they ever have a chance to start.
Making it impossible to book a reservation, forcing customers to press through multiple menus on the phone before they ever speak to a real person, or worse, uttering the words “that’s not my job” are nothing but a recipe for disaster.
If you’ve accidentally overbooked your reservations for the dinner seating, don’t just wait until your customers come in, or worse, hope that they simply don’t show. Give them a phone call, explain the situation, and see if an agreement can’t be reached. Could they come in ealier/later? Would they mind moving to the outdoor patio instead of inside? Giving a heads up and suggesting a solution can make an otherwise awful situation easily bearable.
What tips do you have to keep your customers happy and coming back for more? Leave a comment!