6 Ways to Improve Customer Satisfaction
Customer service and satisfaction
A business succeeds when its customers are happy. Customer satisfaction is an often overlooked, but extremely important aspect of doing business. Making even a small effort to better engage, communicate with, and understand your customers will pay great dividends. Satisfied customers are often repeat customers, and they often provide the most valuable promotion of all--social proof and personal recommendations to qualified leads. There are a number of creative ways to improve your relationship with your customers.
1. Surveys and polls
Simply asking your customers directly how they feel with your product or service, any complaints or suggestions they have, and their overall experiences with your staff and your company is one of the most straightforward ways to engage with your customers. Surveys and polls can be sent out on a regular basis. You can offer a variety of incentives and rewards for completing your surveys to increase participation. Discounts, special offers or small gifts can be offered.
Crafting the right questions and setting up the survey in a user-friendly way will increase the completion rate. Wording questions just right is also very important to get the information you are looking for. Sometimes simply changing the wording of a question will change the way a person responds.
One drawback of surveys and polls is that they often attract customers who are very satisfied, or very unsatisfied. This is good for gaining an understanding of what you are doing right, and what you are doing wrong. However, the experience of the typical customer may not be heard.
2. Including unexpected extras
When a customer makes a purchase, surprising them with a complimentary extra product or service that is cheap and easy for you to give can greatly increase their satisfaction. It demonstrates a number of positive qualities: that your organization cares about the customer's experience; that you are making an extra effort to impress them; that you are happy to do business with them and do not just see them as a customer with a wallet. Even a very small item can add to their experience and perception of your company.
The downside of extra items is that they may devalue the core product or service over time. Including too many extras too often may reduce the perceived value of your products. Customers may increasingly expect more products, or lower prices. You should use caution when including an extra item or gift, for instance as a "thank you," in a first-time customer's order.
3. Communicating with customers
Being available to answer questions and give recommendations in a friendly way can be very powerful. Especially for large or expensive purchases, most people value a human relationship with the organization they are purchasing from. Enhancing the humanity of your organization in general is a valuable exercise that warms people up to you, and reduces the sense that you are just out to make money from them.
Oftentimes the most annoying and tedious customers--the ones who ask the most questions, or the most obvious questions--can wind up being very lucrative. They can also help you realize where you can improve your promotional and communication efforts in general.
There are almost no downsides to communicating with individual customers, as long as your representatives are friendly, polite, knowledgeable and helpful. If they are not, they may do more harm than good to customer satisfaction.
4. Personalizing the experience
Creating an experience tailor-made to each customer ensures they receive as positive an image as possible of your organization. It is not always feasible, but if it is, you should make an effort to personalize the messaging, the sales process, or the product itself wherever possible. If it is possible to personalize the experience with even a handful of customers, such as those making the largest purchases, that will benefit you. Dealing with each person individually also allows you to fine-tune the presentation of your product, making sure everything is seen in a positive light.
5. Free stuff
Giving away free items has terrific promotional, branding and messaging potential. It is especially useful if you can be sure the free items are given away to a specific market segment, or a group that you have qualified as those with high demand for your services.
Free items can include small gifts, pens, keychains, notepads, mints, snacks or toys. Naturally, you must make sure the items are free or low cost for you to acquire. The items, or their packaging, should carry your logo, messaging, website and contact information, or other promotional material. Giving away free items that are useful or desired by people reflects well on your company, before the customer has even made a purchase.
6. Post-purchase engagement
Your work is not done after you have closed the sale. The post-purchase relationship with the customer is often neglected, but it can make a real difference in how the customer sees you. It is the difference between being seen as a company that values the relationship, even when no sale is imminent, versus one that is eager to push the customer out the door once the "business" is done.
Sending a brief thank you message (with information on how to contact the company or how to purchase more) is very easy to do. Many retailers place workers near the door as customers walk out to thank them and wish them well.
One of the most important aspects of the post-purchase relationship is keeping communication lines open for feedback, questions or complaints. Any time you engage with the customer is an opportunity to improve your image in their mind. This increases repeat purchases, as well as recommendations to friends and colleagues.
More by this Author
Costs are often a silent killer of business. While revenue and sales are essential for any enterprise, expenses are just as important for profit. Costs are also far easier to control than revenue, making them a prime...
Strategies to increase sales by improving the product development, pricing, positioning and branding in your small business.
Brief history of isolationism and interventionism in the US, and current trends in American attitudes.