This is a very important question to ask in customer relations. Some customers (usually a few out of the lot) will be unreasonable, unruly, dishonest, over-demanding and show total disregard for your business terms and processes.
When an incident occurs in your business and you address it with the default mindset of “the customer is always right”, you are likely to end up with a team of disenchanted and unhappy employees.
Particularly, when it has to do with an issue between an employee and a customer, ask “what happened?”. The principle of fairness should not be skewed to the disadvantage of the employees. The more employees know that you will not hear them out, the more customer service issues you will have.
Seek to resolve the concerns of the customer, but do not be unfair and unjust to your employees in your judgment.
Asking “what happened?”, communicates to your employees that you also care about their feelings, dignity, protection, and not just making money.
Imagine that you own a salon and employed someone to help manage it while you focus on your 8-5.
The manager made a request for a dedicated smartphone that will be used for social media management and other communications with customers, but you said no, the manager should use her own phone. You want to avoid the cost of buying a phone.
Customers call the manager’s phone line directly. She takes images with her phone and puts them up on her Whatsapp status to market the salon, they chat with her, and engagement with customers is increasing.
She moves on eventually to another salon and each time your customers call or chats her up, she mentions that she is no longer with your salon but directs them there, most of them insist to use her new salon. They have gotten used to interacting with her and her phone line cannot be passed on to your new manager.
The cost of losing some of your customers is higher than buying a phone that was meant to be an asset to your business.
Employees will definitely have personal interactions with customers, but the business itself should have its own communication channels – Whatsapp, Telegram, Phone Lines, etc – and devices that will remain even when employees move on.
Take your communication channels seriously.
Acquiring customers require a great deal of effort; they should not slip through your fingers too easily. Here are some mistakes to avoid if you want to retain your customers significantly:
1.You’re not romancing them enough – Clients deep their hands in their pocket to buy from you because they love how you meet their needs. Take advantage of this and make your service delivery and relationship more soothing. Simply romance your money out of them.
2. You have a marketing effort that sucks – Customers want to associate with a brand that makes them proud. If your marketing effort is not as impressive as that of the competition, even old customers will be lured away from you. You need to pay attention to all of your marketing materials and efforts.
3. Not asking for enough feedback – Do you have a system to receive feedback from customers? It helps you know what your product/service is like in the view of the customers. Customers have a wealth of ideas to improve your business and you can only get that when you ask.
4. Outlive your usefulness – You must constantly reinvent your products/services to keep customers glued to you or they will slip away to more interesting options.
5. Inconsistency – Ensure that you maintain a consistent identity and appeal so that your customers will not drift to options that make a stronger impression on them with consistency.
6. Reward loyalty – Customers are more likely to stick with you if you appreciate their patronage and also reward them for being loyal, the little perks, bonuses or souvenirs matter.
The truth remains that customers will move on overtime, but try to ensure that you do your possible best to keep the much you can.
Written by Donald Alaye
So you had an idea with a plan and some resources to make it a reality, you then delved in with all you had; the zeal, the excitement, the knowledge from research, and so on. In a great feat of anxiety, you hastily rented a space, employed a number of staff and at some point; some years after you founded the venture, you begin to lose sight of it all because it seemed like only you could really make sense of your dream. It was quite obvious that your staff team always struggled with work and rarely got it right.
The list of issues you get to grapple with is quite long…
You begin to realize that beyond having an idea and drawing up a plan; there are several factors to consider and put in place from the onset, as much as possible.
First, what is the mission of the venture you seek to create, what is the vision? What are the guidelines to help you stay on the right track of your journey?
This is what branding is about, putting the essentials in place and engraving it into the regular activities and operations of the venture. In order to build and maintain a successful brand, you have to ensure that your employees are aware of the true essence of the business. Also, you have to make them understand that each of them in their different departments and roles all contribute to making the vision attainable.
Most times, business owners and organizations concentrate only on the external aspect of branding that they forget about the internal aspect which is the most vital part of branding because one person cannot successfully grow a business alone to its peak, a good team with great internal coordination and cohesion is mandatory for success.
A personal experience…
I was in my early 20’s, still in the university. I remember then, after the day’s lecture, my clique and I will head to “The Corner” – that was the name of the hangout. We had just found out about it in the first semester of our final year and decided to make it our hangout spot.
The scenery was so beautiful and peaceful; it felt like heaven on earth at the time. It was a garden with many seating corners, each of which had well set tables and nicely arranged chairs. Once it clocked 7pm, they’d turn on the lights around the fountain – they had a fountain at the center of the garden, where everyone at every corner could get a beautiful view – it was surrounded with beautiful and subtly colored lights which gradually brightened and faded within intervals, soothing music and a memorable Suya spot. It was a cool place to spend your evenings but one thing always bothered me each time we visited there. It was usually scanty, and we were about the only ones that patronized them regularly. However, we thought that since it was new, perhaps it has not gained much popularity yet, but each time we tried mentioning the place to friends or colleagues, we’d get responses like “hmmmph”, “they are on their own”, “they will close down soon”, “they don’t know what they’re up to” and when all of this began to make sense to us was after we had visited there every evening for a whole week and met with the same attitude and response.
Whenever we got there, we had to wait close to 30mins for someone to take our order, this happened every single time. They were always lagged about everything, we apparently didn’t notice this disposition of theirs during our initial visits because we were busy trying to take pictures and were carried away by the scenery but I guess “nasty” just couldn’t hide under any disguise. When they eventually came to attend to us, they did so with the meanest facial expressions. Even after placing our orders, they would delay for another twenty to twenty five minutes with no apologies whatsoever. At some point, I began to wonder whether the actual owner of the place employed these people with intentions of growing his business and attracting customers or just for the purpose of keeping them busy, for nothing.
Although the place was sleek and sophisticated, we just had to caution ourselves to stop going there because in the end, the whole experience will end up ruining our entire day.
And before long, guess what happened??
You guessed right, it shut down. It was quite sad.
The point here is to help drive home the importance of internal branding and creating values that will guide your every decision making process and daily operations, down to the kind of people to employ and the orientation to give them.
Written by Nneoma Chikeka
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Starting a business is one thing, building a business that not only stands the test of time but leaves lasting positive impressions on your clients, is another. My colleagues and I went out for some drinks at a new spot one of us had discovered; we decided it will be great to give it a shot. We all got there and sat back to take in the space; cool spot, great brand name. They took it up a notch by incorporating the name in their choice of materials for the interior design. Ingenious! The attendants were all smartly dressed in lovely branded T-shirts and the setting had a lovely rooftop view.
Generally, they had ticked off a few boxes on my list of what a great brand should be, but in a few minutes I was forced to rethink my review. More than 20minutes after our arrival, no attendant had come to take our order and efforts to call their attention were futile. So much for a great space, hmmm!
Eventually, we caught the attention of one of the attendants and a plain, ill-crafted menu was given to us. We expected that a menu befitting the space and design flow will be presented, but it was a mere A4 sheet with black print. No lamination, no art, nothing!
Anyway, we placed our orders but were gobsmacked at the cluelessness of the attendant when one of us had a few questions about the meal she intended to order. The platter of surprises was far from full as they kept serving more disappointments. After the stipulated time that they gave for our meals to be ready, we neither saw Chinaware nor silver cutlery and none of the waiters had the courtesy to apologize for the delay or affirm the food was getting prepared. After a prolonged wait, the food was served and it took complaints from us to elicit an apology from the attendant, who obviously had little or no training or knowledge on the rudiments of customer service.
Though the meal and ambience were wonderful, we had definitely struck off coming back to the establishment neither were we going to recommend it to anyone we knew. We were put-off by the poor service and nonchalant employees so much that we had no good reviews to put up. What’s the point in this?
At times, people think once you have a building with aesthetics and can afford some labour, your business is set. Not so! Branding a business goes beyond the buildings, aesthetics and employing people who wear uniforms; a distinct personality has to be created for your business in every way possible. Though the establishment in our aforementioned story had a desirable ambience (first impression), the services failed to portray a good ‘personality’ (character and conduct). If they had paid some attention to adequately training their staff to understand the importance of quality service as well as the vision, mission and core values, maybe the outcome would have been different.
Once the basics are addressed, your business will be sure-footed on its way to becoming a brand in every ramification; from name to service delivery. Once your customers are pleased with what your brand offers, ALOHA! to awesome reviews and customers that know your worth and will gladly pay for your services while they invite others to drink from the fountain of your proven brand!
If you will remember one thing, it is this;
Branding begins its journey from internal coordination before it gets to external communications.
Written by Kosisochukwu Ikeme
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