You’ve most likely heard the saying, “Don’t assume because it makes an ass out of you and me.” When it comes to your business, assuming certain things can mostly just make an ass out of you … and send your clients elsewhere.
Tis the season
The holiday season is often a busy time for many product-based businesses. Even in this down economy, people still spend a bit extra on their Christmas and Hanukkah shopping – a bonus for retailers.
Many service providers see a jump in projects after the first of the year when new budgets go into effect. (Some even see an end-of-the-year jump as the budget for the current year needs to be completely used to ensure a similar budget next year.)
However, just because you had an influx of customers last year, don’t assume those customers will return automatically.
They sell milk across the street too
Having customers is not the same as keeping customers.
If you do not provide your clients with the products and services that they need and the level of service that they expect, there is a good chance they will look elsewhere.
For example, earlier this year I spent a long weekend at a timeshare in Big Bear, California. A short distance from the condo there was a Vons (one of the Safeway supermarket chains), which we went to buy food for our stay. When we arrived at the store, there were only a couple of open cashier lanes (all with long lines), the store was in disarray, the shelves were not well stocked, and the employees were irritable.
As I walked through the aisles, I heard many customers complain to each other and watched several leave the store without groceries – some just abandoning their full carts. Where were they headed? They simply went across the street to the Stater Bros. Market (part of a smaller grocery chain, but still a full-sized supermarket).
Vons may have been the better-known chain where customers went to first, but poor service and low inventory sent people across the street to its competitor. There is a good chance that they lost customers not only for the day, but also for return trips. Personally, I gave the Vons poor reviews on Foursquare and Yelp and, when I needed more groceries, I went to Stater Bros, where the staff was friendly and the shelves were stocked.
Is your business Vons or Stater Bros.?
Where does your business fall? Do you think your customers need you more than you need them? (Guess what, they typically don’t.)
As you hit your “busy time” of the year, don’t let the excess business cause you to lose sight of what brought your customers to you. “I’m too busy” is no excuse for poor service. Make the time to serve your customers now or you may find yourself with too much free time when unhappy clients look elsewhere.
If you are an online business, staying on your game is just as important – if not more so – as it is for brick-and-mortar stores. If customers left a grocery store mid-shopping because they were unhappy with their experience, you can bet that shoppers in a virtual store will leave too. Online customers are more likely to abandon a shopping cart or to hit the back button to find something better when they do not see what they want.
Banish assumptions and hedge your bets
Although it may be too late to change your behavior from your last “busy season,” you can still court those customers. Even happy customers may need a reminder about your business. Take the time to:
- Send an email blast with a holiday greeting or a newsletter letting customers know what specials you are running or other important information.
- Call those big clients (when feasible) with whom you haven’t touched base recently.
- Send a coupon (electronically or using the postal service) for an item or service related to their past purchases.
- Keep your website up-to-date and relevant
- Stay current with your PPC (pay-per-click) and SEO campaigns – new and old customers should be able to easily find you.
You also need to make sure that when potential customers visit your website or brick-and-mortar location, they find what they need. Don’t give your customers a reason to leave.
In this down economy, you don’t have to be the cheapest option to get the sale, but you do need to be the best value.
When potential clients reach your website and/or contact you, be sure that they find:
- Guaranteed products and services.
- Amazing customer service.
- An intuitive, easy-to-navigate website.
- Information that applies to them and addresses their pain points and needs.
- A referral service if you are unable to meet their needs – you’d be amazed how far a good referral can go. It’s better to have a happily referred person than an unhappy customer.
Eat, drink, and be merry
Keeping your clients happy will make your holiday season (or other busy season) a joyous occasion – especially when you see the boost to your bottom line. Remember, pass on the assumptions this year and just wow your customers.
May you all have happy and safe holidays and a very profitable busy season!
Amy C. Teeple is a proud graduate of Heather’s SEO copywriting certification program. A Jersey girl living in Southern California, Amy is also a dedicated 3-Day for the Cure walker and a sports lover.