13 Jun Customizing Customer Service: Get Personal
Do you know your customers? Not just who they are demographically or what category they fall in as spa buyers, all of which is important, but do you know the basic personal information–like their names? After you’ve walked a buyer around the store and shown them different brands and products, do you later refer to them as “that guy with the blonde lady” or “the couple with the two kids”? If you do, you are totally missing a crucial step to truly customized customer service. Chances are if you’re missing this step, you’re missing others as well. It’s time to get personal with customer service.
As any retailer can attest, cultural changes have brought about a shift in consumer expectations. Customers are now looking for an experience when shopping–not just an explanation. Why? Because they can find almost everything they need to know online. The difference offered by a brick-and-mortar store is the experience it provides. It’s up to the business to convince consumers that this experience is what they want that too.
In today’s world of internet technology, the basic skills of one-on-one sales are becoming the exception rather than the rule in customer service.
Then we have to define what this experience looks like, making sure it focuses on personalization. In today’s age of IT, consumers expect retailers to know their preferences and interests. According to a recent Infosys survey, “78% of consumers are more likely to be a repeat customer if a retailer provides them with targeted, personalized offers.” Consumers understand that some basic analytics can tell businesses a good deal about who they are and what they may be looking for. They simply want to be offered things (products and/or benefits) that matter to them.
And guess what. Consumers are willing to pay for this kind of personalize experience. In fact, 86% of consumers will pay up to 25% more for it. Whether online, through email, on the phone, or in person, salespeople can effectively take action that promotes loyalty by actively engaging in conversation and paying attention to what the customer is saying.
Know Your Customers
On the sales floor, the foundational step of personalized customer service is knowing the customers’ names. Actually, this is important in all modes of customer interaction, but you can’t personalize individual customer experiences without knowing something about those customers. Traf-Sys makes the point that “consumers don’t NEED to make the trip to a retail store. They can find just about anything they need online. Retailers have to make them WANT to” make the trip. That’s the first thing you need to know about your customers. When a customer walks into a hot tub store, they have almost certainly made a conscious decision to do, so take time to get to know them:
- Smile, make eye contact and introduce yourself.
- Ask their names and use them in the conversation.
- Be a person, not a salesperson. Instead of making a sales pitch, chat and get to know them and what they’re looking for.
These may seem like very basic and obvious actions, but in today’s world of internet technology, the basic skills of one-on-one sales are becoming the exception rather than the rule in customer service. Don’t believe it? According to Five Stars, “68% of customers will stop shopping at a business if they feel the business is indifferent towards them.” When “the couple with two kids” becomes “Alex and Emma” this little family starts to feel like a valued customer. Also, when you send that follow-up email, make sure to refer to them by name (maybe mention the kids while you’re at it) and to sign with your name instead of the impersonal “sales@yourbusiness” account.
We’ve Been Expecting You
Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert, talks about the TimeTrade “We’ve Been Expecting You customer service experience,” which consists of three basic steps:
- Meet the customer on their terms whether it be on the phone, in person, or online.
- Take advantage of every customer interaction to build a rapport and provide product knowledge and expertise.
- Give employees the training and tools necessary to do their job effectively.
Practice Makes Perfect
So, exactly what kinds of things can stores and salespeople do to customize their customer service?
How about practicing flexibility?
Imagine that it’s two days before Thanksgiving and you get a phone call from a frantic woman. She has family coming in over the next few days and needs chemicals to get her spa ready to use by the time they arrive. The problem is that she is doing all the cooking, prepping the house for company, and making several trips to the airport over the next couple of days to pick people up. She needs the chemicals now, but can’t make it your store before closing time. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry we can’t help you,” you ask where she lives. It turns out it isn’t that far from the home of one of your employees. You ask that employee to drop off the chemicals on their way home from work and add a little overtime to their pay.
While this isn’t a service you offer regularly, the fact that you are willing to go out of your way in an emergency situation will make a huge impression. Did I mention that this woman had never done business with you before? No? Well guess who she’ll be doing business with in the future!
How about empowering your employees to fix problems?
An article in Aqua Magazine relates the story of how a bottle of pool chemical spilled in a customer’s vehicle causing damage to the automobile and to the customer’s hands when he tried to clean it up. It turned out that the bottles should have remained upright. When he contacted the store, he was bluntly told, “The warning’s on the bottle.” He then contacted the manufacturer of the chemical whose immediate response was “Are you okay? Do you need to go to the doctor?” They also paid to have the damage to the vehicle repaired. Guess who lost a regular customer that day? Guess which brand of chemicals the customer continued to use?
How about giving the customer service you would want?
Swim Things in Blue Springs, MO provides a unique approach to personalized customer service. Instead of one person making the sale, another in charge of delivery, and still another charged with spa setup and installation, one person does it all. Customers who walk in to Swim Things are greeted by a salesperson who assists them in whatever way necessary. If the customer buys a spa, the person who sold it to them is also present for delivery and during installation and setup. Customers really appreciate working with a single person throughout the entire process from purchase to installation. They know this person is familiar with the all the details and are comfortable putting their trust in them. So, guess who they refer their friends to?
Customers really appreciate working with a single person throughout the entire process from purchase to installation.
You are a salesperson. Your job is to sell products to customers. However, in order to provide customized customer service that leads to sales, you need to understand your own personal work styles and strengths. Persuasion.com outlines four basic personality types to help with your self-discovery:
Learning which personality type you are as a salesperson will help you in creating customer service strategies that play to your strengths. Also, being able to recognize these personality traits in your customers is essential to tailoring your approach to their individual needs.
Whether you do something as simple as greet customers at the door or as in-depth as creating special deals based on a particular customer’s past purchase activities, the important thing is that you are actively tailoring your customer service efforts to each visitor. When Forbes reports that “66% of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they are treated like a number instead of an individual,” it is definitely time to start getting personal with your customer service.