When Customers Have Options

The store had an intriguing name – “Big Don’s Place.”  What’s more, it was right next to our cabin.  As we walked into the store we were greeted with a stare by the cashier in this tiny little bait and tackle shop in the middle of no-where, right next to the best trout fishing waters east of the Mississippi.  Instead of an attractive checkout display next to the register, there was a big sign that read “CASH ONLY.”  For a place that depends on out of town traffic for its very existence, there was a surprisingly unfriendly air about the store.  There is a big difference in the kind of unfriendly behavior that a monopoly can engage in and the way a growing business acts in a competitive market.  Let’s look at a couple of keys for thriving in a competitive marketplace where customers have lots of options.  Also, you’ll never guess how we won over the grumpy cashier. 

Thank You! Please Come Again!

Let your customers know you appreciate them.

Treat ‘em nice

Do your customers know that you’re thankful for them, glad to see them, and happy to hear from them?  Unless your customers have super powers, they can’t read minds – they’ll form their own answer to that question based on the way you and your staff great them and interact with them.

One of the reasons that stores like Wal-Mart employs greeters is to ensure that customers receive a friendly greeting when they first enter the store.  You are your own best greeter.  When you greet your customers, whether in person, by phone, or by email in a warm and friendly manner, they notice.  Your greeting is just one of the ways that you let your customers know how thankful you are for them – without them you wouldn’t be in business.

Everybody has off days occasionally, but make it a high priority to be warm and friendly with your customers.  It’s something that they notice, and has an impact on how many word of mouth referrals they send your way.

Make it easy

The old expression about there being two ways – the easy way and the hard way, has lots of applications.  In the context of customer service, you’ve got to work at making things easy for your customers.  Nobody sets out to deliberately make things difficult for their customers.  However, there are an awful lot of companies out there who have a horrible reputation when it comes to the customer experience.  Make things easy for your customers, and you stand to gain a great deal.

Information gathering is an important, but frequently overlooked, part of the pre-purchase process.  How do your customers approach this gathering of information that leads to a purchase decision?  What key questions do they have?  Making it easy for your customers to do business with you begins with making it easy for them to find what they are looking for and get their questions answered before the sale ever takes place.  This is a big part of where you earn their trust and their business.

The transaction is another area that can often be made easier for the customer.  This involves taking payment in ways that are easy for the customer such as all four major credit cards, electronic checks, etc.  For online stores, this includes simplifying the online checkout process so that it is as efficient as possible.  Your warranty and money back guarantees are a part of this as well.  This is really all about making it as easy as possible for your customers to give you money.  Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.

Taking time to consider your business through the eyes of your customers is a great exercise that can pay big dividends.  Unless you’re the only game in town, your customers have other options available.  Treat your customers like someone special and make it as easy as possible for them to do business with you, and you’ll be richly rewarded for your efforts.

Remember the grumpy cashier at Big Don’s Place?  Turns out a smile and a joke still go a long way toward turning strangers into friends.

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