Improving Customer Service

“Customer service is not a department, it’s an attitude” ~ Unknown

Did you know that 70% of the customers that leave your business, do not leave because of price or product quality issues, but because they did not like the level – or lack – of customer service they received?

Go the extra mile. You don’t have to give away your products to please a customer.  Sometimes just doing something simple and unexpected for them can make all the difference. Sending out hand-written thank you cards or placing a follow-up call to see if they are completely satisfied with the service or product can create a great deal of goodwill with your customers.  Those customers will talk about their positive experience and spread the word.

Helpful Tips for creating a positive experience for your customer:

  • Upbeat, positive attitude – it is a privilege to serve our customers.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver. 
  • Do it right the first time.  Pay attention to detail.
  • Honesty and integrity at all times.
  • Respect customers and fellow employees at all times.
  • Support company decisions.
  • Meet commitments.  Resolve problems quickly.
  • Exceed expectations whenever possible.
  • Excellent service at all times – no excuses.

Take Care of Your Existing Customer Base

by Janet Kemmet, Graphic Response

When you are first starting out, your primary objective may be to generate traffic and bring in new customers.  But once you have built a database of customers, you should capitalize on their positive experiences with your store and focus on customer retention. 

Every customer you keep represents at least three that you don’t have to attract.  Research indicates the cost of acquiring a new customer usually runs from two to four times the annual cost of keeping an existing customer.  The largest percentage of your marketing budget should be spent on customer retention – keep the customers you have loyal and happy with your business.  It is unlikely you have exhausted all of the potential opportunities with current customers.  Begin your marketing efforts here.

Understanding who your customers are is critical to a successful customer retention/loyalty program.  Keeping an accurate database will provide valuable insight when marketing to your customers.  It will help you identify their buying habits and preferences – and when they last made a purchase at your store.  Using the data to target accurately to an individual customer will help you earn credibility and loyalty. 

Tap into the buying power of your existing customer base.  Don’t let your customer get away without suggesting at least one other item that complements their purchase.  If you are filling an online or phone order, you can make the suggestion by including product information that is relevant to their buying preferences.  Consider including a small offer for their next purchase (i.e. a percentage off or free shipping).  Always include an expiration date and make sure it is a small window of time.  Make shopping with you a habit.

Do you have customers in your database that you haven’t heard from in a while?  Reach out to them and let them know you have missed them and value their business.  Make an offer to entice them to come back. 

Whether you reach out to your customers by direct mail, phone or email – make sure each contact is meaningful.  Reward them with value.  Remember, your current customers are like money in the bank.

Web Site Home Pages Part 4

Part Four: The Importance of Text

Reach a balance between visual and text. While the visual content on your site is important, carefully crafted text will be critical to the overall success of your site. Text content will drive your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search engines only see text.

CONTENT STRATEGIES

  • Start with a conclusion: make your important points at the beginning
  • Use lists: bulleted points are easy to scan and easy to understand
  • Use concise copy: respect your visitor’s time and make your points quickly. Eliminate non-essential copy and avoid repeating yourself.
  • Use short paragraphs: make a single point in each paragraph and don’t be afraid of short paragraphs.
  • Use good headlines and titles: entice your readers and let them know what to expect if they continue to read your copy. Good headlines and titles are also useful for search effectiveness.
  • Write for a purpose: use your copy to encourage action. Use objective language.
  • Conserve your words: edit unnecessary words.

KEYWORDS

Using the right keywords will optimize search success for your site. Keywords are used when we are searching for products, services and answers on search engines. Identifying the most important keywords for your company will help you effectively market products and services to your target market. Keywords should guide your overall content strategy.

To help your desired visitors find you:

  • Use specific, descriptive keywords (i.e. steel horseshoes)
  • Closely match specific keywords to the services, products, brands and locations you sell and serve
  • Use appropriate filenames and tagging for photos and videos
  • Use captions with photos and videos
  • Don’t use misleading keywords – no keyword “spamming”
  • Update your content – avoid having a “static” site
  • Be consistent in how you use your keywords (i.e. horse shoes vs. horseshoes)
  • Think like a searcher

Web Site Home Pages Part 3

Part Three: Visual Characteristics

WHEN DESIGNING THE HOME PAGE, AVOID ANY GRAPHICS THAT DON’T CONTRIBUTE POSITIVELY TO THE FUNCTION AND OVERALL GOALS OF THE SITE.

Question every element that is included on your home page: What does it do? Will people use it? How does it help the site’s purpose?

IMPORTANT VISUAL CHARACTERISTICS

  • Interesting
  • Good Design
  • Good Color
  • Logical Layout
  • Images Load Quickly
  • Clean and Clear

THE GRAPHICS ON YOUR HOME PAGE SHOULD LEAD THE EYE TOWARD THE MOST IMPORTANT CONTENT FIRST. THE IMAGES SHOULD BE USED TO CREATE A STEP-BY-STEP HIERARCHY FOR THE VISITOR.

In order of importance, they should see:

  • Company Description
  • Navigation
  • Featured Products
  • Action Items
  • Contact Information
  • News and Events
  • Primary Brand Logos

Web Site Home Pages Part 2

Part Two: First Impressions

When planning a new web site or analyzing your existing site, start with your home page. This is the online “face” of your company. The home page should provide an overview of what you do or offer, while beginning to establish trust with your new and repeat visitor. The content you choose to highlight on your home page will be critical to attracting a potential customer and encouraging them to explore the rest of your site.

1/20TH OF A SECOND: THE SPEED WHICH PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT AN IMAGE.

In this short time, most of the impression formed is a physiological and emotional response – and precludes cognitive thinking. In other words, in the “blink of an eye” your visitors have made judgments about the visual appeal of your site and their first impression will influence their buying decisions.

Customers use both emotional and cognitive thinking when making decisions about purchases. A negative first impression, even when the rest of the site is highly usable and informative, is hard to overcome. Evoke a good feeling initially and it will carry through in their buying decisions in a positive way.

Your home page is the entry point to your web site. How can you be sure to make the best first impression on your home page?

DOES YOUR HOME PAGE DO THE FOLLOWING?

  1. Does it represent my brand?
  2. Is it getting a high number of visits?
  3. Is it likely to get bookmarked, saved or shared?
  4. Does it set a good tone for the rest of the site?
  5. Is my home page an effective gateway to the rest of my site?

EVERY ELEMENT ON YOUR HOME PAGE SHOULD HAVE A PURPOSE. EVERY ELEMENT SHOULD BE QUESTIONED:

• What does it do?
• How will it be used?
• How does it help the site’s purpose?

Web Site Home Pages Part 1

Part One: Setting Goals for Your Site

When planning a new web site or analyzing your existing site, start with your home page. This is the online “face” of your company. The home page should provide an overview of what you do or offer, while beginning to establish trust with your new and repeat visitor. The content you choose to highlight on your home page will be critical to attracting a potential customer and encouraging them to explore the rest of your site.

Goals = Success
Setting clear goals will ensure an effective web site and help determine how your site should be designed.

Ask Yourself the Following Questions:

  1. What is the goal of my web site?
  2. What audience do I want to reach?
  3. What are they looking for when they visit my site?
  4. What action do I want my visitors to take?
  5. What are the key messages I want to convey?

Effective Goals
An effective goal will tie directly to a customer’s needs and differentiates your company from your competition.

The following are examples of effective goals:

  1. Answer the top questions my customers will ask.
  2. Home page explicitly states what my company does.
  3. The web site is organized and uncluttered.
  4. The web site contains specific information describing my products and services.
  5. Text contains critical keywords to ensure Search Engine Optimization.

Direct Mail is Alive and Well

by Janet Kemmet, Graphic Response

Based on recent statistics and studies, direct mail appears to be holding strong with a response rate of 4.4% compared to 0.12% for email (according to Bizo and Epsilon data).  Direct mail response rates are typically 10 to 30 times higher than that of digital.  As inboxes become more and more cluttered with marketing messages, direct mail remains the only media channel that puts your message directly into your customers’ hands, through a much less cluttered channel.  

Results of studies by the U.S. Post Office indicate, while participants had similar engagement to digital ads and physical ads, the individuals exposed to the direct mail piece (physical ad) experienced heightened excitement, as well as a greater subjective valuation and desirability for the items advertised.  This experience held true for millennials, as well.  The perception that millennials, raised with cell phones and tablets, would not be interested in something as ‘old school’ as direct mail, has been proven false.  It turns out a significant percentage of millennials like mail, with 95% of 18-29 year olds exhibiting a positive response to receiving personal cards and letters. 

With these encouraging studies, it is obvious Direct Mail remains a viable form of marketing to your customers.  While there are costs associated with the production and mailing of your piece, it continues to be one of the most cost effective methods of marketing for small businesses.  Be sure to integrate direct mail marketing with social media campaigns; reaching targeted audiences with a coordinated and consistent branding message.

Consider the following steps when developing your direct mail message:

  • Make your direct mail memorable
  • Ask your printer about “variable data printing” for a custom effect
  • Target your message to the right audience
  • Include a “Call to Action” offer