Finding customers is an important first step towards success in small business – but it’s no good drawing a crowd if you can’t keep them coming back.
Repeat business is the lifeblood of smaller firms, which often rely on happy customers using them again or recommending them to others. So how do successful companies keep bringing business back through the door?
Jake Robinson, CEO of architectural and drafting services firm Superdraft says ensuring customers have a great experience is everything in business.
“It’s simple maths really,” he says. “If you invest 10% extra effort to ensure each client receives a great experience, then they will come back again and likely refer a friend, family or colleague and that can easily translate into compounding sales growth of up to 100% above normal outbound marketing.
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“So to invest 10% now for potentially 100% extra sales in the future, is a great ROI.”
Here we chat with Jake and three other finalists in this year’s Smart50 Awards presented by Mastercard to gain an insight into how they delivery first-class customer service.
Become a stress reliever
Identifying your customers’ pain points and finding ways to soothe them is one of the best ways to attract and retain customers. Super Easy Storage uses portable storage units to load up items at clients’ homes and then transport it to their facility, making theirs a business built on saving customers time and effort.
“We believe that we took what was traditionally a very time-consuming, expensive and stressful process and made it easy,” says Jordana Thirlwall, franchise owner and co-founder of Super Easy Storage.
“Our sales team provides the best solution for every customer by asking crucial questions to understand their situation since their first contact. Our customers very often write in their reviews that we are super easy to deal with and that is what they really like about the company.”
Take the blame
When things go wrong with a customer’s experience, you really need to own it, says Jen Geale from Mountain Bikes Direct. Shifting the blame to the courier or third party looks just like it is – handballing.
“We are not always perfect – we have made, and will continue to make, mistakes in various areas of our business,” she says.
“In each case [where something has gone awry] we’ll handle it differently because the problem is not actually the same. I think customers appreciate it when we try to really help – them – specifically, not just trot out a standard/stock response.”
Leave no shopper behind
Jon Burrell, General Manager of Tentworld, says it’s imperative to not alienate any potential shoppers – and the way his business manages this is to offer a personal and friendly store experience for all ages.
“Camping is a multi-generational holiday enjoyed by all, so we are careful not to scare away any generation from our shops,” he says.
Fortunately for Tentworld, their management covers off Baby Boomers from Burrell’s father and managing director Alex, several store managers are Gen X and several other managers are Gen Y, including Jon Burrell.
“We take feedback from all of our managers, and try to ensure we’ve covered off the needs of all generations, and how they like to shop,” he says.
“Our stores are not so clinical, and are focused on customer experience and enjoyment. We make as much as we can available to touch, use and play with in-store.”
Do what you do best
Specialising in a product or service is one of the best ways to build customer interest and loyalty. Super Easy storage has a unique portable storage options, Superdraft offers quality end-to-end architectural and building project expertise and Tentworld offers a friendly, family-run camping alternative to the big chains.
For Mountain Bikes Direct cofounder Jen Geale, being niche means she can channel her passion into the business. “Customers love that.”
“We don’t sell everything bike; instead we sell top quality parts, clothing and accessories for mountain biking,” she says.
“We genuinely love the sport and want to see more people loving it too, and I think a lot of our customers get that and want to be part of that.”
Keep on talking
Who is better placed to know how to improve customer service than the customers themselves? Getting regular feedback, whether it’s in person, regular surveys, social media reviews, personal emails or follow-up phone calls, is imperative for all four companies.
Mountain Bike Direct’s customer service email software includes a simple rating and comment system which is monitored weekly; Tentworld monitors feedback every day via surveys, reviews, email and social media; and Super Easy Storage sends surveys and considers feedback from live chat, calls and reviews.
Robinson says communicating with customers and the designers working for him is essential to make sure projects are on track and all parties are happy.
“Superdraft surveys clients every couple of weeks to determine their happiness levels with our service and support,” he says.
“This is compiled into a report and we act quickly based on that feedback, whether it’s good or bad.
“Communication with internal teams and clients – and compiling that data and acting on it in a structured way – is essential for having maximum control over your business.”
Mastercard seeks to help as many Australian retailers as possible, to grow their businesses by embracing all forms of payment to provide customers the choice to make transactions whichever way they want to, with no restrictions.