I was speaking with a woman recently who is in a high paying executive job, well known in the business community, well spoken, and always impeccably dressed. This woman related the story of her recent visit to a high end fashion boutique where she was shunned by the sales assistants. The woman has now repeated this story to everyone she knows, most of whom are influential people in the target demographic for this boutique. It makes one wonder about the strategy of this business and the way they train their staff to deal with customers. I think most retailers would agree that this approach is fraught with danger. It doesn't take long for word of mouth to spread about an unpleasant customer service experience.
|Dr Monique Beedles|
While most businesses are quick to treat those who speak and dress well with extra attention, there is sometimes a scale of service that bottoms out for those who appear to be less likely to purchase. While renting apartments as a university student I encountered this treatment from real estate agents who wouldn't return phone calls, were rude and abrupt, or even dishonest in their dealings. Even now, when looking to buy a house or an investment property, I wouldn't take my business back to those providers. Short sighted businesses fail to appreciate that today's student is tomorrow's successful professional and that today's tenant is tomorrow's landlord.
Taking a long-term view for your business means thinking of every potential customer as a customer for life. Good businesses treat everyone who walks through their door as if they were their best customer. Excellent businesses go further, realising that every person they meet, even before they walk through the door, is a potential customer. Whether it's your fellow passengers on the bus to work or the people you party with on the weekend, customers for life are those who feel that you respect them and that you treat them that way regardless of the situation.
Historically some banks have been good at this. They have offered attractive deals for students on savings accounts, credit cards or loans. By taking this approach, they recognise that today's medical student is tomorrow's doctor and treat them as a customer for life from the start. In the same way, today's fashion savvy teenager is tomorrow's customer for high end designers. Many offer a separate label targeted at the younger demographic, and more reasonably priced than their signature line. If young customers feel well treated by the brand when they first take an interest, they are more likely to become long-term customers and ultimately ambassadors for the brand.
For your business, think about the lifecycle of your customers and how their needs change over the course of their experiences with you. How can you ensure that from the very first encounter each customer sees you as a business they will want to deal with in their future? This extends to treating the children of customers well. They are your next generation customers who, if delighted with the experience, will come back with fond memories and a smile.
Especially during the busy Christmas season, it's easy to get wrapped up in the stress of the moment and to deal hurriedly with customers - to ignore those browsers who you feel will be wasting your time. Step back and remember that when the rush is over, you will want these customers back next year. No matter what type of business you're in, think about how you can make every customer feel that they have a lifelong relationship with your business. What can you do to create customers for life?