When Henry Ford launched the Model T in 1908, he told customers they could have the car in any color ... as long as it was black. Fast forward 100-plus years, and consumers have come to expect that whatever they want will be tailor-made for them.
That's because companies are bending over backwards to give customers exactly what they want. Keurig's coffee maker, for instance, allows every person in the house to have the exact flavor of coffee they want. And at movie theaters and restaurants nationwide, Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machines offer more than 125 different products that can be mixed by customers to create customized flavors.
Smart companies also bring that customization and personalization to their online customers. One way is by using cookies on their websites to “remember” who their visitors are, what they bought in the past, and what they looked at and might consider buying in the future. Most customers enjoy this personalization because they want to do business with other people, not with the companies themselves, and this feels personal. That personal connection is also what creates a "barrier to exit" for the customer, keeping them loyal to your business.
Making It Personal
Technology tools make it easier and less costly than ever to personalize every customer service contact. If you'd like to personalize more of your customer interactions, try some of these tips and tools:
1. Get to know your customers. Customer relationship management tools like Infusionsoft and Highrise enable you to “remember” customer details such as their last purchase or conversation, their birth date and other relevant personal information. You can use these tools to set reminders and schedule follow-ups. You can even integrate the information into your email or phone solutions, so when a customer contacts your company, all their details are attached and available to whomever is in contact with them.
2. Make a real connection. Almost every email or online interaction should include a name and picture (if possible) of the employee the customer is talking to. This personalizes the conversation and makes it an interaction between two people, not between a person and a company.
3. Offer personal specials. Mobile “geofencing” on smartphones lets companies target customers in a given area with a special offer. This creates another highly personal connection.
4. Be available when they need you most. Simple chat tools on your website can pop up when a prospect or customer has been on a page for a period of time. Using a social media site such as Twitter allows your company to have one-on-one interactions with your customers in real time.
5. Let them try it on. You most likely already have multiple pictures of your products posted on your website. If you're a clothing retailers, you might think about using technology such as Swivel that shows what your products will actually look like on the customer by using a virtual dressing room.
6. Don't make them wait to buy. Customers shopping at a brick-and-mortar location don't really want to line up at a cash register to check out. Giving your salespeople mobile point-of-sale devices enables them to offer immediate checkout (it also means they never have leave their customer's side from initial contact at the store through checkout).
7. Deliver it today. Zappos and Amazon have both made two-day delivery the standard. But now, many large retailers such Walmart, eBay, Whole Foods and even Amazon are starting to offer same-day service. Small-business owners can take advantage of this trend by using third-party services such as TaskRabbit and Postmates to get goods in their customers' hands faster.
Personalized customer service is a must-have for every small business today. You must get to know your customers' personal details—or your competitor will.
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