Consumers have many choices during the holiday shopping season and do a lot of comparison shopping, based not only on selection and price, but also on their overall customer experience. For retailers, this is a crucial time when your customer service really needs to shine.
For example, you should already by thinking about how you can connect with loyal customers and attract new ones on Small Business Saturday, when many customers will be out shopping specifically at small businesses. If you haven't yet figured out how you'll elevate your store's shopping experience, consider these seven ideas.
1. Offer free upgrades. Nextiva, which markets unified communication systems, offers free personalized auto attendant and voicemail greetings to customers who want to update their message to reflect their new holiday hours and additional promotions. Yaniv Masjedi, vice president of marketing, found that most small businesses won’t pay extra for this service, so they use it as a reason to reach out to current customers.
For your business: What can you offer customers that they value, but doesn’t cost much to deliver?
2. Provide a direct line of communication between owner and customer. Oren Dobronsky, president of Oren’s Hummus Shop, a restaurant in Palo Alto, California, fears bad feedback from his customers. He knows there's a higher risk for it on busier days, such as holidays and special events. Dobronsky found that when he's at his restaurant, employees perform better and there are fewer complaints. Unfortunately, he can’t always be there.
To solve the problem, Dobronsky created Owner Listens, which is an app business owners can sign up for that enables customers to text or email with the owner personally (and anonymously if desired). He says customers are “blown away” when they get a quick direct response from him. Dobronsky promotes this service on his restaurant tables and bill folders. Now, his staff works harder to ensure that no bad feedback goes directly to the owner. He says it’s like always having a secret holiday shopper in the room.
For your business: How can you offer the opportunity for the customer to give direct feedback to you?
3. Send a token of gratitude. Instead of asking customers to buy directly at holiday time, Miki Segal, chief marketing officer at JMAC Supply, sends customers a small token of gratitude with a card to make a personal connection. She believes that instead of making a product pitch, she shows how much she values the relationship.
For your business: Forget expensive gifts. What can you send thoughtfully to a customer to show that you value their business? Video greeting cards are easy to make and share online with tools like GoAnimate and Animoto. Customers are also impressed with donations to their favorite charities.
4. Help carry their load ... literally. Anne Miner, CEO of The Dunvegan Group, a customer service consulting firm, suggests making customers feel welcome by helping them with the packages they're carrying from other stores. She says, “If the customer's arms are full of packages or loaded with bags, help them place their bags into a cart or offer to store them." Miner also suggests bringing them a refreshment.
For your business: How can you make your customers' shopping experience easier so they can focus on what they're interested in buying from you?
5. Use video. One of the best customer experience features on the new Kindle Fire tablet is a “Mayday” button that gets a human tech support representative on the screen in a pop up window. It’s actually a live video feed of an Amazon customer support person who is there to help. (Don’t worry, they can’t see the user.)
For your business: How can you offer pop up video chat on your website during peak hours in addition to email and phone support?
6. Call the competition. Satisfy what the customer needs even if it means calling the competition to get it. This is exactly what Books-A-Million (BAM) did last year when a consumer desperately needed a book and it was out of stock: BAM called its competitor to reserve a copy for that customer. Working a customer problem until completion is critical.
For your business: Give a list to your employees where a customer can get a product if you don’t have it in stock.
7. Spread the cheer. For high-valued customers, Facebook Gifts are a good alternative because the actual “gift giving” can be posted to those customers' timelines. When this happens, all their “friends” see this news and spread the company’s good intentions for the holidays. Alternatively, a small business can have a holiday contest on Facebook where the prize is a Small Business Saturday shopping spree.
For your business: How can your small business interact with Facebook fans so they think of shopping with you?
How does your business plan to shine during Small Business Saturday? Share your ideas in comments section below.
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