Small Business Advice
Are you making it difficult for your customers to do business with you?
"Even your most loyal customers always have a choice about where to take their business." ~ Marilyn Suttle
Feedback from your customers is critical to the success of your business, but there are many things they are simply not going to tell you. What is important to remember about these things is this: just because your customers are not saying anything about them does not mean they are not costing you business.
Here is my list of 10 things that may be making it difficult to do business with you. You must be aware of these things because your customers are not going to point them out.
Firstly, customers are not going to tell you if you do not have enough cashiers or tellers on duty. Instead, if they see it as a habitual problem, they will just take their business elsewhere.
For example, a very large chain of box stores never seems to have enough cashiers on duty. They do have several self-checkout lanes, but I do not think I have ever gone through one of these lanes without having some kind of problem. In this store, it is so hard to find someone to help when this happens. Shouldn’t giving you their money be the easiest part for the customer?
Secondly, your customers will not tell you if your facilities are getting old and outdated. Customers like a change, and if they think your business is looking run down, they will just go somewhere else.
Thirdly, customers are not going to tell you how long they had to wait on the phone to get help with a problem. This is so frustrating for your customers, and they simply will do business with you if they feel they received bad service.
Fourthly, customers will not tell you if your staff looks sloppy or is dressed unprofessionally. It is up to you to make sure every staff member looks sharp. It is okay to tell an employee they are not dressed professionally and hold them to that standard.
This is so important because your staff is the first thing your customers see in your business and they need to look the part. A great way to avoid problems with this is having a detailed dress code in your company handbook.
Fifth on the list is not responding timely to your customers. I was shopping for a new car recently but was headed out of town for the weekend. The salesman said he would call me on Monday to arrange a test drive, but he never called. I did not say a word but decided then and there that I will not do business with this dealer.
A sixth problem is when your employees are not being genuine and sincere in their interactions with your customers. This makes your customers uncomfortable. Most will not complain. They will simply not come back.
For example, when I am shopping for clothes, I just want to scream when an employee asks me if I need help but uses a tone that is completely devoid of any real concern. Treating customers as if they do not have feelings is very dangerous.
Seventh, make sure your parking lot is sufficient to handle your volume of business. If all your spots are filled, the customer is just going to go somewhere else. If parking is tight, ask employees to use the spaces that are farthest away, leaving the convenient spots for your customers.
The eighth thing a customer will not tell you is if they were not greeted appropriately. It is so important that each customer is welcomed when they arrive and thanked when they leave.
Ninth, a customer will not tell you they were blindsided when you failed to notify them of changes in their order. They will just not return to your business. It is absolutely critical that you keep your customers informed throughout the entire order/delivery process.
The last problem that customers just will not tell you is that your website is not very good or is difficult to use. It is your responsibility to ensure you have a great website, and you cannot wait for your customers to tell you what the problems are.
Now go out and make sure you are listening to your customers, but also that you are taking steps to avoid making these fatal mistakes.
You can do this.
Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.