MANAGING CUSTOMERS

Customers are the lifeblood of your business - so finding new customers is key when starting or growing your operations. Expanding your customer base can help you increase the reach and awareness of your product or service. It can also increase your sales and profitability, as well as ensure you meet your business goals and objectives.

BENEFITS OF ATTRACTING NEW CUSTOMERS

Attracting and keeping the right customers can make a big difference to your business. It can help you to:

  • Increase your sales revenue
  • Build brand awareness
  • Generate positive word of mouth
  • Increase the potential for referral business
  • Build networks and relationships with your customers and other businesses.

5 TIPS FOR FINDING NEW CUSTOMERS

  • Network and referralsBusiness networking events are a good opportunity to find new customers. Attending events gives you an opportunity to promote your business, meet new and existing customers, and connect with other businesses that may be willing to refer your business to their customers. See Events to look for networking and business events in your area.
  • Expand your sales channelsThis means looking at the ways you communicate and sell to your customers and consider how you might expand these. This may mean starting a website to move online or setting up social media channels to communicate with new and existing customers. We can cover all of this with our Business Class Membership.
  • Give incentives to existing customers for referralThis could include a ‘Bring a friend – buy one get and one free’ voucher or similar, to encourage your existing customers to refer their friends to your business. Focusing on existing customers and improving their customer service experience may also help increase the number of new customers through positive word of mouth and customer referral.
  • Undertake Digital Marketing ServicesIf you are not keen on improving your online presence, then your business will continue to struggle, the internet is the “go to” place for business, product, service -the BOM will assist you with as little or as much as you need to improve your online reputation. Click here to see Listing Options
  • Connect with other businesses Sometimes referred to as ‘affiliate marketing’, this can mean partnering with other businesses to help you get you new customers. You may find it useful to look for businesses that operate in a business area that complements your product or service, and that have a similar customer profile or target market.

Whether you run your business from home, online, or out of a commercial office, your customers are vital to your success. Loyal customers are those that come back to purchase from your business again. Not only can they help you increase your profits, they also often generate positive word of mouth, which can be an effective marketing tool. Generating and keeping loyal customers is a priority for any business, but particularly if you're looking to grow.

BENEFITS OF KEEPING LOYAL CUSTOMERS CAN INCLUDE:

Attracting and keeping the right customers can make a big difference to your business. It can help you to:

  • Increased sales
  • Increased profits
  • Increased word of mouth and referral business
  • Reduced costs in attracting new customers
  • Building good relationships with your customers

Here are some ways to help you attract and keep loyal customers.

UNDERSTAND WHY YOUR CUSTOMERS BUY FROM YOU

Understanding why your customers buy from you is one of the most important elements of your business model. For example, is it your customer service, your convenient location or your low prices that make your customers want to buy from you again? You can try asking some of your best customers why they choose to buy from you, to help you improve on these features. This valuable feedback can help if you're looking to innovate in your business, open a new location or even if you're just trying to improve and refine your business model!

AFTER-SALES FOLLOW UP

After-sales follow up means contacting your customer after they've bought a product or service from your business. Contacting your customers after the sale can help you build an ongoing relationship with them, and also encourage them to talk about your business in a positive way. When contacting them, try asking if they're happy with their purchase. If they're not, you could ask them how your product or service could be improved.

The BOM offers verified business customers a direct link from your website to the BOM for them to review after they have dealt with you, this offers convenience, positive reviews = incredible SEO. If you haven’t already received your FREE box of review cards for retail/service businesses, contact us and we will post out to you ASAP.

Dont forget to let your customers know that by reviewing you on the BOM, they receive points that contribute to a shopping voucher

INCENTIVES FOR REPEAT PURCHASES

Giving your customers a 'reward' for returning to your business can be an effective way of encouraging your customers to stay loyal to your business. This is also known as a 'repeat purchase' system. For example, if you run a café, you could offer a loyalty card that's stamped every time someone buys a coffee from you. The 10th coffee could be worth a free drink, an upsize or a discount. This kind of system can encourage repeat purchases, help you keep loyal customers and generate word of mouth for your business.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

It is important to understand what customer service is and why taking the time to improve it can be beneficial to your business.

Even though it may take extra time, effort and consideration, providing excellent customer service is a great way to turn 'sometimes' customers into 'all the time' customers. Excellent customer service is about treating your customers with respect, considering their needs and wants, knowing your product and going 'above and beyond' to help them.

For example, if you run a café, you could instruct your wait-staff to provide customers with other options for dietary requirements or offer refunds if customers are unsatisfied with their meal. Taking the time to follow up on all the feedback you receive is another great way to improve your customer service. Your customers will appreciate it if they can see you have acted on their feedback or addressed it in some way. Get inspired!

A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

Creating a unique experience can be another way to attract and keep loyal customers. This is also known as a unique selling proposition (USP). Your USP can set you apart from your competitors, make your business memorable or solve a gap in the market. Your USP is also an important aspect of your brand and positioning. If your business offers an experience that no one else does, your customers are likely to come back to experience it again. For example, if your café offers free jazz music on a Sunday afternoon, customers will have a reason to choose your café over the one down the road that doesn't offer live music. Your business' unique experience could come from customer feedback, a bright idea on your behalf, or a response to a gap in your industry. Whatever unique experience your business offers, it can help to strengthen your brand and generate loyal customers.

BUSINESS INNOVATION

Another way of generating a unique experience or a USP is through business innovation. Generally, innovation means changing the way things are done. In business, it can mean changing your business model, creating more efficient processes, selling a different product or just being more creative. Innovation doesn't always mean inventing something new—it can be much more organic than that. For example, a staff member might suggest a new way of promoting your business which in turn could lead to more customers. When implemented successfully, innovation can help your business grow.

Innovation can also:

  • Improve your business model
  • Drive sales
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Help you have more efficient internal processes.

Making sure a culture of innovation is built into your business model is important to building your business. Asking yourself tough questions, listening to your staff's insights, implementing customer feedback where appropriate and responding to changes in the market are all examples of business innovation.

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK IS A GREAT WAY TO GET IDEAS ON HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR BUSINESS. WHEN SEEKING FEEDBACK, IT’S BEST TO:

Whether you run your business from home, online, or out of a commercial office, your customers are vital to your success. Loyal customers are those that come back to purchase from your business again. Not only can they help you increase your profits, they also often generate positive word of mouth, which can be an effective marketing tool. Generating and keeping loyal customers is a priority for any business, but particularly if you're looking to grow.

  • Make it as easy as possible for your customers to give their suggestions or ideas for improvement
  • Ensure you take the time to action feedback
  • Thank customers for taking the time to provide their feedback.

How the BOM helps you collect vital customer feedback

  • As long as you are verified with the BOM, you will receive some code that is imbedded into home page of your website, this shows as a small emblem inviting your customers to ‘click here’ and takes them direct to your webpage within the BOM for them to review, super convenient, no hassle.
  • If you have a shopfront, ensure you go to “GET YOUR FREE REVIEW CARDS” and we will post out your box of complimentary cards for you to hand out to your customers for their feedback, super easy!

WHY SEEK CUSTOMER FEEDBACK?

Positive feedback is always great, but negative feedback has the potential to provide valuable insights on where or how your business processes or customer service can be improved. It also presents an opportunity for you to address a customer complaint or concern and turn their experience into a positive one. Don’t panic about nasty reviews, they are not allowed on the BOM!!

Getting feedback from customers may also help your business develop a unique product or service that differs from that of your competitors. Taking the time to analyse and action customer suggestions may lead to positive word-of-mouth, increased referrals and new customers, improving your overall sales and profitability.

OTHER WAYS TO COLLECT CUSTOMER FEEDBACK?

Collecting customer feedback doesn’t need to be a lengthy or time-consuming process. It can be as simple as chatting to your customers directly about how they feel your business, products or service can be improved.

Below are some ideas on how to start collecting and encouraging feedback from your customers.

SURVEYS OR FORMS

You could use a printed feedback form or survey and place this in a customer facing area of your business, such as the reception or sales counter.

Clearly explain what the feedback will be used for, e.g. Please use this form to give your thoughts on our business, product or service, so we can improve. Include the postal address of your business (and ideally a reply-paid envelope), so customers can complete the form at a later time and post it back to you if they prefer.

If you have a website, consider placing a customer feedback survey in the Contact us section of your website or letting people comment on your blog or web pages.

SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS

You can use social media to engage with your customers by posting questions about your products and services and asking for their feedback directly. You can also use the tools or apps available within your social media platform, such as polls and surveys, to help you gather feedback.

FEEDBACK VIA PHONE OR EMAIL

Look at the way’s customers contact your business and consider whether it may be an appropriate way for them to give their feedback. For example, you could set up a business phone number (ideally toll free) or a customer service email address for customers to call or email if they have complaints or feedback.

FOCUS GROUPS AND INTERVIEWS

This is a more formal method of seeking feedback but may be a useful approach for your business as part of market research activities that you may be undertaking. If you are conducting formal interviews, make sure you include questions about previous customer experiences and ideas for how your business can improve.

AFTER SALES FOLLOW-UP FEEDBACK

As part of your after-sales customer service, you could contact your customers directly, by calling them or email them a feedback survey. You may also choose to simply chat to them face-to-face to gain their feedback on how they found the service they received from your business.

REVIEW YOUR CUSTOMER DATA

This is an indirect, but useful method for gaining insights on your customers, preferences and trends.

You may be already collecting statistics and analytics that may be useful for identifying how you can provide better service to meet the needs of your customers. For example, your sales data may show that your customer numbers increase over lunch, so you may put more staff on during this time to ensure your customers receive timely and prompt service.

The method you choose will probably depend on your customer base and the type and size of your business.

Making sure a culture of innovation is built into your business model is important to building your business. Asking yourself tough questions, listening to your staff's insights, implementing customer feedback where appropriate and responding to changes in the market are all examples of business innovation.

HOW TO USE CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

It’s important you use the feedback to help you improve over time and identify customer trends in your business to help you meet your business goals.

Most importantly, don’t forget to respond and thank your customers for taking the time to provide you with their feedback. It’s a good idea to follow-up with them to let them know their feedback was useful and how it helped you to improve your business.

In every small business, problems can arise between businesses, their customers, suppliers, partners and employees. Most can be resolved quickly and efficiently with a common-sense approach. When dealing with customers, it's likely from time to time that you will receive a customer compliant about a product or service your business provides.

Customer complaints are usually considered a bad thing, but, if handled correctly, they can present an opportunity for you to turn a negative situation into a positive one.

TIPS FOR HANDLING CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS GRACEFULLY

  • Have a clear procedure for handling customer complaints including negotiating face-to-face in a calm and professional manner. Your documented customer complaints procedure needs to be accessible and easy to understand by yourself and employees. You need to practice the procedure with your staff, so they feel comfortable when applying it. Having well-trained staff can be the difference between inflaming or soothing a situation.
  • Keep a record of all promises, agreements and undertakings you have with your customers. Clear, documented communication means you can refer back to it as a source of truth and avoid misunderstandings.
  • Ask the customer if they can provide documentary evidence to help you verify the facts. Make sure the documented procedures in your business include the process for returning products. Your business will be bound by the Consumer Law, but it's also important to develop your own internal procedures, to make returning goods more efficient. This could mean authorising more staff to approve returns, documenting returns in a designated place or educating staff on consumer rights. If your customers have a poor experience trying to return a product, or they are treated badly by your staff, they are unlikely to return, so it's important to get it right.
  • Understand your legal obligations. Ensure that your business complies with the relevant laws and regulations with regards to products, pricing, refunds and warranties. Read Fair trading for more information.
  • Listen to your customers (put yourself in their shoes) and make a note of feedback received. Taking the time to follow up on all the feedback you receive is another great way to improve your customer service. Your customers will appreciate it if they can see you have acted on their feedback or addressed it in some way.

Remember that only a handful of customers will complain to you. Most customers just choose not to return to your business. If you make it easier for customers to complain (e.g. anonymous feedback forms, a dedicated place on your website) then people might be more inclined to let you know about their experiences. You can then fix the issue before it becomes a problem for more customers.

MITIGATE PROBLEMS OR MISTAKES

Taking steps to mitigate problems before they occur can help your business be more efficient and innovative. Ask your staff to help you create strategies to mitigate some of the common problems in the workplace. For example, what happens if:

  • We're short staffed?
  • The customer is still angry after we've apologised?
  • The order went missing, or never arrived?
  • There is a breakdown in technology?
  • The customer hasn't paid their invoice?
  • A customer bad mouths your business online?

By working out and documenting some solid strategies to mitigate common business problems, you can save yourself time, and perhaps your business' reputation. It is important staff are aware and trained in these strategies to help them mitigate these problems or mistakes in your absence.

CONSUMER COMPLAINT HANDLING IN YOUR STATE OR TERRITORY

Good customer relationships are at the heart of great customer service. Whether you're interacting with a long-term client or a first-time buyer, developing a strong rapport with your customers is an important part of building good customer relationships.

FACE-TO-FACE CUSTOMER SERVICE

If you have a physical, bricks and mortar business, here are some tips for developing good customer relationships

  • Greet your customers as they walk through the door. You can ask them how they are, or how you can help them.
  • If your customers have to wait to be served (e.g. waiting for a table at a café, waiting to be seen in a doctors' office) it can be helpful to have someone, like a receptionist, greeting your customers and letting them know how long the wait is expected to be.
  • Checking in on your customers while they're in your shop can also be helpful. Examples include asking them if they enjoyed their meal, or if they'd like you to help them find a different product. This can also give them a chance to ask any questions they might have.
  • Knowing your product inside out is invaluable, particularly in a face-to-face business setting. Being able to immediately answer any tricky questions from your customers can help build trust and credibility.
  • Promote feedback, hand your customer one of the BOMS review cards and express how important their feedback is to you (don’t have free review cards yet? Click here)

CUSTOMER SERVICE ONLINE

If you run an online business, or interact with customers over the phone or email, here are some tips for developing good customer relationships:

  • Answer emails promptly. A general rule is a 24-hour turnaround. If you know that you take longer to respond to emails, it can be useful to publish your expected turnaround time on your Contact Us page on your website, or even in your automated email responder. This can help to manage your customers' expectations.
  • Consider a live chat service. Whilst this may require extra staff and monitoring, a live chat may be switched on and off during certain hours and allow you to communicate instantly with your customers to help with their queries.
  • Consider adding a 'request to call' option on your Contact Us form. This option may allow customers to request a time and day they would like to receive a phone call from you. This may also allow you to gather specific information about their request before calling them back.
  • Keep a log of any phone interactions you have with your customers. Write down the date, time and any issues discussed. This information can be useful to refer back to when making contact again.
  • Publish important information about your business, like your mission statement and your business history, on your website. This information can help your customers get an understanding of your business and its values.
  • Add a feedback form to your website. This will allow you to collect valuable feedback about your service and may provide you with insights for new product or service ideas to grow your business.

Building positive relationships with your customers requires you to have a good understanding of their needs and wants. By improving your understanding of your customers, including their purchasing motivations and habits, you can personalise the customer service you provide.

  • Decide on the best price to set your products and services
  • Build relationships and rapport with your customers
  • Increase your sales and profitability
  • Increase how much and how often your customers buy from you
  • Decrease the costs associated with attracting new customers

How to understand your customers

Here are some tips to help you better understand your customers, including profiling them, analysing customer touch points, conducting market research and using your customer data to improve your relationship with customers.

Profile your customers Customer profiling involves building a description of your customers, or a set of customers, that includes their characteristics, location and behaviour. By segmenting (grouping) them based on their gender, age, where they live, where they work, their family size and how, why and what they spend money on, you can get an idea of how your products and services may best meet their needs.

HERE ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN PROFILING YOUR CUSTOMERS:

  • Where are your customers located?
  • What are their spending habits? What motivates them to buy?
  • Do they have a budget?
  • What is their average age, gender, occupation, interest and hobbies?
  • Do they work in certain industries?
  • Are they influenced by seasonal trends?
  • How do they access and use your products and services?
  • Have they used your products or services before?
  • How likely are they to refer your business to others?

Customer Relationship Management is about managing your relationship with existing customers with a focus on creating loyalty towards your business. After you've made the investment in finding new customers, it’s important to consider how you can manage your customer relationships to build your business and your customer base, and keep your customers returning.

BENEFITS OF BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH CUSTOMERS

What are some of the benefits of building relationships with customers?

  • You’ll be able to build goodwill and the value of your business.
  • You’re more likely to keep your customers returning to your business.
  • Improved word of mouth will help attract new customers.
  • The after-sales service you provide becomes an investment in the customer relationship.
  • Being customer-focused can drive innovation and improve profitability.
  • Focusing on customers can help you with your business planning activities for long term success.

UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMERS

Understanding your customers is crucial in knowing how and why they buy from you. Customer profiling and market research can help you in better understanding your customers.

Read our tips on understanding your customers for ideas on how to build relationships with customers to better meet their needs and wants.

COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

Managing the customer relationship involves building trust with your customers so they’re less likely to buy from your competitors. Communicating with your customers is a good way to build up trust and improve customer satisfaction.

Regular communication with your customers across all your channels is important in keeping them up to date with your business and helps maintain the relationship. It’s also important to communicate with your customers in a way that suits them. If they have subscribed to your social media channels, calling them may not be an appropriate or welcome form of communication.

Read Communicate with customers for more tips on keeping in touch with your customers.

FOCUS ON SERVICE

Providing a high level of customer service is important in building customer relationships and to keep customers coming back.

As part of implementing good customer service practices in your business, you may decide to develop policies and procedures to help encourage a customer focused culture amongst your employees. This includes procedures for greeting and serving customers to resolving customer complaints.

Remember to train your employees in good customer service practices when they start with your business - and throughout their employment - to ensure a consistent experience for your customers.

SEEK CONTINUOUS FEEDBACK

Seeking regular feedback from customers may help improve your customers’ satisfaction with your product or service, leading to repeat purchase behaviour and an increase in sales.

There are a number of ways to gain feedback and it’s important to remember that customer complaints can give you valuable insights to help you improve. Head to our Seek customer feedback page for ideas on how you can gain feedback.

As part of good customer service, remember to thank your customers for their business and for any feedback they provide.

KEEP YOUR LOYAL CUSTOMERS

Once you have invested time and money in finding new customers, focus on keeping these customers and making them loyal to your business. Customers that meet your preferred type or customer profile are the customers that are worth focusing on. It’s your loyal customers that become particularly important when business is slow, as they can help keep you in business! They may also refer your business to their family and friends, helping you build your customer base.

Read Keeping loyal customers for ideas on how you can keep your most important asset returning to your business.

Ensure your employees are adequately trained in customer service, particularly handling customer complaints and dispute resolution. Having this process documented in internal policies and procedures can ensure that customer complaints are dealt with correctly and consistently.

MEASURE YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE LEVELS

Whilst you may feel that your business is delivering good customer service and providing a consistently high-quality experience, your customers may not agree.

Whilst you may feel that your business is delivering good customer service and providing a consistently high-quality experience, your customers may not agree.

Measuring your customer satisfaction levels is important for ensuring that you’re meeting your customers’ needs. There are several ways to measure your customer service so that you get a good idea of where your business is at in the eyes of your customers. Measuring your customer satisfaction can also provide you with ideas and suggestions for where your business can improve.

There are several ways that you can measure your customer service levels. Try using several methods, such as:

  • If you have a shopfront, ensure you have your FREE reviews cards from the BOM to hand to your customers, this shows them you care about their opinion
  • Ensure you are a verified business with the BOM and we will give you some code to imbed into home page of your site, inviting your customers to give you feedback on the BOM
  • Hire secret/mystery shoppers to try your service and gain feedback.
  • Reading other reviews on the BOM – see what people are saying
  • Observing interactions between employees and customers to ensure your employees are providing good service.

Measuring customer service is an ongoing process and important as part of your regular interactions with customers. Read our Measure customer service page for tips on how to measure service satisfaction in your business.

KEEP A RECORD OF INTERACTIONS

Keeping a record of your customer interactions as part of the sales process can help you build and maintain your relationships with customers. Keeping track of who, what and when a customer was contacted doesn’t need to be a complex system - it can be as simple as a Word document or a spreadsheet.

Before you pick up the phone or meet with a customer, here are some key tips to remember:

  • Build a relationship – take the time to be professional and personable with your customers. Get to know them and take note of what they’re telling you. That way the next time you speak to them you can ask about their kid’s birthday party or how their dog Rufus is going.
  • Really listen to them – active listening is a skill like any other, and you need to practice it. Stay involved in the conversation and make sure to ask clarifying questions if you’re not sure you understand something. It can also help to rephrase what they’re telling you and repeat it back to them to clarify. This can make a good impression and ensure that you understand what your customer is saying to you.
  • Use analogies to explain complex or technical issues – if you’ve done a good job of building your relationship, you should be able to pick examples that your customer will be able to connect with to explain your product or service in a way they'll understand.
  • Have customer service standards and policies in place – Having internal customer service policies, standards and benchmarks that your employees are aware of and adhere to, can help ensure your customers are communicated with in a consistent way each time they interact with your business.
  • Resolve disputes quickly and in a way that suits their needs – if you've listened to your customers, you should be able to identify the problem and offer solutions to resolve the dispute as best you can.

KEEP IN TOUCH WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

By keeping in touch with your customers, you increase the likelihood of them remembering your business or recommending you to a friend next time they need a product or service you offer.

Depending on the type of business you run, the way you touch base with your customers will differ. As with everything in business, it’s important that you pick a strategy that works with your business model and brand.

Some great ways to keep in touch with your customers include:

  • Jump on the phone – You don’t have to call to try and sell them something, but if you’re a service-based business, touching base can be a great way to keep your business front of mind.
  • Do a blast out –t is a service the BOM offers you as a verified business with us;
    We can do an SMS blast, offering a ‘black Friday’ special or some news about your business. We don’t recommend doing the SMS blast any more than monthly
    We can also do an e blast – some say email marketing has died but we disagree, its all about the subject line, the offer and the frequency, we are here to help you with all of this.
  • Reviews – ask your clients for feedback on the products and services you offer. This can help you to find out their thoughts on your products and services, and what you could improve on or add to your offerings. You could even offer an incentive, such as free movie tickets, 20% off your products, or a free one-on-one session with you, to encourage your customers to respond. If you haven’t already received your free box of review cards from the BOM, click here and we will post ASAP and if you are a verified business with the BOM, you would have received your badge, this can be imbedded on back end of your website and will show your customers that you promote feedback, for their convenience they can click directly through to the BOM and onto your webpage on the BOM to complete their feedback.
    Make sure you ask some open ended questions to give your customers a chance to have their say. This can provide you with feedback you can action rather than just their ratings. Most importantly, make sure you follow up on the information you receive and do something with it.
  • Social media – using social media to post special offers, information about new products or services or general announcements about your business can be a great way to keep your customers up to date on what’s going on in your business. Keep in mind when using social media, that you have limited control over what customers may post about your business. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you have a plan on how you will handle any enquiries or negative feedback that may occur.