Treating Your Customer As Equal

In these times of great economic difficulty, it’s imperative for businesses to retain each and every customer. When consumers have more money, they are more prone to loyalty to companies.

However, these days, it’s all about who has the lowest prices as opposed to the best service or product. To ensure that your customers will keep coming back, you need to treat them as equals.

Here are some ways in which you can guarantee they’re having the best experience possible.

Personalize the interaction with the company

Don’t treat customers like one big group of faceless, nameless people helping your sales. Be personal and friendly to them. When they call your company for customer service help, use their first name throughout the interaction. Instruct your employees to perform the required niceties like asking them how they are and telling them to have a nice day at the end of the call. These practices can add that special touch that other companies may be lacking.

Ben Yoskovitz at Instigator Blog points to an example of a company going the extra mile. CitiBank actually sent one of his friends a birthday cake. Not surprisingly, none of the other banks did this (although many dessert stores routinely do). The point here is that you don't expect your bank to send you baked goods. It’s a genius way to increase sales and endear customers to your business. Although it requires a bit more effort, the consumer probably won’t forget about a company remembering his or her birthday.

Be transparent

John Sviokla of Harvard Business Review said that company transparency can dramatically alter the way business is done. For example, FedEx started allowing customers to track their packages, print labels, and “see the same level of detail the firm had about the location” of shipments. “Just think about how the dynamic with your cable company would change if you could actually see if the service truck was on its way to your house. It certainly would change the attitude between the customer and the company.” Think of how much time and energy this would save the consumer.

Transparency means being honest with customers, which they really do appreciate. No one wants to be coddled or lied to just because that’s what they want to hear. If your company is rolling out a new product, have customers pick what that product will look like using Facebook. Have them involved with the same things your employees handle. FedEx did it, and it's worked out splendidly.

Divulge survey results

If/when you send out product development surveys to your customers, you should post the results either directly after the survey ends. It’ll empower the customer and they’ll want to contribute to surveys even more in the future.

The author of a post on Checkbox.com wrote, “Sure, getting a personal email in response to a survey goes a long way in making a customer feel important. But I would argue that telling customers that their insight and opinions are responsible for company-wide changes to products, service, or direction is a much more powerful tool for improving customer loyalty and retention.” Everyone wants to be part of a bigger picture, and giving customers this opportunity will make them feel special, wanted, heard, and appreciated.

Apologize for your mistakes

As Ivana Taylor of Open Forum wrote, “Be humble, be human. Mistakes happen and people will always forgive an honest mistake. But they will not forgive a defensive and empty-hearted corporate apology.” Most people are going to forgive you if you are sincere in your apology. Always give customers the personal apology they deserve if you have wronged them. Don’t write them a standard letter. Have a customer service representative call the customers. Your company can even take it a step farther and offer a company credit for the mistake. Customers want you to be real.

By saying you’re sorry when necessary, being transparent, sharing survey results, and treating them like humans, customers will appreciate your company and be more loyal. Just treat them as you’d like to be treated.