One positive result of the economic downturn is that we’re all adopting a more ‘back to basics’ approach to life, including – and I know its hard to believe – actually saving to buy things instead of using credit!
In business, a back-to-basics approach is an important way to consolidate and protect your existing business until better times come along. I was reminded of this recently when reading about some research that was done among British consumers, which revealed that the top five “loyalty inspiration” factors (the aspects consumers consider most important for securing their loyalty) were, in order; quality products, helpful and knowledgeable staff, ease of contact, being able to recognise customers and their value and a brand experience that is enjoyable at every touchpoint.
As usual, it’s not rocket science, just simple back to basics commonsense. Whilst businesspeople, managers and ‘experts’ are often looking for the latest scientific ways to attract customers, the people who really matter – those same customers – tell us that, in return for their loyalty, they just have a few basic requirements. Let’s look at these more closely:
Some ‘back to basics’ fundamentals
1.Quality products: The most important and a complete ‘no-brainer’ – if your products are no good, or the quality of your work is rubbish, you’ll never get repeat business. Imagine trying a new restaurant and having a bad meal. Would you use it again? I was once the Sales & Marketing Manager of a computer manufacturing company. Despite selling thousands of units, the company eventually failed, because the products were poor quality and kept breaking down.
2.Helpful and knowledgeable staff: Good quality Customer Service is essential for long-term business success – and even more important in difficult times when you have to fight harder to find and retain customers. It’s important that staff are trained and given the authority to deal with queries or problems satisfactorily. But it’s even more important that they have the right – helpful – attitude.
How much is a smile and a friendly attitude really worth? Actually, it could be worth the future of your business! Even banks and utilities companies are now having to up their game. Traditionally they’ve experienced high levels of customer loyalty – despite poor service levels – due to their clients’ fear of change or just simple laziness. However, the increasing popularity of Internet comparison sites is helping customers to become more mobile and less accepting of poor service standards.
3.Ease of contact: Again, it’s simple commonsense – your customers need to know that they can get hold of you easily. This is increasingly important in modern 21st century society, where speed of communication is a major business requirement and organisations are expanding the range of contact choices people have available to them, including email, mobile telephone numbers and website contact forms.
And it’s not just about big business; a sole trader can use simple strategies such as call forwarding or telephone answering services to ensure that customers can always get in contact when required. It can also be a great marketing strategy – last year a local Indian takeaway received thousands of pounds of free publicity when it was featured on the local news, because the owner had set up a website with a simple online ordering facility.
4.Being able to recognise customers and their value: Doesn’t it make you really mad – when in a shop trying to make a purchase, or dealing with a supplier on the telephone – when the person starts acting as if they are doing you a favour? The thing they always forget is that your money is helping to pay their bills and feed their families!
With a little effort it’s easy to work out exactly how much every customer – or even every enquirer – is worth to your organisation. And with the potential to gain business from referrals, ‘customer value’ is one of those often ignored, or usually under-estimated aspects of business that can make or break your organisation. Yet it’s so easy to protect and even increase customer value, just by always treating your customers properly.
5.A brand experience that is enjoyable at every touchpoint: This encapsulates all the previous points. Customers simply want every interaction with your company to be a positive one.
Its simple, and – as we have discussed, its back to basics – high quality products/services and high quality customer service will (usually) always keep your customers coming back.
(Article first printed in the the Vine Magazine, June 2009)