If you find yourself too busy with the ins and outs of running a business to give much thought to the occasional negative review that may pop up in an internet search, you could be inadvertently crippling your odds of success. Studies have shown that 9 in 10 consumers look for reviews online before making a purchasing decision on a new product or service, and 86 percent of consumers will hesitate before giving their business to a company with a negative review. Read on to learn more about some winning methods to improve your customer satisfaction and significantly increase the amount of positive (and public) feedback you receive.
Why is customer satisfaction so important to a business's success?
If you have a true monopoly on a product or service in your area, you do have some freedom to charge and do what you want -- which is why, pre-internet, many businesses that provided essentials thrived even with poor customer service or high prices, simply because their customers had few other options.
But the advent of the internet as a shopping medium -- including gadgets that can allow you to order more toilet paper or laundry detergent with the click of a button, or accept point-of-sale transactions in a flash (like the Clover Mini) -- means you're no longer just competing against businesses in your region. This makes customer satisfaction much more important than before, and if you can't always compete on cost or sales volume (which few businesses can consistently do), you'll need to ensure your customers are left satisfied.
Fortunately, achieving customer satisfaction doesn't need to be a complicated process -- by making a few simple tweaks to your floor or website layout, internal protocols, or employee training, you should be able to significantly improve your customers' experience.
What are some steps you can take to improve your own customer satisfaction ratings?
When pursuing customer satisfaction as a goal, it's important to remember this satisfaction doesn't necessarily equal "happiness." That is, even if your customers are initially unhappy with a product or service you've provided, dealing with them in a fair manner and -- most importantly -- fulfilling their expectations of your interaction can ensure they still view their experience with your company in a positive light.
Identify (and modify, if necessary) customer expectations
Before you can meet your customers’ expectations, you’ll need a clearer picture of precisely what these are. You can often glean some expectations through casual conversations with frequent customers; alternatively, you may want to consider creating a short receipt-generated survey that can provide you with valuable feedback in exchange for a small discount on future products or services. (Just make sure any discount provided isn’t contingent only on a positive review!) POS solutions like the Clover Station can allow you to generate email or text survey links to a lengthy list of customers.
In the process of learning your customers’ expectations, you may also discover you need to modify these expectations so that they can be more easily met. For example, advertising or offering ten-minute delivery on your products when you’re aware the average delivery time is ten minutes or more is likely to lead to some dissatisfied customers, even if you offer a discounted (or free) product in exchange for the delay. Because your product or service didn’t live up to what was promised, your customers are put in a defensive posture that can make it harder for you to win them back and cost you money in the process.
On the other hand, promising only what you can unequivocally deliver will put you in a much better position to meet expectations and continue to provide a high level of service.
Respond quickly to complaints – and have a transparent resolution process
Is it intuitive – whether from your website, in-store signage, or elsewhere – where customers can direct their questions and concerns? If not, it’s important to publicize (or create) your complaint process so that you’ll be sure to cast a net wide enough to catch all critiques.
After all, finding out only after the fact that many of your customers found a certain sales associate’s speech or mannerisms to be offensive could mean a missed opportunity to make things right with these customers (and quickly take action to curb your associate’s behavior) – and because these negative reviews can often be posted on third-party websites over which you have no editorial control, being proactive and tackling complaints as soon as they arise will minimize the chances of finding yourself the subject of an anonymous one-star review.
It’s also important to be as transparent as possible when it comes to the resolution of complaints. While it’s rarely appropriate to let a customer know the specific details of a disciplinary action you’ve taken against an employee in response to their complaint, he or she may be grateful to learn that “appropriate action” was taken; and having a clearly-outlined grievance process and maintaining communication can give customers with complaints a good idea of where their issues are headed.
Many customers’ dissatisfaction may arise not because of a problem, but because of how this problem was handled after it was pointed out to management. Whether responding to complaints with a disinterested shrug or a flippant “that’s not my department,” reactions to criticism can determine whether a customer develops loyalty or swears off your business for good.
Training your staff to be proactive in meeting your customers’ needs – whether offering a shopping basket to someone who appears to be struggling or checking the back stockroom for extra product – can go a long way toward cementing your reputation as a customer-centered business.
Even if your employees do have discrete and delineated roles within your company, try to teach them never to say “that’s not my job." Because customers are what keep any business in business, performing tasks that could affect a customer’s satisfaction (and repeat business) should be everyone’s job.