I recently left the corporate world to pursue other interests. Within the first few weeks I experienced customer service that changed my perspective on how businesses irrespective of size, nature or product and service offering can win over customers and retain them. Winning over customers occurs when customers are convinced they are getting the best product or service from your business and have no reason to look elsewhere. One of my clients, a large retail outlet with a chain of eatery, who has been won over by a savings and loans company once commented that he had shut his ears to the noise that other banks make about caring for customers and will always remain loyal to this company. The institution apparently assisted him through difficult times in his business. He believed he owed allegiance to them because they helped him at a time when most universal banks would have said ‘no” to him. He also mentioned that the institution understands his needs and gives him hassle-free services.
Businesses adopt all manner of strategies aimed at attracting customers. Retailers may offer price discounts, or freebies all together to attract customers. Our financial institutions and telecom companies have taken to promotional draws and huge investments in advertising with the hope of winning over new customers and generating higher revenue. Their strategies may attract some floating customers but to what extent are such businesses able to keep the people. Do all the strategies and cost borne yield positive results? How many of the advertising jargons or taglines translate into wow experiences for the customer? And do customers really experience all that are stated in taglines of companies?
Beyond huge costs, the advertising jibes and the seemingly customer friendly rhetoric, here are some simple lessons I drew from a local Hausa Koko seller about how businesses can win over customers and gain their loyalty.
Lesson 1: Have a Valuable Product or Service
My experience started when upon enquiry I was directed to the best tasting Hausa koko in my local area. The person’s judgement was right and I was won over by the great taste on my first day. I’ve had it for breakfast for most mornings since then. Amid intense competition, with about four to five other koko sellers situated within a few yards from each other; this koko seller offers value to her patrons with a consistently good and peculiar taste which her customers find good enough to queue for. Her stall is the most crowded and you are likely to miss out on breakfast if you don’t get there by as early as 9am. She has won over customers and gained their loyalty by offering a valuable product.
It is the intention of every business to offer products or services that will make customers come back for more. Offering value is essential to achieving this feat. The school leaver who has commenced a bead making business should focus on offering good quality beads with unique designs to win over customers. Likewise the local yoghurt manufacturer should strive to offer a product with high nutritional content and a consistent taste to win over customers. Service providers should offer value in terms of cost, accessibility and timeliness, etc. to win the trust of customers.
Investing in value may come at the expense of your business returns, but once customers have come to accept the value, returns will far outweigh any initial investments.
Lesson 2: Acquaint with your customers and Interact with them
Added to the great taste of the Hausa koko, the seller is extremely friendly. She maintains a pleasant look and appears to engage in polite conversations with her customers. She initiated conversation with me on the first day of my visit and could even recognize my car on subsequent visits. She got acquainted with how much I buy after a short time, and would quickly serve me and drop it in the car once she spots me. She would further enquire of my well-being after not seeing me for a while. Her service wowed me because I had not experienced such genuine customer service even when I visit the so called large corporates who have well-crafted taglines and customer-centric core values. This Koko seller may not have any of such written, but is living it. Some of these traits may sound ordinary but are rare in our customer service delivery, hence they should be emulated. I am certain that over the years her friendly nature has added considerably to her customer base.
Staff should be trained and constantly reminded to remain genuinely polite and friendly to all customers, not only to the people they are familiar with. For financial institutions, go beyond the rhetoric of caring for customers and strive to maintain close relationships will all customers. Also find a means to measure performance on customer service. I work closely with a non-bank financial institution that has won over the hearts of their customers because of the relatively informal and friendly style of relating to customers. Their customers prefer to do business with them irrespective of promises of better service from other institutions because of the way they make them ‘feel’ when they visit their premises. With a chunk of our businesses in the informal sector, it is necessary for service providers to create a relaxed atmosphere that will make ALL customers feel welcome. Unless you are otherwise serving a particular niche of the market, intentionally build a welcoming environment for both the market trader and a corporate official to want to do business with you. Interaction could be well enhanced by paying serious attention to customer data and using the various means of communication to interact in a two-way manner.
Lesson 3: Offer flexible Options and inform Customers
As a means to beat the intense competition, the koko seller offers convenience by making her meals available at different times during the day; mornings, afternoon and night time. Her flexible option keeps her customers constantly glued to her because her product is available at all times and there is no reason to look elsewhere. She further reminds customers who visit in the morning of her available times to ensure they are well informed to make buying decision. Have flexible options to meet the varying needs of your customers and they will have no reason to look elsewhere. Train your staff and ensure they are well informed about all available options to further inform customers. Staff should be talking more to customers. Once a customer is satisfied, it is a welcome opportunity to tell them more. This is free sales.
Winning over customers is not about the noise we make to attract them, more importantly it is about how we are able to impact the people who look to us for the service. To the customer, the sweetness of the pudding is in the eating.
Author: Amma Adjeiwaa Antwi
M-DoZ Consulting offers Business Consulting and, Corporate Training. Areas of expertise include Talent Development, Strategic Planning, Retail Operations, Business Communication, Performance Management, Risk Management, Customer Service Excellence and others. We also offer Retirement Planning Advisory Services.
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