Unusual Local Experiences Create Passionate Customers
The local movement has gained a lot of steam in the past few years, but simply being or saying “locally owned” won’t earn you more customers or more loyalty. Customers choose to spend money with your business because you solve their need better than the other options. But what is “better”? Better is made up of lots of factors, some rational, and some emotional.
Locally owned businesses, and even locally owned locations of large franchises, have some huge advantages over big businesses. With a few simple ideas you can elevate your local status to a big competitive advantage. There are lots of customer touch points in your business. Over time, it’s easy for those interactions to become ordinary – just doing business. I challenge you to turn each ordinary activity into a surprising customer experience.
Here are a few ways to turn your local status into more dollars, more customers and more loyalty. These might seem simple, but when was the last time one of them happened to you?
- Be Visible. Customers love to say “I know the owner over at…XXXXXX.” If you’re the owner, or the manager, be sure your customers know it, know you, and feel like they’ve got a personal relationship with you. That personal interaction with customers can be extraordinarily valuable in earning customers who passionately recommend your business to others. If you can’t meet them all individually, find other ways to do it efficiently via phone calls, emails, social media, customer events, etc
- Make a commitment. When having a conversation with a customer, look them in the eye and make a commitment to them. “My name is Gerry, and I’m personally going to do everything I can to be sure that you’re experience with us is extraordinary. If you need anything, any time, ask for me.” Employees at any level of your organization can make this kind of commitment. When doing it, it’s important that each employee put it in their own words, and mean it. Simple, but it doesn’t happen every day, especially at big companies
- Provide more value, make more money. When I was at Quiznos, we studied every part of the customer experience. We found that when the cashier asked a customer if they would like a chip and drink with their sandwich, customer satisfaction went up, even if they didn’t want the add-ons. This shows the power of personal interaction. People want you to go the extra step to be sure their needs are met. It doesn’t occur to them as an up-sell, it seems like they’re being taken care of. Oh, and it generates instant additional profit for you. How can you do this in your business? Incidentally, customers were also more satisfied and returned more often when the cashier smiled
- Ordinary to extraordinary. Do this exercise. List every customer touch point in your business. Everywhere you or one of your employees has an interaction with customers. Now work with your team to brainstorm a list of five ways that you could change that typical, ordinary experience into something notable, unusual, or extraordinary for that customer. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be something big. Small things many times stand out more and seem more authentic than big, sweeping gestures. Create an opportunity for that customer to go away and tell someone about how they were surprised
- Listen. Customers today want to be heard more than ever. Smaller companies have a distinct advantage in being able to actively listen to their customers and immediately implement the feedback. There are lots of free or cheap ways to do this: Comment cards, email surveys and social media are a few. You could create a customer “advisory panel” where you ask some customers to give you feedback from time to time. Do you think this will make them feel more special and loyal? Your panel can be huge if you want – just follow up via an email blast once in a while.
- Be involved. If you want to be local, you have to show up. Contribute to the community through events, sports teams, supporting schools or other community organizations. Every business owner is busy, but this kind of exposure can make a big difference for your business and for the community.
There are lots of ways to leverage your local status to make your customers more satisfied and more loyal. Find ways to create surprising engagement in every interaction and it will pay dividends.