Whether selling a product or a service, every small business interacts with the customer at some stage in the transaction — often more than once.
These points of contact present an important opportunity to communicate your organization’s unique selling proposition to people. However, many entrepreneurs fail to adequately consider their service identity, or how they come across to the public, which is essential to fostering strong customer relationships.
Although every industry has commonly accepted service standards, every business can define its image and the role it plays in the lives of customers. Here are a few ways in which your decisions as a small-business owner can have a major impact on both.
Employees these days may wear everything from jeans and a T-shirt to a traditional business suit. However, within any category of clothing, there are trendy and conservative choices.
As an employer, the dress code you establish will have a dramatic affect on the way your customers perceive your staff — and, ultimately, your business. Informal clothing encourages more casual interactions and creates a relaxed atmosphere. More conservative clothing on the other hand, lends an air of formality — which could either help or hinder customer relationship building depending on the type of business. Certain colors have even been shown to have a specific impact, also.
Your company’s culture is transmitted to customers through your staff. Finding employees who already share your values is an opportunity not to be overlooked.
When recruiting new employees, prioritize your hiring criteria: Do you hire based on experience, skills, or personality? Though all three are crucial, the first two can be developed or taught.
The top five personality traits that employers use to hire most are: professionalism, energy level, confidence, self-monitoring, and intellectual curiosity. Though not necessarily the right ones to consider for every industry, as an employer you should ask yourself whether your employees’ personalities are in line with your priorities. For example, if your business is customer service, a can-do, problem-solving attitude coupled with a genuine desire to satisfy customers will go a long way.
Because customer acquisition tends to be expensive, retaining those you’ve already acquired is of major consequence. How you speak to people, however, bears significantly on the way they perceive your brand.
Email newsletters are simple and inexpensive, but can be dull and impersonal if you don’t go the extra mile. These days, opportunities to collect customer data abound, and using that data to personalize email communication yields remarkable results. Offering exclusive content or discounts can be a good way to go. Giving your customer a reason to open your emails will generate that much more trust – and trust means repeat business.
Thoughtfully planning store and office space allows owners to directly impact customer experience. Layout, furnishings, and seating arrangements all influence the interactions between customers and staff members.
For example, take a financial services provider. It’s fairly common to meet with an accountant in an office and speak across a desk — typically a large, imposing one. To give that exchange a friendlier character, a firm could simply replace those desks with glass tables, or take it a step further and remove the barrier altogether.
When contemplating these ideas, bear in mind that small variations can make a big difference. There’s no single “right” solution. Try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. How do you feel conducting a conversation in a cubicle versus in a conference room with lots of windows? From a business standpoint, ask yourself: Is it important that your staff command respect, or would you prefer a more casual environment?
The most crucial thing is that you’re thinking about your service identity to begin with. Considering the impact that your decisions have on the customer experience means that you’re on the right track.