One Saturday afternoon, a management consultant with retail expertise happened to be in a crowded and very busy athletic shoe store where he saw a harried sales clerk repeatedly offer a particular off-brand to his customers. After watching two sales snatched from the jaws of well-known (and more expensive) national brands, the consultant couldn’t resist asking the clerk what this smaller company’s secret was. Was there a special sales incentive? Did the store have too many of these shoes in inventory? But the clerk just pointed to the crowds of shoppers needing attention and then explained, under his breath, that this particular brand saves him a lot of time on busy Saturdays, because they ship their shoes to the store with the laces already laced up.
This is the third in my series of blog posts on customer complaints and problems. In the first I talked about the steps you should take to deal with a complaining customer, and how you might even be able to convert a complainer into an advocate. In the second I talked about why you should always try to discover more complaints, both to understand better what flaws your product or service might have, and possibly to generate even more opportunities for converting complainers into advocates.
But what every marketer should worry about most, what should keep you up at night, is whether you have done all you can to minimize the obstacles your customers encounter during the buying process. Before trying to exceed your customers' expectations, and before trying to provide them with whatever memorable experience you've cooked up, just be absolutely certain you're providing basic, flawless, well-executed processes that remove any and every obstacle preventing a customer from selecting your product—obstacles like having to lace up a pair of shoes before demonstrating them, for instance.
Folks, if your company isn’t already doing everything on the checklist below, then you just aren’t making it as easy as possible for customers, so quit whining because you really don’t deserve their loyalty.
On your website:
•Use standard navigation features
•Make sure phone numbers appear on every page
•Provide "talk to someone" or "chat" buttons throughout
•Provide "contact us" buttons making it easy to email your company, and be sure to specify how much time will likely be required before a reply is sent
At your call center:
•Make sure the choices on your interactive voice responders (IVRs) are coordinated with the choices shown on your website
•Rely on short menus for your IVRs, in order not to tax a customer’s memory
•Provide options to leave a number for callback
•Allow the customer to hit 0 at any point to reach an operator
On your outbound email campaigns:
•Always include a phone number in the email message
•Provide direct links from the email message to whatever pages on your website correspond with the subject matter
•List clearly the alternatives to using the website
At your stores, branches, or physical outlets:
•Provide phones for calling the contact center directly
•Make self-service desks available for information
•If you have an online offering (and you should), make sure that PCs are available in the store for those customers (and sales employees) who want to use them
Be proactive with your notifications to customers:
•Contact the customer in the event of an unexpected problem or failure
•Contact whenever necessary to protect a customer’s best interest (credit card fraud, nearing the limit on a pricing plan, about to incur a late fee, and so forth)
•Provide this and other information to the customer in a way he can control (choices with respect to alerts, frequency of contact, privacy controls, etc.)
•Reach out to customers to manage their expectations appropriately whenever lengthy or time-consuming processes are involved
It’s really very simple: If you want to sell more shoes, then ship yours out with the laces already laced up.
[Image: Flickr user kidoki]