The reputation of your business is one of the most important contributing factors to sales both online and in-store. Even if you have the most unique, fantastic and longed-for product in the world, it's useless if people don’t feel good about your customer service, credibility, or overall reputation. In this world full of armchair critics who can easily sway potential new customers by anonymously leaving devastating reviews online, you need to monitor, manage, and build your reputation on a regular basis, just as you would manage any other component of your business.
Enhancing Your Customer Service
When it comes to building your business’ reputation, perhaps nothing is more important than providing an overall outstanding experience for your customers. However, there can be some particularly difficult challenges that you need to overcome in the area of customer service. For instance: How can you convince someone that you are the perfect company to do business with above all your competitors? How can you provide individualized, helpful service to all of your customers that will leave them saying "Wow"? How do you compensate for additional shoppers during the holidays and still provide great service? Fortunately, there are some excellent strategies that will help you make surprisingly effective progress in this crucial area.
Get Feedback from Your Customers
One of the best ways to make people feel cared about is if you take a sincere interest in what they have to say about your brand, website, and the products you sell. Encourage them to leave reviews on your site as well as on social media hotspots such as Facebook, Google, and Instagram by offering benefits like discounts and coupons. If you get a negative testimonial – and you eventually will – do your best to transform it into a positive by responding both privately and publicly. Express your desire to do whatever you reasonably can to make the customer happy. While there are people in this world who seem intent on being miserable and making your life a living hell, those people are few and far between. Most buyers just want to be heard and to have their problem solved. One of the best ways to defuse a potentially volatile customer service situation is to deal with the customer right away. Hiding your head in the sand and hoping that the angry person will go away is pretty much a guarantee you'll get a bad review.
Offer Customer Service Choices
Just like people like to pick from a variety of products, they like having options when it comes to customer service. These include live online chat, telephone support, email, and submissions through an online contact form. If some of your options are only available during certain hours, be sure to display that information on your website. Finally, be responsive to the feedback you receive from these various channels. The faster you make your turnaround time, the more important your customers will feel.
Be Transparent and Clear
Your website needs to be easy to use and contain all of the information the customer requires in order to make, track, and return a purchase. All warranties, shipping and return policies should be readily available and as easy to understand as possible. All of these details should also be available at your checkout counter or on any paperwork the customer needs to sign. Do everything you can to minimize the chances that customers will feel lied to, cheated, or manipulated.
Invest in Excellent and Intuitive Site Search Functionality for Your Website
Customers respond positively when they are able to find what they are looking for quickly. This satisfaction can even lead a happy buyer to take extra time to explore other products you have on display. Making things easy to find is a philosophy that you should implement both on your website and in your store. Everything should be laid out in an easy-to-navigate, intuitive design with no end-point or blocks. Make the ability to interact with customer service staff easily accessible. If your website includes multiple pages and product lines, include a search function to help direct your customers to what they're looking for. Test to make sure that everything on your website and in your store is functioning absolutely perfectly.
Don’t Be Lazy
If someone makes a purchase from you, resist the impulse to take the easy way out by emailing cookie-cutter promotions or coupons to them. Use the information you have obtained about the person, as well as the products they recently viewed or bought, to send specific, targeted emails their way. That’s one of the best strategies to show people that you are actually paying attention to them as individuals.
Who doesn’t like something for nothing? It could be no-cost shipping, product samples or upgrades. Whatever it is, it will make your buyers feel special and like they have gotten benefits that others are not receiving.
Whatever you do, the key is to be receptive and available. Make your visitor's experience with your brand a positive one; and do what you can to listen to their feedback and reward them for entrusting their business to you.
Enhancing Your Online Credibility
Now that you're going the extra mile to take care of your customers, it’s time to go to the next level and enhance your online credibility.
Toot Your Own Horn
If you have received third-party awards from impartial sources, publicize them online. These accolades let people know that you aren’t the only one who thinks you’re worthy of their money.
Display Customer Reviews and Testimonials on Your Website
Before making a purchase, people often want to learn about the experiences of others. This can help them firm up their choices and sometimes can even inspire them to make an impulse buy that they may have otherwise passed up. Think of it in terms of shopping alone vs. with friends. People are more likely to make a purchase if they are being validated that it's the right decision, but validation from a salesperson doesn't really mean much. Showing reviews on your website provides third-party, objective validation that will help make new customers feel more secure about their purchases.
Instill Feelings of Trust and Security
Your customers need to feel like they can trust you - not only with your ability to serve their needs, but also with important private details such as credit card information. Using the most up-to-date technology such as mobile credit card processing equipment can help with that. Depending on your industry, you might want to consider taking payments via a credit card app to appeal to Millennials, or to avoid it if you're selling to Baby Boomers who may not be as comfortable or trusting of technology.
Create a Cohesive, Well-Designed Brand Presence
We live in a visual world and a picture is worth a thousand words. How your brand looks has an impact on those who see it. If your branding, website, and store signage is disjointed with different fonts or colors, you will not only confuse your customers, but you’ll also appear like you're not a professional who is worthy of their time and money. Slick design work can go a long way, so don't get skimpy when it comes to marketing. Your presence should be consistent across all of your social media platforms (and yes you need to be using social media), your website, and any physical places where your business appears such as stores, tradeshows, markets, etc. Create a style guide if needed so that your employees and the vendors you work with will know what design and style rules to follow.
Let Your Customers Get to Know You
There was a time when people were content to listen to corporate language and pretty much accepted whatever company image was spoon-fed to them, but those days are gone. Today’s customers want to feel “let in” to your brand, and that often falls on the business owner as the face of the company. You don’t need to be their best friend; you just need to loosen up a bit and let people know about some unique aspects of your personality, life, or style. It can be as simple as including a signature color or meaningful catch-phrase in all your communications, or displaying pictures of you and your cute puppy or in the kitchen baking a cake. What you choose to show of yourself isn’t as important as the fact that, whatever it is, it’s authentically you.
Don't let your business be stifled with a less than perfect reputation. Set yourself apart from the rest of your competition by appealing to your customers’ human need to be paid attention to and cared about. And don’t forget to encourage customers to talk about how much they liked their experience with your business. There's nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth marketing, and also nothing more deadly.