Whether you’re an Internet-based business or a small company with little wiggle room in the budget to offer huge customer incentives, there are still plenty of ways to personalize your service.
You’ve got to make yourself unique so that customers aren’t just looking at the bottom line to determine where to shop. If you can’t compete with price or innovation, be different and outstanding in your approach to customer care.
Here are five ways to do just that:
1. Check in. One doggy-daycare center sends out letters to owners that detail their dogs’ progress. But what’s different about these letters is they’re written from the dog’s perspective. They include pictures and cute memos (“Even though I’m super cute, I tried to look tough in front of the big dogs!”) and are a meaningful gesture that any proud dog owner would love.
If you don’t have the time or resources to get that personal, use email marketing or your blog to profile a loyal customer or give fun updates on what’s new at the office.
2. Keep it simple. Don’t overinflate what you can offer, and never make customers feel trapped into paying for a service they don’t want. Be clear in your product guarantees, your user policies and service provisions. Customers will see you as more trustworthy when you’re straightforward in what you’re offering.
For instance, Instant Checkmate, an online background check service, even makes it easy for customers to cancel their subscriptions.
3. Give thanks. Your mom always reminded you to say “please” and “thank you,” so why not apply that to your business approach? Since you truly appreciate your customers’ business, let them know with a handwritten note.
For a simple note that took three sentences and probably three minutes to write, one letter’s recipient felt so appreciated and willing to help the company, he wrote a blog post about it. Now that most interaction between companies and customers is online or over the phone, thank-you notes are an easy way to separate yourself from your competition.
4. Remember special events. The same rule that applies to romantic relationships applies here. Remembering the little things like anniversaries, birthdays and holiday will help you earn lots of brownie points from customers.
If you’re a jewelry company, send out a little coupon with a Valeintine’s Day or birthday card. Plenty of companies do this, but it’s usually on a computer-generated note that implies something like, “Here’s a card we mass-print to incentivize our thousands of customers to buy something with this 10% birthday discount.” Make your notes handwritten or select a birthday card that’s not plastered with your brand or some very obvious marketing scheme.
5. Think ahead. Ritz Carlton’s customer service is so legendary, Apple Store hiring managers ask this when considering job applicants: “Can the individual offer Ritz Carlton level service with the right training?” Sure, Ritz Carlton customers are paying top dollar for a luxurious experience but that means the stakes are even higher for offering excellent service. Part of their approach is to anticipate a customer’s unexpressed wishes.
A receptionist who found out a guest had an early check-out called to ask if she could leave a pot of fresh, hot coffee outside the guest’s door. Apple does the same thing. If a PC owner is thinking about switching to a Mac, a salesperson will spend extra time describing how simple the switch really is or she’ll plug Apple’s One-to-One program so customers can receive ongoing personal instruction. These two businesses justify their higher prices with top-notch service and personalized attention.