Establishing a strong, supportive following is essential to the success of a small business or startup, just hovering above the ground but about to take flight. Unfortunately, companies don’t always attract those types of customers. Sometimes, it’s because of the way employees behave.
Here are some of the customers lethal to startups and small businesses and how employees inadvertently attract them.
1. One-Time Wanda and Walter
These types of customers start out by using a product or service only because they found a deal on special offer websites like LivingSocial or Groupon. That’s not the bad part, because those offers give companies the opportunity to make a lasting impression to ensure return business.
The problem occurs when the business fails to make that lasting impression or define it’s full value in that customer experience. The customers then turns into One-Time Wandas and Walters and they don’t return. They don’t write any reviews or recommend the company. In fact, they may completely forget about the company, because they find no value in returning or ever paying full price for the company’s product or services.
Don’t undercharge or mark down prices further. Instead, boost company value by enhancing customer service with unique elements that help showcase your company culture. Train employees to be extra thoughtful. If interaction is in-person, open the door for customers and offer a beverage if they have to wait for service. If interaction is primarily online, ask for the name to use throughout the conversation and directly answer any questions without being too promotional. Offer small incentives for return visits like branded merchandise such as pens or chocolates printed with the company name.
Don’t forget to reward employees for contributing to excellent customer service experiences as well. To keep everyone on track, try using a task and performance management program to show employees the impact they make on business, which will encourage ownership and improve morale.
2. Negative Nelson
Negative Nelson is having a bad day and he wants to share it with everyone he encounters, even the employees at every business he visits. There’s no appeasing him, because every day is a bad day and he always finds something the company did wrong to complain about.
Because like attracts like, employees with poor attitudes who feel negative about their jobs attract Negative Nelsons. Customers subconsciously like to associate with companies that exhibit characteristics they have in common. Every once in a while, a Negative Nelson will walk into a positive workplace, but chances are he won’t become a regular.
Reward positive attitudes and employees who metaphorically bring sunshine into the workplace. These employees are the perfect defense against the Negative Nelsons in the world. The phrase “kill them with kindness” applies here. Eventually, Nelson will grow tired of those who won’t join him in his misery, and go somewhere else with employees just as miserable as he.
3. Bad Review Bernard
He’s all over Yelp.com, Facebook, Twitter and really anywhere he can display his often highly critical opinion of his experience. A connoisseur gifted in the discernment of what good service really is, Bernard believes it is his job to shout his dining, retail and service experiences from the rooftop. If Bernard catches an employee at the wrong moment, the company could be doomed to several terrible mentions or reviews online.
Encounters with Bad Review Bernard are inevitable with almost any business, but to attract fewer visits by this type of customer, or better, to decrease chances of a bad review, train your team in customer recovery methods. Bernard will tell the Internet everything, so make sure employees do all they can to demonstrate care for his experience. If necessary, offer Bernard a coupon to return or provide a discount if he is not happy. As a reactive strategy, be sure to reply to any reviews Bernard writes online with diplomacy and professionalism.
Related: Is Every Customer a Good Customer?
4. Hit-And-Run Heidi
On a more common and less severe scale, Hit-And-Run Heidi can be described as the women in the store who opens packages to “try something out” but doesn’t buy the items.
Whether it’s a damaged product that cannot be resold or precious time or service spent, all for naught, this type of customer can do damage to startups or small businesses in the worst way. She will request services, usually with particular requirements. After the company has spent costly time and energy working with her, she’ll abruptly disappear without buying anything, without any explanation, and the company will never hear from her again.
Hit-And-Run Heidis are attracted to companies with employees who don’t care about or take ownership of their work or workplace. When employees don’t care about who they work for, it communicates to customers that they don’t need to either. When customers don’t take ownership over what they do, or show a sense of responsibility, it communicates to customers the product or service might not be so great after all.
If customer interaction is mostly online, you can defend your company against the Hit-And-Run Heidis with a strong presence on social media. Ensure someone manages and checks your social media accounts daily and interacts with followers and fans. This is a great way to show the people behind a brand care about the product they sell.
5. Coupon Connie
Coupon Connie will be a regular, if she learns a company will accept multiples of her home-manufactured coupons. Sometimes the coupons are genuine, but when she has 20 of them for the same item, it might violate the “not valid with any other offer” clause that keep companies from being drained dry.
Train your employees to be conscientious and aware of possible coupon fraud. Clearly communicate company policy on accepting coupons.
Company culture plays a big role in this, too. Often companies make the mistake of demonstrating a giving culture to employees, making employees believe it’s OK to “give away the farm” if the customer demands it. While employee empowerment is important, define clear boundaries so employees know when they can handle a conflict themselves and when they need to involve a manager. If interaction is primarily online, train employees to be astute in identifying Coupon Connies through phone or email and apologetically refuse to accept invalid coupons or discounts.
Company culture is so powerful that, if strong enough, it will naturally eject those who don’t fit in or share the same values. This includes customers, not just employees. Customers buy a product or service, yes, but in today’s competitive market, there is an element at work in the customer conversion process. It’s employees and their personalities. In part, customers “buy” experiences with pleasant employees.
Low engagement, lack of ownership, poor attitude and ignorance of company culture are all behaviors that might attract these fatal customers. Improving communication of company values and employee engagement strategies are excellent ways to combat these behaviors, and eliminate the customers they attract.