It's long been said in business circles that customer loyalty is too dependent on the fidelity you show in the quality of your product. While most of us agree that this is true, the question becomes; what about those who have no goods to sell?
What fidelity is used to join businesses that are 100 percent or largely service businesses? The truth is, if you have a product, your product is your brand and can sustain you. If you wholly deliver services, you become the brand, and then it becomes necessary for you to learn how to brand yourself for success.
Service businesses are sitting ducks for litigation and a plethora of complaints, and they can very easily be torn apart. Product integrity is a bit easier to maintain than integrity of staff and the people who make up the business.
These tips will help you brand your service business for success and build a stable base from which you can further your aspirations.
1. Develop a feedback system for both positive and negative feedback.
Communication they say, is not complete until feedback is received. When your business has to deal purely with services rendered, like a hair salon, telecommunications business, clinic, car wash or property management business, you need feedback much more than any other business. For instance, I run a property management firm and find myself susceptible to cross fire, from both the property owners and the tenants. While most people in my shoes listen primarily only to the property owners, it is wiser to listen to all parties involved. Getting feedback -- and asking for it regularly, even if it is negative -- is a strong move in protecting yourself.
Many businesses have faced litigation and even filed for bankruptcy as a result of little things ignored over time. Feedback helps you know what to work on or what to keep up. You can use feedback charts, boxes or provide room for feedback on your company app, if you have one. Make feedback avenues available and beyond that, encourage and ask for it. It protects you more than it makes your customers feel valued
2. Treat data like gold.
The high profile Yahoo hack was an eye-opener for everyone involved in the service business. The allegation that Yahoo knew about the hack initially and did nothing raised a great number of hairs on users of the platform. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal stated, “If Yahoo knew about the hack as early as August, and failed to coordinate with law enforcement, taking this long to confirm the breach is a blatant betrayal of their users’ trust.”
You may not have a physical commodity, but trust is the commodity you are selling -- you are selling yourself. If your customers are required to submit sensitive data, they have to see that you have adequate plans to secure them.
Limit the staff who have access to this information. It should be criminal for your staff to take work home and log onto your platform from a public server. You do not have to keep sensitive data for longer than is necessary, so as not to increase the possibility of loss. Put electronic data and electronics on lockdown; the contents of an entire hard drive can be saved on a flash disk the size of your thumb. Most importantly, if your customer data is serviced by third party vendors, ensure that vendors adhere to stringent privacy practices and insist they upgrade if they aren’t in strict adherence.
3. Concentrate more on personal branding than corporate branding.
Research has shown repeatedly that customers trust people more than businesses. Understanding this will cause a shift in how you carry on your business. While you need the visibility that billboards, logos and conventional advertising will give you, to sustain the business in the long run, you need to concentrate more on personal branding and learn how to brand for success.
People are far more likely to follow you, talk to you, trust you and engage with you if they believe they are interacting with a real person. This is where the benefits of humanizing your brand really come into play. Personal branding is simply bringing down branding to the smallest component of a business -- the individual. It starts with you as the business owner and then must reflect on your staff through trainings and mentorship.
The question -- “What do you want your business to be known for?” For service-based businesses, what do you want to be known for?
4. Understand the three rules of customer attraction and retention.
There are generally three broad rules of customer attraction and retention. First, you must apply the adequate tools to gain visibility. This may take any shape appropriate for you -- conventional advertising, social media advertising or, one I personally advocate, social impact advertising. Social impact advertising is when you carry out deliberate efforts that have positive societal impact. It often works best with businesses whose services are rendered majorly to customers in their immediate geographical location. However, with the advent of social media and content marketing, it can draw any number of customers from anywhere and retain them as well.
Secondly, you need to have consistency. Consistency is not very relevant if you have a weak brand, but if you have developed a strong personal brand, efforts should be put towards maintaining that brand through the consistency of customer interactions.
Lastly, you need to earn loyalty. Consistency does this, but the additional services you render is what many customers will keep coming back for. The battle between Uber and Lyft has largely been in this realm. Their apps, customer support and innovations have primarily revolved around gaining loyalty with perks, give-aways and techniques that introduce speed and ease to the customer.
In effect, the goal is to showcase an identity, or personality, that is visible, consistent and valuable to your customers or your audience.
5. How you say it is more important than what you say.
For product-based businesses, most of the customer’s focus is on what you have to offer, but with service-based businesses, how you offer it matters a lot as well. If you need to write proposals to prospective clients or investors or even just have to address customers, you have to pay more attention to your tone and content.
A property owner is more likely to let me manage his property because of my approach than because of my expertise, because frankly, the skill is the same everywhere. You should be going straight for the heart to make them accept you. A good product usually cushions the effect of bad service, but when service is all you have, you have to step up your game.