Standup comedians take cues from their audiences and modify their material as they go along. You can use this technique to watch for cues from your customers as to how they like to be addressed by you and staff.
This might seem like a schlep when things are going crazy at the tills or in the back office but the reward is creating loyal customers. Getting their feedback can also help you build your business. Here’s how to make communicating with customers a win-win scenario for them, for you and for your staff:
1. Listen first
Rethink your relationship with your customers by remembering that they are in control of the cash, not you. Shift your attitude to acknowledge this by recognising that you would like them to buy happily and confidently from you.
Bullying them with an over-the-top sales pitch is often a fast road to customer disappointment.
Instead, take time to guide them to the product or service that suits them best.
2. Acknowledge and connect
Whether you are demonstrating a product or ringing up a sale, allow the time to pause briefly and look customers in the eye. This personal connection makes customers feel that each one of them has been acknowledged as a fellow human being and not just a cash cow.
Such simple courtesies help you build the loyalty that encourages customers to return to buy again. They also often help take the sting out a disappointment or complaint about your product or service, allowing you to deal with it constructively.
3. What happens in the back office stays in the back office
Be clear in your own mind and also make sure your staff respect the house rule of not pursuing disagreements between colleagues on the shop floor. Most customers who witness something like this tend to back off – perhaps right out of your door.
Some may even film or record it and post it on social media. That is when you realise that there is indeed such a thing as bad publicity and you risk your business’s reputation being permanently damaged.
4. Choose the words
Customers are impressed when they see the boss putting in time on the shop floor or getting involved in customer relations. You can get double value from this time by listening in to the way your staff interact with customers.
Make notes of what is positive and negative then use them during staff training sessions to role-play the situations again and help staff develop empathetic tones, body language and responses to customers.
5. Value the feedback
Compliments make everyone glow but even criticism or a complaint is valuable to your business – it’s like free market research.
So encourage your staff not to argue with a critical customer or try to prove how wrong they are. Respect their perception of their experience and use it to improve your range of products or services and help your business thrive.