Think about the last time you got sensational service from a supplier.
How did it make you feel?
Did you wish all your suppliers were that easy to deal with?
Did you get off the phone feeling confident that you would receive exactly what you want?
Are you confident the stock will arrive by the delivery date?
Have you built up a relationship, so you’re happy to keep supporting them?
Do you keep buying from them?
Are you treating your customers the way you want to be treated?
No matter the industry you’re in, it’s REALLY hard to get great customer service nowadays. Everyone loves receiving it, but very few businesses offer it.
My husband and I have built our business into business now hitting 7 figures in a small region, with double-digit growth every year (until COVID-19). We have minimal marketing spend, whilst being bombarded with trendy competitors and their huge marketing budgets. I’m not telling you this to gloat, I’m telling you this so you know what’s possible for you too.
The secret to my success has been our consistent customer service.
Granted we have a great product, but so do our competitors and actually better in some lines. You may think some of these tips are too simple or old fashioned but I guarantee, they work!
1. Be HAPPY, NICE and CONFIDENT.
So simple and easy, I can’t believe everyone doesn’t do it. This applies to EVERYONE your customer comes into contact with. It’s a culture issue starting with the business owner. If you genuinely love your product, and really want to help your customers – being happy and pleasant will come naturally. And it will make your customer feel special and appreciated.
Don’t you hate it when you ring a supplier and ask if X will arrive by Tues and the person says “I hope so”, or when you ask for a suppliers suggestion only to get “Umm I’m not really sure, it depends”. Customers look to suppliers for help, suggestions and advice on their area of expertise – so be confident. If they don’t get the information they want from you, I promise they’ll go to someone else and get it. Your customer might not agree with you and that’s perfectly fine. But it shows you are passionate and an expert in your area. Everyone wants to deal with an expert!
2. UNDERSTAND your customer.
Focus on each individual customer in EVERYTHING you do, and always ask yourself “What would they want?”
EXAMPLE: In our business, there are 2 customer types – Cafes/Restaurants and Health food shops/Supermarkets. Even though both customers buy bread, their needs and attitudes are extremely different. If we went to show a chef a new product at noon, he would throw us out, and think we have absolutely no idea how a kitchen runs. Whereas noon is the perfect time to see a Supermarket Manager/Owner. Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes, show them you understand their business.
3. Make your ORDERING PROCESS easy and relevant for your customer.
First of all, make your product/ price list/ look book easy to use, and include every detail your customer wants. Think about what your customer wants to know. Do they want 20 pages of gorgeous photos for inspiration, or do they just want codes and prices? What are their frequently asked questions? Do they want online or hard copy? How could you improve?
Once a customer decides to purchase from you, make it really easy for them:
- Online: Make sure your website is really easy to use. Can your customer find the item they are looking for straight away? Is it fast? Is there a standard order specifically for them? Can they easily add comments, new products, or special delivery instructions? Ensure you send a confirmation.
- Phone orders: Make sure someone actually answers the phone, and they can confidently answer all queries.
- Email: Get back to the customer ASAP and confirm the order.
- Ordering app: Make sure it is quick and easy to use and it sends a confirmation immediately.
4. DELIVER what has been ordered.
How disappointing is it when you received the wrong product? It’s happened to all of us, and it’s so annoying. It’s also time consuming and expensive to fix. So stop the error occurring in the first place for your customers.
To avoid ‘picking’ errors, our process is to bulk pick all of the orders for the day, and then pick each individual order. If there is any stock left over, or the wrong stock is all that remains for the last order – it’s clear that a mistake has been made and we fix it BEFORE ANY orders are sent out. We’re all human, so errors will occur. BUT ensuring all errors are fixed BEFORE it leaves your warehouse is key.
If you do make a mistake DON’T ARGUE about it. Just replace it. Put yourself in their shoes.
5. FOLLOW UP and build relationships.
Never just deliver the product and, just wait for the customer to call again for the next order.
Visit or call shortly after the first delivery, and ask how the product is selling? Is it what they expected? Has the feedback been good or bad? Do the customers like the candles scent? How’s the fit on the garments? Etc.
Ask if they were happy with how the products arrived. Give suggestions of what is working for other customers. ALL feedback is GOLD – don’t get defensive, take it all on board. It’s all about continuous improvement, and often the little changes you haven’t considered before can make the world of difference to your customer, and they’re the easiest to implement. You’re not there to get the next order; you’re there to build a relationship. Show customers you genuinely care, and you’re interested in helping them build their business.
Assuming you have a great product, if you’re pleasant to deal with, you understand what your customer wants, you make the ordering process simple, you deliver the right product on time and you build a relationship, just watch, everyone will start singing your praises and your sales will skyrocket.
I can highly recommend the book ‘Delivering happiness: a path to profits, passion and purpose’ by Tony Hsieh CEO of ZAPPO’s. It’s the story of how Tony Hsieh built his company ZAPPO’s by offering exceptional customer service, and ended up selling his company to Amazon for $1.2billion
If you would like to join my tribe of fellow product entrepreneurs get in touch. You’ll receive my emails with practical and detailed tips on how to grow your business’s profit, examples of who’s really killing it at the moment and who ‘could be better’