Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with core cus­tomers best way to boost base

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK -

Q AI HAVE a nice medium-sized re­tail op­er­a­tion. We have a loyal base of ex­ist­ing cus­tomers but it is not large enough to keep us going. What should we be do­ing? I AM a great ad­vo­cate of first ad­vis­ing any com­pany to maximise its sales from ex­ist­ing cus­tomers. You seem to be do­ing that piece well. You do, how­ever, have to recog­nise that you have to be con­stantly ‘fill­ing up’ your cus­tomer base with new cus­tomers. Many busi­nesses men­tally get ‘ locked within the four walls’ – in other words you have a beau­ti­ful shop or café and spend all your time fo­cus­ing on things in­ter­nally, for­get­ting there may be hun­dreds of peo­ple pass­ing their door on a daily ba­sis who don’t even know the busi­ness ex­ists.

De­ter­mine who your core cus­tomers are. If you are run­ning a café and your your core cus­tomers are those that work in the sur­round­ing busi­nesses, then you need to get out and en­gage with these peo­ple. Hand out your menus at the en­trances to the of­fice blocks on a daily ba­sis, cre­ate an app for these work­ers to be able to place their or­der on­line and col­lect it with­out hav­ing to queue, run spe­cial themed events for var­i­ous dif­fer­ent em­ploy­ees.

Look at the sur­round­ing land­scape and use all of the tools at your dis­posal to com­mu­ni­cate with these peo­ple. Dig­i­tal me­dia has made it eas­ier, but you have to keep up to date with the con­stantly chang­ing dy­nam­ics. Many busi­nesses are now talk­ing about the im­por­tance of video through your dig­i­tal me­dia.

I met a busi­ness owner who was run­ning a hard­ware/DIY shop. He had ar­ranged with a man­ager of an of­fice block with 300 staff, to go into the staff restau­rant at lunch time and put on demos us­ing some of the home dé­cor prod­ucts. Staff were pro­vided with a voucher to in­cen­tivise po­ten­tial cus­tomers to shop with them and he also of­fered a dis­count. That is a great example of en­gag­ing with busi­nesses on your doorstep.

I have no doubt you are do­ing a su­perb job in your busi­ness, but you don’t want it to be the ‘ best kept se­cret’, with those on your doorstep not know­ing about it.

Q AWHAT is the key se­cret to pro­vid­ing great cus­tomer ser­vice and train­ing up staff? THERE are lots of gen­eral pieces of ad­vice I could give you, like en­sur­ing you have a great train­ing pro­gramme which is re­freshed on an on­go­ing ba­sis.

You must en­sure the cul­ture in the com­pany is cor­rect to cre­ate a cli­mate for that ser­vice and of course recog­nise staff when they do de­liver that ser­vice. Also en­sure that you mon­i­tor how good your ser­vice is with tools like mys­tery shop­pers etc.

Above all, I would say the key se­cret is to re­cruit the right per­son. Don’t worry about the tech­ni­cal skills re­quired for the job, as you can al­ways train some­one in these. If you hire a per­son with the right at­ti­tude and the right per­son­al­ity, then you are well on the way to pro­vid­ing great ser­vice.

We had a sim­ple rule in Su­perquinn, that if some­one had a great smile and per­son­al­ity, then the chances of us em­ploy­ing them were pretty high. While these peo­ple can be hard to find, it is worth hold­ing out and get­ting the right peo­ple. It will cut down on the sub­se­quent work you have to do in try­ing to main­tain high stan­dards, as this group tends to in­stinc­tively of­fer great ser­vice.

In terms of hir­ing the right peo­ple, it is also worth putting a lit­tle time into the per­son do­ing the re­cruit­ment if you are not do­ing it your­self. Are they clear on what they are looking for? Are they trained to look for per­son­al­ity and at­ti­tude? I have found that with some busi­nesses, the prob­lem lies at re­cruit­ment level where the wrong se­lec­tions are be­ing made. It is a com­plex area but one that is worth your com­pany re­view­ing and de­vel­op­ing a clear strategy for. Send your small busi­ness ques­tions to him­self@ fear­

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