The importance of excellent customer service was instilled in me as teenager. I got a job in a local cafe that was owned by an Italian couple. Guido and Anna Forte were, they often told people, somehow related the Rocco Forte of the hotel empire. (Quite how distant the connection was they never disclosed, but related they were) The pair both knew and taught their staff how important it was look after their customers.
The busy cafe had a lot of regulars, many who only wanted their cappuccino made by Guido. These were the days before Starbucks et al and cappuccino was something of an exotic luxury. But once you were fully trained on the frothing machine, Guido would smile at his regulars and say “Clare will look after you” and that was good enough for them. For them, his seal of approval was high praise. And just like a pub, customers would come up to the counter and ask for “The usual please!” In my first few weeks left me confused as of course I hadn’t learnt their usual.
As time went by I knew what all the regulars would want and could start making it as they came through the door. This could be quite a challenge if it was a regular large group. Not only did I have to know what the drinks were, but also the sugars. (For some reason, the sugar was kept at the counter. I think this was because there had been too many occasions with sachets destroyed by young children. At any rate it was certainly cheaper to buy sugar in bags rather than sachets.)
You may be wondering where I’m going with all this…
The point I am trying to make is that the reason Fortes had so much repeat custom is that they loved how we cared and remembered them. There was one gentleman who hobbled in each week on crutches. He knew that we would see him sit down and we’d bring over his coffee made to his requirements without him having to queue up. And that when we took it over to him, we wouldn’t just dump it down and dash back, but we’d stop to chat. A little thing but it was why he came in every week.
I was reminded of this the other week when I popped in the car dealership where I bought my car from a few years ago.
As I walked in to the garage, one of the service staff came to greet me and, with a look of recognition said “Oh I remember you. Hello Mrs Lauwerys, how are you” And I replied “Oh hello Sharon, how long have you been working here?”
Sharon used to work at the dealership for my previous car. I hadn’t seen her for over 5 years yet she remembered what car I used to have and what scheme it was on. I was extremely impressed with the detail of her memory, considering how many people she will have dealt with over the years.
And that got me thinking.
How well do most businesses really know their customers?
My clients are used to emails/tweets/texts from me saying “I saw this and thought it might be useful” Mostly it’s something they can use for their business and on the rare occasion it isn’t, at least they know I don’t just take their money and forget all about them. No-one likes to feel they are just a number do they!?
Now how do you remember the details about you customers if you don’t have a memory like Sharon (still seriously impressed with her)
If you are just starting out, then something as simple as a spreadsheet will be enough.
As you get bigger then you may want to invest in CRM software. CRM stands for customer relationship management and there are many bits of software specifically designed to help you do this.
There are free products and ones you need to hand over cash for, so it pays to do some research to find something that matches your needs and your budget.
And of course, there’s no point in having software if you don’t use it. So you need to think about what information you have regarding your clients and how you can utilise that.
Let’s look at something you can do easily as a start
If you use something like Mailchimp to send emails to your clients then you already have a big stack of information! I bet you probably haven’t made the most of it.
You can, for example, see when people are opening your emails. Now lots is written about the best time to send an email and to be honest most of it is a lot of rubbish. Let me explain. You find an article that says the best time to send a newsletter is at 10.45am on a Tuesday. Great you think, I’ll do that. But suppose your client base is restaurant chefs. What are chefs doing at 10.45am? Yep they are getting ready to for lunchtime service. If you send your email then and your competitor sends one at a quieter time then the odds are in their favour as theirs will be at the top of your clients inbox.
Mailchimp and all the other similar programs can produce reports so you can see when people are reading your newsletters. Find that out, change when you send to that and I bet you see more people read your emails. Which puts you at the top of their list when they are thinking about who to buy from next time they want whatever it is they sell. They will be buying from you because you know them well and “remember” things about them.
Now, I’m off to make myself a hot chocolate. Even thought it’s many years since I worked for Anna and Guido, I still have my frothing skills as well as the customer service skills I learnt back then!