Three years ago when I started my homework helping and tutoring business I knew nothing about customer satisfaction, how to increase the number of clients, or how to adapt a business based on customers’ needs.
When we talk about online businesses, there are several criteria to meet in order to be considered successful:
1. You have to have satisfied clients.
2. You have to properly optimize your website.
3. You have to build quality in your products and services.
4. You have to be professional.
5. You have to be responsive (in terms of customers’ requests).
Benefits of focusing on client’s needs
To have a lot of clients, you and your business have to be easily findable. This is tricky when you compete with million dollar companies in the same market niche. But search engines do not care about your net capital. They give equal chances to everyone. Thank you Google!
Your clients can get to you and your website in different ways: directly (less likely unless you’re very big), through search engines, through social media, word of mouth, and other ways. Each one of these has different implications.
I think that customer satisfaction should be the top priority of any business because if you put it on the top of the hierarchy, then you would focus on building better products and services, which will most likely increase your profits, as well as your popularity.
At the beginning, I had very few clients because I didn’t know much about search engine optimization and other ways that would make me easy to be found. Since I had so few people coming to me and my first website, I had given them special attention by providing the best quality I could provide in my services.
Most of them have been working with me for 2 or 3 years until they have graduated. Besides having a constant influx of money coming to me, I have had other benefits from working with them.
First, they have recommended my services to several other people and I could simply make my living by working based on those recommendations. I didn’t have to spend money on advertising.
Secondly, I have developed friendships with most of them and these friendships have been built on trust. I would not recommend befriending with your customers unless you are able to maintain a clear line between the professional and personal areas.
Advantages over big companies
You have probably been in the situation in which you are the client of a large company and there’s something wrong with the product or service you purchased and you want to get in touch with a representative of that company.
There are corporations where it’s almost impossible to have a 1-on-1 talk with a person from their customer service department. I personally had a negative experience with Yahoo as I tried to talk to them for a problem on my email account. This was more than a year ago.
When I got to the CONTACT section on their website, there was a search bar to look-up your problem. If you didn’t find what you were looking for, then you had the option to email them and they would get back to you in 24 to 48 hours, even though you were told that it could take longer.
I wasn’t able to find a chat option on their website. I had to make some Google searches to find that chat section which was well hidden in the depths of Yahoo’s website. And the experience with their customer service professional was negative because as most of the big companies do, Yahoo outsources some of its services to countries like China or India, where the labor is cheap and the quality is…..
What I’m trying to point out is that, as a business owner, you need to let the client get on one-on-one sessions with you in case they have something to ask you. Of course, if your products and services are ingeniously designed and they are of a higher quality, most of the clients would only like to thank you for what you do.
It’s also good to have a FAQ section on your website so that the basic of the questions and misunderstandings the clients would have are addressed on that page.
If you, as a small business owner, get in a good relationship with your clients and allow them to talk to you easily and rapidly, you will be in greater advantage over large corporations which make their customer service sections hardly accessible.
Clients don’t like to talk to robots. They like human interaction. Underline this.
I personally have a Live Chat window available on all the pages of my old website and I’m in the process of implementing the same Live Chat option in another one of my websites.
Let me tell you something. There are clients who reach your website and they are confused about something. If they don’t have a representative to talk to, they mostly likely leave your website. But if they have the option to have their questions answered quickly, you can transform them into loyal customers.
Many users who get to my website use the Live Chat window because they want to know more about a course or about a particular tutorial. As you talk to them and they feel they interact with another human being, they become more confident and the chances for them to purchase something from you are very high.
Besides Live Chat, I’d also use the Phone as a way for clients to contact you. The phone option goes very well for local or national businesses. But when it comes to international clients, they’d rather chat or send you an email. You need to know which situation is best for you.
Show them that you really care
Dale Carnegie, one of my mentors, said that: “A person’s toothache means more to that person than a famine in China, which kills a million people“.
I want to point out that a client’s problem or concern means much more to that client than the size of a tsunami. Since you are a business owner, your responsibility is to make a first class priority out of all clients’ requests.
Listen carefully to what they have to say. Do not interrupt. Show them that you understood by restating what they said.
And, most importantly, act to get to the resolution of their problem. When doing so, try to see things from various different perspectives because it will help you get to the solution quicker and better.
Focus on the solution
When a client comes to you with a concern, try focusing on the solution and not on the problem itself.
Do not use your energy on blaming this or that for what happened. It’s a waste of time and money. Use that energy positively.
There have been times when I lost some transactions. However, I showed the client the goodwill to give their money back and in the same time I tried to find other ways of helping them.
When the clients see that you are not that person who only wants to get their money and give less or nothing in change, they have a different view on you.
I managed to turn more than 90% of the unsatisfied clients into temporary or loyal customers. This is efficiency. Try not losing any of them because you don’t know where the big opportunity may come from.
Most importantly, pay attention to all clients and do not discriminate.
Ask for feedback
You probably hate surveys and questionnaires as much as I do. Large corporations do not know how to efficiently make use of them and of their customers’ feedback.
If you are in a conversation with your client, try finding out his opinion about your business. Ask only few questions, I would say that a maximum of 3 questions is the best.
And do not start like the consultants of big companies do: “Would you like to participate in a survey to help us improve….blah blah”. That’s only a waste of time and words.
If you talk to a satisfied customer, just ask them:
“What one thing you would like to see different about this business?” or
“What would you add to the product/service to make you more satisfied?” or
“Where do you think we need to improve (as a business)?”
When you deal with a less satisfied customer, you can ask them:
“What would you change to the product/service to make you happy?”
“Why are you disappointed with us?”
“What’s the best thing you like about this business?”
Feedback is extremely important. It helps you and your business grow or at least maintain on the floating line. You can generate feedback from your business not only by asking the clients but also by analyzing what they have to say (without asking) and by interpreting the data that comes out of your business (for example: monthly sales – which months were the most profitable?, demographics – where are your most loyal customers from?, website traffic, etc).
1. Listen to your customers.
2. Show them that you care.
3. Deal with their problems quickly and professionally.
4. Let them get in touch with you easily.
5. Ask for feedback. Analyze the feedback. Make decisions based on that feedback.
I’d like to conclude with what one of my favorite authors has to say:
“It should be encouraging to know that practically all the great fortunes began in the form of compensation for personal services, or from the sale of IDEAS. What else, except ideas and personal services, would one, not possessed of property, have to give in return for riches?” (Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich)
I’m really interested in your opinion on how to build long-lasting and profitable relationships with your clients. What’s the biggest challenge to you? Please reply in either of the comment sections below.
Napoleon Hill. (1972). Think and Grow Rich.