These days, unless you're Grandfather Potts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, ( there's a blast from the past!) it's nigh on impossible to have a unique idea to take to the online market. But some businesses, despite being in densely populated competitive markets, just beat the competition hands down. You don't have to be the biggest, you just have to care far more than anyone else out there does. You can spot the ones that don't, from a mile off. And there are some real giveaway signs of those that don't care enough. After collective years of working in big businesses, we're now out there on our own and we're still surprised just how many of the basics are still being badly managed in our online consumer world.
Here's just a few examples of some real no-nos:
Recorded messages - you have scoured the website for details of how to phone someone rather than having to fill in a form or send an email. Great! But then you get the dreaded recorded message and you just know how aggravating this is going to be, "press 1 for customer service, press 2 for.... blah, blah, blah" . It makes you want to either slam the phone down in frustration or shriek at the first real person you talk to (if you ever get that far).
Companies that don't update their website information - whether it's a blog that was last written up 6months ago or notification of an event that's past, this sort of missed detail just says, we're too busy to keep up our communication with you.
Online shops that waste your time - so you get as far as the checking out your basket only to be told that your size or colour option is out of stock.
So what are the signs that a company cares about it's customers? How do you prove that you're serious about that over used phrase, 'customer care'? Whilst they may be simple edicts, they aren't easy to maintain over time...
Offer options and tell your customer what they can choose from. Can you can deliver in super speedy time for an extra cost? Can you can personalise or customise a product to make it truly right for your customer?
Forget the fiddly frills that don't make a difference - gift packaging is a nice touch but customers soon see that the extra charms, tissue, ribbons and cards don't actually make the product any better. In fact they probably just add to its cost. Presentation is, of course, part of your marketing toolkit, but over-packaging means nothing and customers are very savvy about product value, not to mention the environmental impact of excess 'fluff'.
Be prepared to change your own rules - it's one thing breaking other people's rules, but all together different that you challenge your own. But you need to audit what binds you. Did you decide to put up a 5 working day fulfilment clause because it takes you that long to process an order, or because you were building in safety time? Did you have to set up a different shipping rate to uk addresses that were outside England because you had no financial choice otherwise, or because industry standard says it's ok to do that? Have an honest conversation with yourself about how you would perceive your rules if you were the customer.
Talk to your customer - all start ups are busy, often with lots of multi tasking going on amongst the limited staff (or perhaps you're a sole trader). Whilst all that is understandable, it doesn't mean you stop communicating (and we're not talking posting up on social media) to those who are paying for your service. So, tell them you got their order; let them know when you got it in the post; get back to them within 24hours (max) if they had to leave a message or send an email; get creative making opportunities for your customers to engage with your business through your site, even if they aren't making a purchase.
Listen to your customer - if you are lucky enough to get customer feedback, then take action! Your response, (which must be quick and clearly visible to all your customers) whether to praise or criticism, shows that you care enough to want to hear what others say.
Let your passion for caring show and your business will exude a personality of its own. That's some force to be reckoned with.