Personalizing your marketing efforts – Part III

The following is the final section of a three-part article focusing on ways a small business can personalize their marketing efforts.  As previously mentioned, I’m not referring to personalizing mass produced printed materials, but am focusing on those little “human” touches that mean a lot to your best customers, prospects, industry allies and employees.  I refer to this group as your “focused contacts”.   The first part, posted on June 25, focused on handwritten notes, and the second part, posted on June 30, focused on customer appreciation. 

The third way to personalize your marketing efforts is to ensure your company is known for customer service.  I’ve segmented this approach into four categories.

  • Customer expectations
  • Employees
  • Response time
  • Value-added ideas.

In order to exceed customer expectations (and yes I know this term is over-used), think about your recent transactions at other establishments, whether positive or negative. 

When visiting a store, we appreciate the efforts made when employees walk you to the location of a product, answer your questions about product options, and then ask if you need additional assistance with another item.·         It’s hard to feel highly valued when you’re just told the aisle location and you’re unfamiliar with the store layout or are in a hurry.  And then again, do you get frustrated when checking out and am asked “did you find everything?” and when you tell them no, they show no concern for your input? It’s important to identify your customers’ priorities if you want them to be life-long customers.

  • When I worked at American Airlines in the eighties, we studied how other businesses within the travel industry were responding to the influx of women business travelers and learned safety was the top concern.  As an example, women didn’t want their room number stated out loud at check-in.
  • It’s a great feeling when a restaurant remembers your preferred seat or a hotel remembers your non-smoking room preference.

Furthermore, it is beneficial to ask your focused customers or allies how your product or service is performing.  Then, implement changes and advise them of these changes.

  • You may find that people are willing to pay more if you spend more time listening to them (a selfish, but important factor).
  • My July 2006 newsletter identified numerous ways of gathering information and listening to your customers.
  • Remember to obtain information about different “time points”: purchase, delivery, service calls and after the customer actually uses your product for a period of time.
  • Hiring a mystery shopper can provide first-hand qualitative input on how your customers are treated.

A second way to focus on customer service is to think about your employees.  If you respect, value and train your employees and recognize them as an important asset, these employees are more likely to pass along the same treatment to your customers.  Plus, you may have lower employee turnover. 

  • Ask your employees for suggestions on ways they can offer outstanding customer service, such as learning more about products or your competitors.
  • Modify or eliminate rules preventing employees from providing great service. 
  • As your company provides training, offer employees opportunities to practice the new skills prior to interacting with customers and prospects.  New skills need time to become habits.

The third area is response time.  If you have a website, what is your response time to answer questions or comments? 

  • What are your response rates when it comes to returning phone calls, shipping products, scheduling and completing service calls, or providing replacement parts?
  • With so many people short on time, have a procedure for notifying your inability to keep an appointment.

The final area of customer service that can be personalized is value-added services.  What procedure do you have in place when an item is out of stock? 

  • I was quite surprised when a high-end local grocer had no record of my request for a special product I was seeking.  At the time I left my contact information, I mentioned the two special trips made to their store for this item.  Since that experience, I’ve reduced the number of visits to that establishment. 

Do you mail out postcards or make a phone call when the product is re-stocked?  How do you keep customers informed of special purchases?

  • Just they other day I received a call from the service department of my car dealership reminding me that I haven’t been in for service in some time.  Personally, I value that reminder since our lives get busy and it’s not convenient or fun when the car needs servicing!

Do your technicians solve an immediate problem that’s likely to repeat itself OR do they find a long term solution so it doesn’t repeat itself?  This easily applies to appliance, computer and cable service repairs.

  • Perhaps you’ve come across a problem with a piece of equipment and you make the effort to contact customers who purchased that item.

Do you notify focused contacts of your busiest time of the day or week so they can avoid long lines and delays?

  • Wouldn’t it be great if the local post office could tell you when they have the most agents working?

Please don’t hesitate to share your comments and thoughts about these three methods for personalizing your marketing efforts.  It’s a topic that never loses relevancy.