I have been an entrepreneur all of my life. I started my first business at 19 years old while living in New York City. My initial foray as a small business owner (not counting my job delivering newspapers) was a model management company that represented petite models. Next, in California at age 26, was a 7200 square-foot beauty salon with 14 operators which included hairstylists, estheticians and manicurists. And finally I’m here today with my lifestyle brand company, Elaine Swann Enterprises where we offer etiquette-inspired products and services. The one thing I’ve learned from all of my endeavors is that it’s really pretty easy to actually start a small business. The hard work is to keep that business going and growing while competing with big businesses in the same field.
Owning a small business comes with a number of challenges. Some of the main challenges many small businesses face today is a lack of capital and customer loyalty. Capital is going to help you get the things you need such as inventory, marketing and a good team to work with. Customer loyalty will provide long term profits and a solid future for your business. It's no secret that cash is king and cash is absolutely necessary to make things happen. Getting to cash and getting it quickly will help alleviate one of the first and foremost important challenges that small businesses face today. This plight is resoundingly stated over and over again from live forums hosted by companies like Infusionsoft to experts on business websites such as Forbes. The great news is more and more small business owners are getting that necessary access to cash through crowd funding and nontraditional lenders like Kabbage. An online provider of small business loans, Kabbage has secured the spot of being number one in this category. They have a really cool model and it’s really quite simple. All you have to do is apply, qualify and you’ll get your cash instantly. The process Kabbage offers is a lot faster than a traditional bank which will in turn set you up for success in business in a much shorter amount of time.
Now keep in mind, getting to cash is not the only answer to success and it won't magically make your business grow. The next challenge is customer loyalty. Whether a small business owner is dealing with a brick and mortar building or an online service, you’re still selling to someone and retaining those customers and creating that loyalty is vital to the growth and longevity of any small business. This is where treating people right comes into play
From my modeling agency to the beauty salon to all of our clients today, the important factor I have learned is to get the customer, keep ‘em happy, and keep ‘em coming back. The sweet spot is to create a community of loyal followers that will not only continue to visit you but will tell their friends and family about you as well. Now that’s growth! We have all heard this before, “People do business with people they like”. And so you have to make yourself likeable in order to do well in business.
It’s not impossible for small business owners to compete with big name stores all year long and well into the competitive holiday season. The key is to give people a reason to shop at your business. Treat people right and I can assure you they will go out of their way to patronize your small business.
Here are my tips on how you can deliver 5-Star Customer Service which will leave a lasting, stunning impression on your customers and create the loyalty needed for success
Use the Power of Polite 24/7
Simply be kind, friendly, honest and service-oriented…all the time. Be polite and use kind words and phrases such as ‘Thank you and Please” regularly. This should be part of your everyday company culture amongst your staff and it will trickle on over to your customers in a seamless natural manner. No need to turn good manners off and on – use them all the time and make it real.
Suppress the Negative Nelly
We've all been annoyed by a not so pleasant clerk or customer service rep and that left a bad taste in our mouth for that particular organization. Don't let this happen to your business. Make sure that you and your staff remain mindful of your demeanor and disposition when dealing with customers. You can create a tag team system that will allow one team member to “step in” while the other “takes a breather” to get themselves together. One bad encounter and just the precise moment can leave a lasting negative impression on your business. Which brings me to my next point.
Create a Cookie-Cuter Code
Develop a code of conduct on how you treat your customers. Every staff member that touches your customer base should be aware of it. Your customers should receive the same treatment anytime they patronize your business. Whether day or night, Monday or Sunday, they should experience the same stellar, cohesive service regardless of who is helping them.
Press Start on the Sensitivity Chip
Make sure that you and your staff are sensitive to the needs of your customers. Always be willing to hear the out, resolve their problems quickly and tend to their concerns promptly and efficiently.
Personalize Your Service
Remember their names and details about their families. Create a system that will remind you about milestones such a birthdays and anniversaries. Keep a log of your customers buying profile and use it to personalize their shopping experience. For example, you can send them discount codes, coupons, “How To” tips and articles based on their previous purchases.
Do Some Housekeeping if Necessary
Your team is part of what makes up your brand’s integrity. Have you heard the phrase “If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it”? Well that would apply here. If an individual (or two) just does not fit into the core values of your service you may have to let them go. Get rid of any bad apples that are not going to deliver exceptional customer service.
Just put forth the greatest effort to deliver 5-Star Customer Service and it will help you gain long term success and stay competitive with big businesses all year long.