You may be familiar with the adage: Happy wife, happy life” but I think that as small business owners, we should adopt the mantra: “happy customer, better slumber”, bearing in mind that sleepless nights are causally linked to the health of the bottom line, which is connected to the number of happy customers we have. If you are going to make one new goal for your business, then it must be to make your customers happier. From marketing to sales, to delivery, to support, what are you going to do to make that happen?
What do customers want and how are we going to make them happy in 2021? Here are five trends to get you thinking about the happiness factor.
1. Online and on time
Unsurprisingly 2020 shot the lights out when it came to growth in online shopping and deliveries. Businesses that were already e-commerce based or which quickly adapted to a remote world were the success stories.
It is important to note that it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit, more significantly, it only needs an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. (Healthline.com). Given that South Africa has been in various stages of lockdown for over 300 days, it is safe to say that our customer's habits have changed and so have their expectations of what constitutes a great customer experience. An effective and easy to use online sales offering is now a minimum requirement.
2. Put the customer at the heart of the business
The concept of customer centricity is not new, but most businesses have been slow to move from the idea of seeing customers as targets, with the sale as the end goal. If we shift our focus from looking outwards to the customer - trying to attract him or her, to one where we are looking inwards to the customer who is at the centre of the business, there is a subtle but powerful change. All products, processes and systems are there for one reason, to service the customer. If they do not enhance the customer experience, why are they there? Even security, which is a grudge requirement in all businesses, should be implemented from the first premise of how can we least impact the customer? It is a necessary pain point, but it does not have to be painful.
Make buying from you easy! Limited payment options; complicated delivery processes or costs; long queues; red tape – these are all barriers to purchases.
A recent survey shows that in the post Covid-19 world, 59% of consumers will care more about the customer experience than they did before the pandemic (Edelman Trust Barometer). The human factor is one way that we can seek to consistently surprise and please our customers. There are times when the chat function is simply not enough. When the customer seeks a real live human being, that person needs to be friendly, knowledgeable, efficient, and able to solve the problem. Give your customers a reason to love your products or service so much that they become your best marketers!
3. Social shopping
The customer wants to shop wherever they are, which is increasingly on social media. Social media platforms such as Facebook are scrambling to make the process as easy as possible for businesses and consumers. It is no longer enough to have a great website; your social pages need to generate leads and convert to sales as well. Clicking through to your website could be one click too many.
It is also a non-negotiable that your website and social pages are mobile-friendly. Most searches and online purchases are done on the phone.
4. Getting personal
There is a standing joke in my family about the scarcity of water whenever we eat out. In addition to the food and drinks of choice, I always order a glass of tap water. (I like to have a glass before I eat, it’s just my thing.) As the drinks arrive, we all wait to see if I actually get my glass of water. Sadly, it rarely arrives without a second or third prompt from me, so much so that I am actually quite delighted if it does arrive first time round!
It is the little things that count. It may be making a point of reading the customer’s credit card so you can refer to him or her by name, or where practical, personalising greetings on emails. If a customer is a regular, a welcome smile and a reference to a previous conversation makes them feel ‘seen’. It is about regular check-ins before, during, but especially after, the sale. The customer needs to feel that they are important and that their feedback or preferences are taken seriously.
Small businesses are well-positioned to get personal and delightful with the little touches, but it starts with you and your service attitude.
5. Values are valuable
The pandemic and extreme weather events due to climate change have heightened awareness of the interconnection of people, animals, and the earth. The green revolution is gaining momentum and customers are increasingly supporting brands that take sustainability seriously.
Now is the time to show that you care about what your customers care about. Fairness, ethical trade, recycling, environmental or community benefits are beginning to make cents!
Be careful not to pay lip service, consumers are quick to spot phoney ‘green-ism’.
Businesses must be transparent and ‘human’ if they want to build customer loyalty. 71% of consumers say that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever (Edelman Trust Barometer).
Customer happiness is not a line item in the profit and loss statement, but the lack of it will reflect in the bottom line.
What do you do to make your customers happy? Share your tips and stories in the comments below.
By Janet Askew