Did you lose customers this week without even knowing it? This article details six ways on how to KEEP customers. It also describes how, on the flip side, six surefire ways how to LOSE customers (often without even knowing). If you want to find out if you are infuriating your potential customers and turning them away (before they even speak to you), keep reading and learn how to keep customers.
Note: This article deals with various encounters I have had this past month with other small businesses. Many of my interactions had me scratching my head, and as a result, I wondered if the business even cared about keeping in touch with me (their customer). I will not name names to protect the identities of the offenders. But please know this, as a small-business owner, the harder you make it for someone to contact you or get information from you, the higher the chances that your POTENTIAL customer will give up and you will lose their sale (most of the time without even knowing).
6 Surefire Ways to Lose or Keep Customers (Your Choice)
No Business Hours Posted
I recently visited a local business on a Saturday to pick up a few items for my family. When I arrived at this retail store (on a Saturday!), it was closed.
“That’s weird,” I thought. And looked around for a sign with the hours of operation. Nothing.
I then went and visited an adjacent business and mentioned the store being closed. I was then informed that the closed business does not open on Saturdays.
The hours you keep as a business owner are your own business, and good for you for taking time off. However, in order to keep customers, post your hours on your door in a highly visible location AND on your website. If your hours of operation are not typical of your area or industry, this is especially true. Your customers will have more understanding if they feel like you are trying to communicate with them and providing useful information. However, you probably just lost a sale if your customers arrive to find you closed with no sign or indication of when you are in fact open.
No or Little Contact Information on Your Website
Yesterday, I was surfing a website of one of my favourite local stores. Part way through my visit, I had a question that I needed to ask before I placed an online order.
- First, I looked to the header menu – no contact information and no ‘Contact’ Page.
- Second, I scrolled all the way down the home page and looked to the footer menu – voila, a contact page.
- I then clicked the ‘contact’ option in the footer menu. Once I landed on the page realized there was no phone number or actual email address; only a contact form – errrrrr!
As a result, I could not contact the business in a timely manner and DID NOT place my sale.
A couple of days later, I realized the business phone number was, in fact, listed on the website’s footer menu. But I didn’t make my purchase.
Rule #1 on how to keep customers; they need to be able to reach you. Let this be a reminder to everyone that has a website and wants to keep their customers – different people navigate and search websites differently. It’s imperative that you put multiple forms of contact for your business in multiple places on your website.
In this case, I was a motivated customer ready to make a purchase and could NOT find a contact number for this business, even though I was on their ‘CONTACT’ page?
Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t to me.
PRO TIPS: If you own a business where your customers contact you a lot (i.e. retail/restaurant), put your phone number in your header menu.
And to every business owner: make sure you have a stand-alone CONTACT page in your main header menu. That is where most people expect it to be and will look to click to get a hold of you. If you include too little contact information, bury it or provide none at all on your website … you probably lost a client this week.
No Voicemail Set-Up
A couple of weeks ago, I called a local restaurant that I often order take-out from when I’m at the cottage. This location, like many seasonal locales, has hours that shift depending on the season (which I totally understand). First, I visited their website to check their hours and find out if they were, in fact, open and if I could come by to pick up some food.
- I called 4 different times in one day
- None of my four calls were answered.
- When the voicemail did pick up, it sounded like a personal message and did not mention the business name or provide any information to reaffirm that I had reached the right place
- Voicemail did not include any information on hours of operation or how to place an order or what to do next or even ‘thank you for calling.’
- I then went to their website and Instagram to see if their hours of operation were mentioned; they both stated that they were in fact open on the day that I was calling.
- Hmmm …?
Do you think it is reasonable to expect that your customer should try and reach you four times when you are open and 1) not be able to reach you, or 2) not be greeted by a voicemail with instructions on how to leave a message and when you can get back to them?
The next day, I hopped in my car and went to the restaurant to see what was up (maybe their website was out of date and they were actually closed). When I arrived, I asked the manager if they were open the day before and she replied: “yup, all day.”
Okay, that’s weird.
I then informed her that I had called a few times and no one picked up. Guess what her response was? “Oh we were super busy and when we’re slammed, the phone is our last priority.”
Which brings me to my next surefire way to lose a customer …
Phones Are Not Answered Consistently
If you have a business, you should try and answer the phone. If you have busy times and have to let the phone go to voicemail, no problem, just ensure that you have a business greeting set up so your customers know that they have in fact reached the right place. It is also helpful to include an approximate turnaround time of when you return calls so your customer knows when they can expect to hear back from you.
Do not, I repeat, do NOT, inform a customer that has been trying to reach you that they are your ‘last priority’ when you are busy.
A classier alternative that demonstrates you value your customers – in-person and on the phone – might be: “My apologies, sometimes when we are really busy the phone lines have to go to voicemail, but we make sure we pick up all messages daily and return all calls. I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to talk to you. How can I help you now?’
Want to know how to keep your customers? Answer your phone and/or respond to your voicemails. If you operate a restaurant that relies heavily on takeout for a source of income, like my local restaurant above, you may want to evaluate your staffing and processes as you are literally turning your back on take-out orders if you can’t answer your phone or have no voicemail set up. If you can’t answer your phone and you do not have a voicemail set up … you are absolutely 100% losing sales and customers on a daily, if not hourly, basis. It shouldn’t be that hard for your customers to reach you or buy something.
Your Google Listing is Not Accurate
When your business is listed on Google or another type of directory, it is imperative that the hours listed are accurate. How to keep customers? Ensure your information is accurate. If your listings are not accurate, you are most certainly losing sales. People are, undoubtedly showing up when you are closed or calling you when you are supposed to be open (according to their research). When this happens, it doesn’t represent you as a professional and it is frustrating to customers that plan their outings around the times that are published. They have gone to the effort to look you up, and now they have shown up to support you, only to find out you are closed. Chances are if your google or business hour listings are inaccurate … you have lost a sale this month.
Note: if you choose to close your store on a day that is different from your Google listing (maybe you really needed a mental health day) – go for it! But do your best to communicate to your customers – through social media, email marketing, and a simple sign on your door. They will appreciate that you need a break AND that you respected them enough to explain to them. When this happens weekly, or if you show up late on the regular, this is different. Likely, will not be respected or understood.
Your Employees Suck
As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate and are sometimes exhausted – I get it! And the time comes when it’s imperative for you to hire assistants and people to help you run your business. The employees you hire to help run your business reflect your business, so you want to make sure you hire good apples.
When you do decide to hire, ensure that you are very transparent on your approach to customer service, multi-tasking, and work ethic (easier said than done, right?). This is a biggie though. That manager from the restaurant I mentioned above … I was floored when I found out she was the manager. I assumed she was a part-time temporary worker that perhaps wasn’t as nuanced in customer service. But to have a manager tell a customer ‘when we are busy the phone is our last priority??’ blows my mind. I was the person on the other end of the phone and she basically told me that I was her last priority.
Hiring good employees who share your vision for customer service will definitely help you keep customers and convert them into loyal patrons.
Words matter people.
Clear communication is imperative. Doing something as simple as posting accurate business hours and setting up your voicemail could make or break your next 10 sales. And the toughest part? You’ll never know you lost them. Do yourself a favour and review these 6 headings. Make sure you are keeping your clients (instead of losing them).
Words matter people. Clear communication is imperative. Doing something as simple as posting accurate business hours and setting up your voicemail could be great examples of how to keep customers (instead of losing them). And while you’re thinking about keeping customers, check out this article: The Huge Mistake You Might Be Making in Your Business, which includes other great tips and things to think about. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t know where to start or just want a second pair of eyes , click HERE to book a complimentary 15-minute call with me and I’m happy to help.
From my kitchen table to yours,
Tracy Smith is a professional copywriter, brand strategist and the Founder of Kitchen Table CEOs. Through tips, writing templates and one-on-one consulting services, Tracy helps women entrepreneurs create the content, brand and online presence they need to launch and grow their business. For more information on her services and how to work with her, please click HERE.