5 Ways You Are Turning Your Customers Away

inc.com

Column by Janine Popick, Inc.com "Girl Power Female CEOs" February 27, 2012

Are you losing customers without even knowing it? Make sure your business and employees aren't suffering from these easy setbacks.

Take a look at your business and see if any of these pitfalls could be turning your customers away:

1. Employee Chatter
How many times have you walked into a store and you hear employees talking to each other about their shifts, the fact that they hate working today, or how they can’t wait to get off work to go clubbing tonight? It happens more often than you think and it might be happening right within your walls. Your customers want a pleasant and positive experience with your business, whether they’re on the phone with your sales team or in your store or office. Let your employees know how important it is for them to focus on the customers and save the idle chit-chat for when customers aren’t around.

2. Phone Tree Hell
Have you ever called your own business phone number to see what the customer experience is like? I do it all the time. If your phone tree has lots of branches and your customers or prospects can’t get someone to talk to in a quick and easy fashion, you could have lost them forever. Don’t greet your customers on the phone with the “Please listen to the following as our menu has changed” message. That takes a solid five seconds that a customer could be in touch with you faster. Also, assess what most of the calls coming in are concerning. If they’re usually about a specific topic, then that should be the “Press one for … ” option. If you’re selling out of a specific product or you have an issue that your customers might be experiencing, you can set that to be the first thing callers hear. Don’t be afraid to change your phone tree.

3. Mobile Mania
Have you ever had to wait for someone to get off his/her mobile device before helping you? Think of a customer coming into your business and experiencing the same. It’s maddening. I’ve literally been at a restaurant and waited for 10 minutes before I was asked if I wanted a menu simply because the wait staff was updating Facebook. And it doesn’t only happen at retail locations; it happens in the office environment, too.

At my small business marketing company, VerticalResponse, our employees used to always have their laptops on or type away on their mobile devices during meetings. It was terrible and had to be curbed; no matter how good you are at multi-tasking, you’re going to miss something important if you’re typing away. It shows a lack of respect for your customers or co-workers and it says to them that whatever's happening on your phone or laptop is more important than everyone else’s time. And time is money. Make sure your employees put customers first, before texting and Facebook, and if they want to do those things, then it should be during their breaks.

4. Inconsistencies
If you’re a customer and you like to frequent a particular business, you expect a certain level of performance that you’ve grown accustomed to, whether it be a website that works properly or the quality of a meal at a restaurant. If you think you have the best pizza in New York, it better be the best pizza every single time you serve it. If your customer service is outstanding, all of your customers need to experience that outstanding service each and every time. Remember that your repeat customers are telling your new prospects about their experience, so make sure it’s always the same stellar experience.

5. Welcome! (Or Not?)
Have you ever walked into an office building and had no one pay attention to you? Or ever shopped at a store and no one asked if you needed help? My husband walked into a local store, shopped for an item for about 10 minutes and none of the four employees (who weren’t busy) asked if he needed help. He then brought his purchase to the counter and gave the check-out person his credit card. The entire transaction happened without a word. Really? The Gap makes it someone’s job to welcome people into the store. Restaurants have hosts that greet you and get you seated. Offices should have some way of knowing when a visitor has arrived. Make sure you and your people are smiling and welcoming newcomers into your place of business; you never know who they might be.

These five things may sound very simple to avoid, but they could be happening right under your nose!

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