Business is down. In fact, it’s been sliding steadily for the last several months. So you react in the usual way: “We need to increase sales!” Maybe you choose to place a newspaper ad, send out coupons, have a sale, post on social media, light a fire under the sales force, offer special order incentives or some combination of tactics. Anything to get customers in the door or product out of it!
Does this sound familiar? It’s a typical reaction, but it actually might be the opposite of what you need to do to get your business growing again.
Rather than react full bore, it’s a good idea to take a step back and assess your situation. Why is business down?
An advertising campaign, coupons, direct mail, more sales calls or a social media campaign might be in order if business is down because of external factors beyond your control, such as the economy, road construction, if your business is new, or you think people have just forgotten about you.
But what if your customers are all-to-familiar with your service and have “voted with their feet?” Maybe they think your prices are too high, service is too slow, or quality not in line with the price. Ninety-six percent of unhappy customers won’t complain to you and 90% of them will just simply stop doing business with you. And while they don’t tell you what happened, they’ll tell plenty of other people.
You need fresh eyes to truly understand your situation and a willingness to accept that maybe your problem is internal.
Now before you get offended, hear me out. I’m not saying you or your employees have deliberately sabotaged your success. It’s usually not the people that are to blame, but the policies, processes, training, tools and implementation that cause customers to stop doing business with you.
We spend a lot of time at work and we get comfortable there. We overlook how cluttered things have gotten in the lobby. We know our co-workers almost as well as we know our families. We joke around and talk to each other when we’re supposed to be focusing solely on customers. And we forget to look at ourselves from the customer’s viewpoint.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were at a restaurant and he happened to look up and notice that the ceiling fan (which was off) was covered in dust. When was the last time any employees at that restaurant sat and looked at it from the customer’s viewpoint? The next time the manager walked by, he stopped him and politely pointed it out. A week later, when we returned, the fan and the ceiling around it were clean and I imagine “clean ceiling fans” is now on a regular cleaning checklist at that restaurant. And if it hadn’t been clean when we returned, I’m sure we would have taken that establishment off our “rotation.”
When you invite friends or family over to your house, what’s the first thing you do? Clean the house, of course. That’s when you start to see your house from your guest’s point of view. You prepare an inviting atmosphere, putting your best foot forward. You might even hire an outside cleaning service to give it that extra sparkle. That box you’ve been tripping over for weeks, suddenly has to be moved today! The kitchen towels are looking a bit ragged. And the guest bathroom needs some serious work
Your attention then turns to making sure everyone in the family is ready and on their best behavior. What will everyone wear? Who’s going to be responsible for making sure the drinks are filled? Who’s going to replenish the buffet plates? Who’s responsible for taking the coats? Is it necessary to recruit a friend or two to help out, or hire someone to help out?
Finally, now that everyone has a job to do, does everyone have what they need to do their jobs and do they understand how to do them? Has everyone been reminded to “mind their manners”? How should the coats be put away – carefully hung up in an empty closet or thrown on a bed or chair? How empty should the plates get before you replenish them? And a final reminder that while you want the family to enjoy the party as well, the first job is to serve the guests.
Then, and only then, are you ready to welcome your guests and give them an evening beyond expectations.
You should take the same approach before inviting your customers in with a marketing campaign. Follow these steps:
The last thing you want is for new customers to have a bad experience because you weren’t prepared. It takes 20 positive impressions to overcome one negative impression, so it’s best to start out with a good first impression and make sure you can live up to your customers’ expectations.
Bea Northcott is owner of Triple Impact, LLC, a consulting company specializing in the interconnection between marketing, human resources, and training. In other words, hiring, training and retaining the right employees and then marketing your services to the right audiences.