Just as January was coming to the long awaited close, shopping malls, restaurants, boutiques and many other businesses were up in red arms…promoting the month of love. Arrangements of red roses and love-hearted decorations draped on the walls and doorways of premises, themed menus and travel packages purporting to enhance affection were splashed by hotels and travel agents, radio and TV programs switched their focus geared into marketing the big day of celebration VALENTINES DAY– 14th February. For some people, this was a day they eagerly looked forward to while for others, they would rather it was scrapped off the calendar and to some, well, it was just another 24 hours around the sun.
Businesses have in the last decade learnt to capitalise on this highly commercialized globally celebrated day. They have realised that the pressure for people to celebrate or be seen to celebrate translates to high sales for their different ventures. Restaurants go out of their way to offer new and exciting tantalising delicacies, boutiques insist on the necessity of you to adorn yourself in new outfits and a matching pair of shoes, while florists preach the flower love language. Unfortunately, as soon as the clock hits midnight, the hype dies abruptly. And with it goes the passion and enthusiasm that the businesses used to pull in their customers to purchase the highly promoted, extravagantly priced goods and service of the fleeting moment.
Sadly, the trend does not continue into the rest of the year until the Christmas jingle bells are heard from the horizon. The passionate lure to celebrate the day is just an end for businesses to cash in on their ‘gullible’ customers. I use the word gullible cautiously as there are people whose birthdays and anniversaries fall on this day – and as such must celebrate within the hours allocated the 14th of February every year. Another category of celebrants are those who truly believe in the meaning of the day and hold it dear even without the marketing fuss. However, most of the populace shows up in style because of the pressure to be perceived in certain light. But the greatest question is this – Can businesses truly engage their clients this way beyond every public celebration? Sadly not, the kind of hype is like an adrenalin rush – they cannot sustain this in the long-run. Soon afterwards many people suffer buyer’s remorse for going all out to buy ordinary goods and services at extra-ordinary prices and pressure which affects your off-season sales.
What then is the remedy for businesses to maintain sustainable passion beyond this and any other season? How can they make their promotions appear less ‘selfish’ and for the moment? How can they convince the customer that they truly have their best interest at heart first, and that this is not just another marketing gimmick to get into their wallets?
Let’s explore a few tips that would make the customers feel more appreciated and valued, sustaining their loyalty beyond the hype.
Get everyone involved
Kasandra was very impressed by service at restaurant she had never been to before. As she approached the entrance, the watchman greeted her warmly and asked her if she would prefer to sit outside on the terrace, inside where it was a bit warmer or by the smoking zone over the balcony. She was stunned when he proceeded to recommend the best sitting place after learning that she just wanted a table for one. By the time her waiter brought in her order, Kasandra had spread the word to all and sundry about this great new place. Reason? It was not left to the hostess and waiter alone to make her feel valued. Everyone was involved.
Getting customer satisfaction is teamwork effort. Everyone must get involved, from the back –office to the front liners.
Do not be afraid to apologise
Jane was happy to be at the airport for her flight at the nick of time. She was accustomed to the last minute rush and unnecessary adrenaline that followed. Just as she was checking in her luggage, her phone beeped. It was a message from the airline, apologising for delaying her flight due to technical issues. ‘Phew! She sighed. Not only am I on time but they have apologised for delaying and inconveniencing me.’
The word sorry disarms the angriest of human beings. Customers know that businesses are run by humans and that sometimes systems and processes could malfunction. However failure to inform people gets them irritated and gives them a sense of feeling that you do not care enough to notify them of what is happening fuelling their anger and frustration further. Just a simple “We are Sorry” gets you great buy-ins from your clients. Just make sure you do not do it too often.
Maintain the element of surprise
This is almost similar to the point below although it does not require major budget allocations or too much strategic planning. Surprises can take different forms – little acts of service like serving a complementary glass of cool juice to your customers on a hot sunny day, extending a shopping voucher for your regular customers, sending a thank you note to a new client or simply requesting for feedback on your products and services to show that you care about what they think and are keen on meeting their expectations.
Element of surprise can be done on a regular basis – the same surprise should not be used over a very extensive period though, because then it ceases to be a surprise. Do not wait for Customer Service week to show your clients that you care for them, it doesn’t pass off as genuine.
Celebrate any other day – Just because
It has become common practice for most corporates to gift their customers around Christmas or New Year. As much as clients appreciate these gifts, there is an element of expectation – customers are expectant of the gifts as a reward to their loyalty or just transacting with your business in the course of the year. And because they expected the gift, they might not appreciate it as much as if they hadn’t anticipated it in the first place. Why not take a different approach and instead surprise your clients in between the year. Give an early Christmas package in July, send them a cake for their child’s birthday, give them a call on their wedding anniversary, or drop off their favourite meal at their offices. Celebrate the day ‘just because it is Tuesday’, ‘just because the client means a great deal to you’, “just because.”
Wrapping it all together – go out of your way and out of the season to make your customers feel valued and you will not require astronomical marketing and advertising budgets to create fanatics of your products and service.
I eagerly look forward to your comments and suggestions on what more we can do for our customers or what we as customers would value from businesses – remember I learn as much from you as well.
To your Success!