Nicola Russill-Roy asks industry experts to share advice on delivering first class customer relations.
Do you know the key to great customer relations? Surviving this current storm will mean focusing on the bigger picture but also not forgetting the small stuff. Customer relations should be at the forefront on your business, even if you feel you haven’t got many customers to serve right now.
James Martin is the owner of Baddow Park House, a private hire wedding venue in the Essex countryside. James has and continues to run several highly successful businesses and one thing that has led to his success is, quite simply, communication.
Communication really is king when you are a business owner. Business owners often try to over complicate things; keep it simple by listening and talking to your customers.
“It has never been more important to listen to our couples who have chosen our venue to get married as we navigate our way to find a new ‘normal’,” he says. “This really is an uncertain time and any support or guidance we can give will go a long way.
“Whilst we have successfully rescheduled all of our couples that wanted to postpone their wedding to 2021, we do have a handful that simply do not wish to wait any longer to get married. This inevitably means trading off the lavish celebrations that they were planning for a smaller, more intimate ceremony. To be able to do this we need to make sure that we can reopen safely and give these couples and their guests the confidence that we have gone above and beyond”.
It’s imperative for you to really listen to your customers and be empathetic to their needs. Many people are quick to pass a wedding off as non-essential, but for couples their wedding is intrinsically linked to their future life plans, with starting a family or moving house. If you cannot immediately serve your clients due to restrictions that have been placed on your business, spend time finding a suitable solution for each client and their own set of needs rather than taking a blanket approach. Good communication, giving your customers choice and being there to listen to them will hold you in good stead.
Vaishali Shah, a serial entrepreneur for over two decades, runs three different global businesses servicing the wedding industry (among others) – Ananya Cards, Culturally Minded and Creative-ID. She is no stranger to customer relations – her advice follows:
- Stay in touch – make a point to reach out to your customers and find ways to elevate their experience with your brand, products or services, so that you can consistently deliver a high level of customer service. Maintaining strong customer relations is more important than ever now to ensure loyalty and trust. You cannot expect customers to find you to give their feedback.
- Be ready to learn – strong customer engagement is essential. Know what their expectations are. Ask customers for a review and feedback so that you can do more of what is working well and learn from what needs to be improved. Record the feedback, review it on a regular basis and make changes where appropriate based on the feedback received. Follow up on both positive and negative feedback.
- Be flexible – be agile and quick to respond. The ability to adapt and adjust any business practices is essential to build brand loyalty. You may need to offer short-term discounts, new packages, and include additional value-added services at no extra cost.
- Necessary skills – all employees should be aware of, and taught where necessary, customer service skills such as patience, attentiveness, clear communication as well as product know-how, empathy and positivity. These are all key characteristics, especially in a time of uncertainty.
- Consider employees – talk to your employees too, to see how they are feeling and how you can work with them to bring out their best. By investing in your employees, you promote their job satisfaction, making them your best cheerleaders and elevating customer experience. Are you being culturally aware, recognising diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and does everyone have a seat at the table to share their views?
- Look at the stats – Forbes showed that brands with superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that trail in customer experience. 73 per cent of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties. 77 per cent of consumers say inefficient customer experiences detract from their quality of life.
Our final expert, Natalia Willmott, Founder of My Billet Doux, a company centered on creating lasting impressions, has built her own business around customer relations.
“For me, customer relations has always been at the forefront of my businesses. Being a small business owner, every client counts. I believe two things have helped me create returning customers, customers that are faithful and, most importantly, word of mouth referrals.
- A hand written note – without fail all the parcels I send contain a handwritten note. I have noticed that in the past few months my customers have highlighted and often thanked me for those.
- Staying in touch – I send regular newsletters that provide news and value, as well as emails, and engage with customers present on social media.
When communicating with your customers, ask engaging questions. This shows you are interested and care and encourages an open dialogue with your audience. If you can have a relationship with your customers when they feel they are not only listened to but they feel valued you will have customers for life.
Nicola Russill-Roy founded Propose PR in 2008, the UK’s first agency dedicated to representing brands within the wedding industry. www.proposepr.com