Marketing is a real beast. For a small business, it can be such a challenge to make sure you craft the right message, to the right people, using the right media, at the right time. Unless you’re paying someone else to do it for you, it can feel a bit like a crap shoot. A really, really expensive crap shoot. But if you somehow manage to get it all right, it feels like you were the lucky winner. You’re a genius! You figured it out! And in a matter of moments, it can all become worthless. All of the great advertising and marketing in the world can’t make a furious customer happy again. And it can’t keep them from telling every person walking down the street just how terrible your business is.
Serving Your Customers Well is The Best Way to Market
No matter how much you spend on marketing and advertising, your most successful tool will be your ability to treat your customers well. Imagine you were taking out a prospective client for a nice lunch, hoping to close the deal. What happens during your time there will determine what you (as a customer) think of the restaurant, and possibly what the client thinks of you. Here’s three possible scenarios.
1. The restaurant calls you the morning of your lunch reservation and confirms the time and number of people in your party. They ask if there are any food allergies, special requests, or occasions that they need to consider. You let them know that it’s a business meeting so you would really appreciate it if they were attentive, but not overly interruptive so you and your client could have plenty of time to talk. They let you know they understand and will make a note. When you arrive, the table says “Reserved for (Your Name),” the table is placed in a quiet space despite the restaurant being quite busy, and they greet you by name once you check in. The waiter knows your situation, and is attentive, but not constantly popping in to refill waters, asking you to order dessert, etc. The food takes a bit longer than expected, but the waiter informs you and apologizes as soon as he finds out about the delay from the kitchen. He then offers you a drink on the house as an apology. The rest of the meal goes swimmingly, he thoroughly thanks you at the end of the meal and again apologizes for the delay. He lets you know you were a joy to serve and hopes you come back to see him again soon.
2. The restaurant is quite busy when you arrive, but you hope your reservation will allow you to be seated immediately. Thankfully, you are. They lead you to a table in the middle of the restaurant and it’s a bit hard to hear. You apologize for the noise and let them know you’ve never been here before but had heard good things about it so you didn’t expect this. Twenty minutes after ordering, the waiter lets you know that your food will be maybe another ten or fifteen minutes and apologizes. He keeps coming back over and over to check on your waters, your drinks, etc. and makes it a bit hard to really close the business deal. The rest of the meal goes smoothly, the waiter drops off your bill, says thank you, and leaves.
3. The restaurant is quite busy when you arrive, but hope your reservation will get you seated immediately. It doesn’t. You sit and wait for twenty minutes on a bench at the front. You awkwardly try to make chit chat as you don’t want to talk business in the middle of all the other waiting customers. Once you’re finally seated, you sit down and wait ten minutes for a waiter to even take your drink order. And then once your drinks arrive, it’s another ten minute wait to order food. The food takes 30 minutes to arrive, although you never were able to hunt down that waiter to find out about the delay. No apologies were made. At the end of the meal, you have to ask another server to bring you the bill. You haven’t seen yours in the last twenty minutes.
Great Customer Service is Free and Effortless Marketing
Now, which scenario would you hope to be in during an important business meeting? And would you pay more? And would you tell your friends and relatives to go there, especially for a business meeting? And would you let your staff know that from now on, all important meetings happen at that restaurant? Now look at all that free marketing you just did for them. And all because they knew how to treat their customers well. Because they understood you as a customer. Not only did they treat you well, they made you look good in front of a prospective customer. And what better service can you receive than that?
Don’t Risk the Success of Your Business
When it comes to important business meetings, you just can’t risk poor restaurant service. No matter how spectacular the food was in scenario three, you just couldn’t risk going back or recommending it to others. And clients feel the same way. They just can’t risk their home’s design, and all that money, on a business with poor service. That’s why learning who your customers are and what they want and need is critical to your success.
Great Customer Service Makes Your Job Easier
As you know, interior design is an extremely competitive business. And unfortunately, one that at times is viewed as being snooty, unfriendly, and judgmental. And even if it’s only a few bad apples causing those fears in customers, it’s enough to actually provide you with a competitive advantage. The more you show your customers that they can trust you, share with you, and depend on you, the more willing they are to do that free marketing for you. And the more likely you are to have to worry less about the next ad you’re running on Facebook, and more about other spectacular ways to treat your customers. So go out there, treat your customers well, and enjoy your FREE marketing.
Let me know in the comments below how you’ve seen your business improve with great customer service! And if you’d like to get help understanding just how to serve your customers well, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!