Building Your Business Around the Best Customers

Good customers mean good businessAre some customers better than others? How do you attract customers you want and deflect those you don’t?

First, know your customers. Which ones are making your business successful? Which ones are wasting your time?

Second, adjust your business to create a great shopping experience for your best customers.

Third, continually monitor and fine tune what you are doing.

An Example: Celia has a boutique store that features beauty products and some jewelry. The store caters to women.

It is designed to help them enjoy their shopping experience and to make them feel comfortable. A customer can try any of the beauty products at any time using sample product that Celia provides.

If someone comes in with a friend, she can shop guilt-free while her friend relaxes in a small sitting area that is part of the store. The staff courteously answers questions and focuses on great customer service. Celia offers a variety of weekly specials designed to get people to visit her store.

The Problem: Celia’s store was just breaking even when we talked. Her staff was working hard, but she needed more customers and wanted to know how to double her sales.

Our first step was to look at her customers. Celia discovered she had three kinds of customers. The best ones all purchased Celia’s flagship skincare line, which they considered to be more of a necessity than a convenience or treat.

Everyone in this group turned out to be a lady of fifty or older with a moderate income. They came into the store regularly to replenish their skincare supplies, typically resulting in a fairly large transaction. The staff’s challenge for these customers is to make their shopping experiences delightful. They may also introduce one or two products that might be of interest to the customer.

The second type of customer is a mother who comes into the store accompanied by one or more small children. The children often make a bee-line for the sitting area while the mother may spend up to an hour trying out most of the products in the store. Her purchase, if one is made, is often a single small item.

The staff’s challenge here often extends to babysitting as they keep bored children away from products on display. They may also spend significant time answering questions for the shopper.

The third customer group consists of shoppers who like to argue about price. This customer typically comes into the store, selects a product, and complains to staff that it was on special a few weeks before and she should be entitled to the discount that was offered then. Celia’s staff often spends quite a bit of time with these customers, who usually leave without making a purchase.

The Solution: Once we looked more closely at Celia’s customers, she quickly realized that she wanted more of her best customers and fewer of those from groups two and three. She immediately made some changes.

First, she started a preferred customer program, which was offered to anyone who spent at least a certain amount in a single purchase. All of Celia’s best customers easily fit into this category. The program included a newsletter with special discounts and samples. Inside the store, the waiting area was rearranged slightly and was clearly designated as a preferred customer seating area.

Second, she decreased the number of sample products placed throughout the store. Small signs were displayed in multiple locations telling customers to get product samples from the staff. At the same time, the staff was trained to help customers make a purchase. They also learned how to encourage mothers to manage their unruly children.

Third, the staff was trained in ways to handle people who continually complained about price. If someone wanted a discount based on expired special pricing, she was politely told that she could wait until the product was advertised as a special at a future date. Alternatively, she could fill out a fairly extensive questionnaire and check back for her discount after it had been reviewed by management.

Outcome: Changes can always be a little scary, especially when they are first announced. Celia’s staff was a bit concerned about how some of the customers would react. The simple training they received made them more confident. A few customers, all from the less desirable groups, were annoyed at first. Some left and didn’t come back. Some became better customers.

Celia’s best customers all stayed. Many made positive comments about the changes. Celia’s staff started enjoying their jobs more.

Celia and her staff discovered they had more time to spend thinking about attracting and keeping their best customers. They asked for customer feedback and tried new things while keeping everything that worked well. Within a short time, they were well on their way to Celia’s goal of doubling sales.

About the Author

Business coach, consultant, and freelance writer, Judy Downing shares tips, techniques and strategies with small business owners to clarify and enhance their customer service practices.

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