My wife and I visited the mall recently to upgrade my wife's cell phone plan, and get her a new phone. We had been to this particular cell phone kiosk four times during a two week period. The new phone we were interested in getting was either out of stock, or the computers weren't able to process our new contract that we were trying to sign on for. We had to inform the sales person that this was something that their manager should be aware of considering it was a stocking issue. We eventually got everything settled, but the process was extremely frustrating, and took a great deal of time out of both of our schedules.
It had me thinking about customer service and the current state of the economy in North America. People in both Canada and the United States are very weary of what is going on in our stock markets. We went by the local Linens N' Things store, to see that they were going out of business. When times are hard enough, how is it possible for a business to operate in such an irresponsible manner and expect to survive?
Here's what I came up with:
Do not provide any way for your customers to connect with a live customer service representative.
The best way to say 'not interested in your business' is to alienate the very people who provide word of mouth advertising for you. Put contact information up so that people may contact you when they are inquiring about your product or services. Use the web for creating FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages. Put pre-recorded messages on your phone service for common support questions. They are a great time saver for you, and convenient for the customer. But please – provide a place where people can reach a person to talk about all those other questions which aren't answered by a computer. Email, instant messaging, even Skype can provide convenient ways for you and your customers to form long lasting business relationships, without being tied down to a phone line. There are even companies that you can outsource your customer service to.
Increase your expenditures on traditional marketing and advertising in a ditch effort to gain new customers
Stats Canada reported that in 2006, an estimated 68.1% of Canadians have internet access in their homes. That's roughly 20 million potential customers. While the report also says that 99% of Canadians own at least one television, it is highly unlikely for a small business owner to be able to afford to create a national thirty second spot for every television network in Canada.
A focused web-based marketing strategy allows you to reach a global audience. A potential customer doesn't have to be up at 2 am in the morning to catch your infomercial or read the specific newspaper you placed your ad in. Your website is always available to them. As you grow more of a client base, you can keep in touch with them, through the use of an email newsletter that you can produce ever so often. You can add a layout to your email newsletter to have a professional look to it. Can you imagine the costs of creating the same newsletter using traditional print methods, and then having to mail them all around the world? Every couple of weeks? Is this cost effective? Certainly not.
Do not be diligent with your marketing or advertising strategies because you don't have the money or the time to promote your business.
Business is tight? No clients? You've taken the office doors off the frames to create some cheap office furniture for your employees? You feel that the most important thing is to focus on current clients because they are paying the bills and the salaries of your employees. You don't need to focus on the horizon because things are just fine as they are.
With the economy as uncertain as it is, can you trust that things will stay as they are? Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said that the only thing constant is change. An astute investment in your company's marketing is an investment to a secure financial future. You don't need to curb spending on marketing; you need to curb spending on unfocused solutions that cost you money and deliver poor results.
More in Part 2...