Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Love your customers like long lost family

waiting, knitting, watching at SFO
My brother moved back home to the States last week, after years in Asia. As I sat in the airport's meeting area for international arrivals, knitting (of course), I started watching the dramas playing out all around me.

The little kids shrieking "daddy" as they hurtled toward that exhausted looking guy with the laptop and carry on - the same guy who instantly transformed into Super Dad filled with love, energy and laughter.

The reserved, proper and elderly parents overcome with excitement and emotion as their kid(s) emerged from the exit. Tears, laughter, hugs, kisses.

The uber business 40-something woman who dissolved into sobs as soon as she saw mama, a tiny little thing with arthritic fingers - but those fingers wouldn't let go of her grown up little girl.

I started thinking about how to create that same anticipation, excitement and - dare I say it - love, for our customers.

How do you greet and welcome your customers? Do you have autoresponders that thank them for their order, giving virtual hugs (in a non-icky way?)? Do you email/contact each customer personally? If not you, does someone else? Do you check to see if your latest order is from a returning customer, and if so, do you thank them for coming back?

I know quite a few online business owners who don't contact their customers individually, feeling it too intrusive and pushy. I wonder how they greet their family and friends at the airport?

I'll be honest - I'm a terrible customer myself. It is HARD to sell me anything. I don't usually want to chit chat when I go to a yarn or fabric shop. I have a long to do list and am focused on which flavor of frozen yogurt to pick up on the way home (yum). But one of my local yarn shops (my very favorite) always turns me around. I may walk in harried, focused, "get in and get out." And walk out with a huge bag of yarn, happy as a clam, having spent a nice chunk of time visiting with the owner or salespeople, having a good time. All because the owner and staff treat me like family. As though I just stepped off the plane. (Sometimes even with a hug!) We pick up where we left off, talking about projects or ideas or plans or new yarn or designs. We're visiting more than they're selling, yet I walk out with a huge bag (or two). In the visiting, they let me know about new shipments of my favorite yarns.

Easy to do in a real live brick and mortar shop, right? If it's so easy ... why don't other shops do the same? More difficult to do with an online business? I don't think so - I think it's just as easy to make someone feel welcomed - but it does take some work, and I'll be talking about it this and next week.

Who are your customers (you don't have to be a business owner to answer this - anyone who works in any capacity has "customers!")?  What is one thing you can try this week to change how you greet/welcome your customers?


Catherine Ivins said...

Great post Brenda! When I started using paypal to print shipping notices I stopped emailing customers and started putting the thank you inside the paypal shipping notice, but I wonder if this is enough- it could easily be lost in the shuffle and not seen ...

- Cat :)

Brenda said...

Hi Cat! Y'know, recently, someone mentioned that their customers aren't getting those paypal notices and perhaps (I haven't checked into this), it's not automatic (like I thought)!.

I think it's more challenging for really high volume sellers (like you!) - how do you weigh personal messages against getting orders out??

Thanks for stopping by! Brenda

Wild Woman Jewelry said...

thanks for this post brenda...heartfelt and human contact is not only possible, but essential- your description of the airport greetings is a great example of how I'd certainly like my customers to feel~ i recently ordered a photograph from an etsy shop that was able to do this for me in the warmest, most marvelous and sincere manner! it was a joy to be her customer- you've both inspired me to try even harder to give my own customers that same experience! thanks again!

Brenda said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this, Karon! Being on the receiving end of fabulous service is such a good feeling and always inspires me to do better. :)