As a customer, don't you find it infuriating when the systems don't work?
Doesn't it frustrate you when the system doesn't follow through on its promise?.
Doesn't it confuse you when you follow the steps you've been asked to, only to reach a dead end?
I'm sure we've all experienced these emotions, and it's what was happening to me last week when renewing an insurance policy. So does any of this ever happen to your customers?
Here are my thoughts on 5 things to check in your business to ensure all your dots join up….
Now you might think I'm stating the blindingly obvious, but if they were that obvious why do so many of us encounter these situations as a customer?1. Check the instructions you give your customers are clear
If you want them to call you, is the phone number obvious, when is the best time to call, what department or person do they ask for when they get through. If your office is only manned at certain times of the day, let your customers know this so they don't have wasted calls (and even if they do call ensure your recorded message states when you are available).
If you're leaving a message for someone to call you back all of the above applies, but in addition call from a number where they can do call back, rather than having to write down your number. And if you can't avoid calling from a withheld number (although why you'd want do this always baffles me) or have to give a different number to return your call please state it clearly, not gabble at 100 mph so they have to listen to the message 10 times to get the number right.
If you want them to email is your email address obvious, and if they need to go online is the link obvious (including which page on your site they need to go to)?
Include the same information in all correspondence – if customers know they've seen the info somewhere, don't expect them to go back and hunt through all you've sent them to find the relevant email, letter or document.2. Web addresses and links
We're all familiar with the Error message. Take customers to this point and it's all too easy to give up and go elsewhere….
Customers really don't want to have to pick up the phone once they've started to process or search online, but it might be the only option if they reach a dead end.
Check links work and do actually take you to the right page on your site (or others).
Bear in mind if you're referring website visitors to third party sites they might update their site without telling you, so do periodical checks.
Work through all the steps. Are the next stages always blatantly obvious? You might know what to do next or where to click, so ask someone else who is not so familiar to test out all your web navigation. And if you've problems with your website, please have the courtesy to tell your customers rather than continuing to direct them to a link that does not work (yes, I know this sounds obvious, but this is exactly what happened to me on Friday!)3. How user friendly is your automated phone system?
Are all options covered? If you allocate specific numbers for different departments, do these go directly to that department or do they all end up with the same long list of irrelevant options? What about your existing loyal customers; can they get directly through to the relevant person allowing them to bypass the automated options?4. Be consistent
If you ask your customers to do one thing one way in one context, keep this consistent throughout, so you don't confuse your customers.
One example that particularly comes to mind is the terminology you use. If you have industry jargon explain it if you need to, but then make sure your definition stays the same throughout. If customers need a passcode or membership number or a login, ask for it in the same way each time and maybe remind people of the format.
I don't know about you, but I can't remember 101 different sets of login details, but if I reminded of the format, such as it's a 6 digit number, or a memorable word, or my email address I can usually work it out. When I can't work it out is when it's referred to as a password at one point, then a memorable word elsewhere, or a user id at one point and my email address somewhere else.5. Look at your systems regularly
Look at your systems regularly by tracing your customers' journey, looking at everything from your customers' perspective. Involve your team in this process; they spot things you won't, particularly if you ask them to review processes they aren't directly involved with; they'll see things from a different perspective.
Train your team to spots glitches, to listen to and acknowledge customer feedback, and give them the authority to put things right. It's often the simplest little things that aren't so obvious to the customer (or have simply not been thought through on our part) such as: who to speak to on arrival, where to pay, what to do with discarded packaging (nowhere to put spent teabags in hotels is my real bugbear!), where can I park, etc, etc.
If you get asked about these things or customers get it wrong, it's not that they are stupid…. It means you haven't made it blindingly obvious!About the Author: Caroline Cooper is founder of Naturally Loyal who help businesses to get more sales through their existing customers. Caroline specialises in working with ‘experience-based' businesses, where customers buy from them for the experience they are getting; such as hospitality, visitor attractions, retail luxury items and gifts. Her focus is in helping businesses guarantee their visitors get outstanding experiences, so they're more likely to stay longer and willingly spend more. Then ensuring the business remains on the customer's radar to trigger repeat business and referrals, turning casual visitors and passing trade into long term naturally loyal customers.
She is author of the ‘Hotel Success Handbook' offering practical sales and marketing ideas, actions, and tips for small hotels. She's a regular columnist for a number of hospitality and leisure journals e.g. Hotel Industry UK, and speaker at industry events.