Franchise owners are increasingly fighting for a piece of an ever-shrinking pie.Not only are businesses trading in a recessionary environment, but there are more and more franchises out there doing the same thing. Now, more than ever, a franchise needs to stand out from its competitors if it’s to attract the attention of customers. Improving customer relations could be the key to getting ahead…
Why Are Customer Relationships Important?
Research by the US Small Business Administration and the US Chamber of Commerce, reveals that 68% of customers point to a lack of service as the number one reason for taking their business elsewhere. Satisfied customers have a direct impact on your bottom line.It’s really a no-brainer – when was the last time you felt compelled to support a franchise which offered a substandard customer experience and poor levels of service?
Investing in customer relations, then, is absolutely crucial to the success of any franchise – get it right and customers will come flocking to your door; get it wrong, and see sales dry up!
Communication is the Cornerstone of Customer Relations
Healthy communication is the basis of all relationships, be they personal or professional. Communication can be used, amongst other things, to promote co-operation and harmony; to help people feel needed and appreciated; to inform or persuade, to ease troubling or difficult situations; to motivate and increase morale and to maintain good public relations. The key features of effective communication include:
- Making use of simple and understandable language
- Being crystal clear – no ambiguity in meaning
- Ensuring the tone of all communications are polite and courteous, and is considerate of unique customer contexts
- Providing customers with enough, and the right kind of, information
- Selecting the appropriate channel of communication
- Listening to what your customers have to say and ensuring timeous responses to their queries or comments
- Communicating the facts accurately so as not to be misleading about the company, brand, products or services.
How to Communicate Effectively with Customers
Here are six simple ways to facilitate communication with your franchise’s customer base…
- Employ the Right People We all know how off-putting it is to have to deal with a sulky sales assistant or bored receptionist. All of yourfranchise employees – from the tea lady to senior managers – are brand ambassadors for your business. Take the time to source the right people for the job; those who are passionate, energetic, and courteous and have a strong work ethic. Then make sure you equip them with the knowledge and tools tomake friends and influence people.
- Personalise Email Communication When doing email blasts about products, services and special promotions to your customer database, make the effort to address emails to each customer by name – they’ll appreciate the touch.
- Have an FAQ Page on Your Website When they seek information and need answers, your customers will go online first before they contact you. Save them precious time by ensuring that you have the answers to all their most frequently asked questions in one place.
- Use Social Networking Fast Companyreports that consumers would prefer companies to use their social media profiles to enhance customer relations than promote their products or services. Social media websites are a fantastic medium to engage with and interact with your customers in real-time. You can use your social media profiles to:
* Share the good news by re-posting compliments
* Do damage control by listening to complaints and finding speedy solutions
* Ask your customers for feedback about your products and services and use it to make improvements
* Create good cheer by sharing inspirational quotes, the odd joke, useful information and links.
- Use CRM Software CRM can organise, automate and synchronise various aspects of your business to strengthen the company-customer relationship.
- Be Easy to Reach
Although many companies are opting for an exclusively online or automated approach to managing customer relations, this could backfire dangerously. In fact, customers cite ‘feeling trapped in automated self-service’ as one of the top reasons why they terminate a business relationship, according to that study by the US Small Business Administration and the US Chamber of Commerce, mentioned earlier. There still is no substitute for a warm human voice at the end of the telephone line, so offer customers various options to contact you – phone, email, social media and online contact forms.