According to Business Insider, personal income and spending are increasing again in 2015 at rates that haven’t been seen in nearly a decade. They further quote economist Paul Ashworth as saying, “We are finally seeing signs of consumers beginning to spend the gasoline savings they have been sitting on since the start of this year.”
So, it’s a good time to be in business and to expand your customer base. Unless, of course, you figure on using these bad business practices as ways to drive customers away.
The “customer is a lemon — see how much you can squeeze out of them” as a way of doing business has not died out — yet.
Far from it. In an article on Huffington Post, travel writer Kevin Richberg narrates his harrowing story of being gouged by mandatory resort fees in Las Vegas. In fact, he was charged more for things like internet access, pool use and parking than he was charged for his room. He calls it a racket.
Does your business have hidden fees and small print meant to cozen customers into paying more than they bargained for? Your short term gain will never match your long term customer loss.
The Customer is Always Wrong
Andrew O’Connor, Director of Search at American Addiction Centers has over eight years of marketing agency management experience.
He told me, “Arguing with clients is the worst customer retention strategy in the world. As a businessperson, you can either be right all the time, or you can keep your customers happy. But you can’t do both. Learn to listen and learn from your customers. It might bruise your ego, but it’ll help your bottom line.”
Have a Nice Day
A clerk who says this on Christmas Eve or on the 4th of July shows exactly how much he or she really cares about the customer — NOT AT ALL. You and your staff need to be aware of the time, date, and context of your interactions with customers. Talk to them, don’t just parrot phrases.
Who’s Minding the Store?
The kind of phone system you use tells customers a lot about your business, and your willingness to be helpful to them. Consumers who have to jump through hoops in order to get to a real live person on an automated system are not likely to call back again.
According to Money Magazine, the average wait time to get through to the IRS (like anybody REALLY wants to talk to them anyways) is 23 minutes. If one of your customers had to wait that long on hold, just how much longer do you think they’d remain your customer?
None of Your Business
Transparency is a good thing in business, but many businesses would rather keep customers in the dark about where their products are made, how their services work, or just how much they cost. If you can’t be, or won’t be, upfront with basic consumer information you should go work for the CIA and not try to run a business — because you’re going to fail at it sooner rather than later.
The Buck Stops Where?
President Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk in the White House that read: “THE BUCK STOPS HERE.” Ultimately, he took responsibility for everything that happened under his administration. Can you say the same for your business? Are you ready to step in and fix whatever needs fixing if your subordinates can’t or won’t do it for a customer? If not, you’d better start thinking about taking early Social Security — you’ll need it, because your business is not going to last very long.
Cost Cutting That Costs Customers
Driving down costs is certainly a legitimate business strategy, but not at the cost of customer’s health and safety. Small business consultant Jean Scheid posted an article on Bright Hub about the Mattel Company’s disastrous outsourcing of manufacturing to China, which resulted in toys coated with toxic lead paint. The fallout was huge, and Mattel lost a hefty chunk of its customer base over that incident. Whatever service or brand your business may offer, never settle for second-best or questionable merchandise. Customers are not the forgiving type, and their lawyers are hungry for litigation.
Angry Customer Photo via Shutterstock