Ever wonder why your small business customers keep breaking up with you? It’s not them; it’s you. Sure, you want to blame the competition down the street—it’s younger, sexier, or cooler. But more likely, you’ve done something to irritate your small business customers—you take them for granted, you never call anymore, you don’t do the little things you used to do, like tuck a little gift in their bag, offer free shipping, or remember their birthday. You’ve lost that loving feeling, and this is how they know:
1. You over-promise and under-deliver.
You say you’re going to call, but you never do. Customers, like lovers, are easily disappointed. Promise a customer you’ll have their deck done in two weeks at a cost of “around $5,000,” and then it takes 10 weeks and costs $10,000? Forget about ever getting a referral. More likely, you’ll get a bad review on Angie’s List or Yelp. Sure, you can sweet talk a customer into a sale by telling customers everything they want to hear, but that’s almost certain to lead to disappointment. Instead, under-promise and over-deliver. Your customers will fall in love.
2. You’re always right.
Just like the spouse who always insists he knows best, if you tell customers who have a justified complaint that it’s their fault or others who have a suggestion that “this is how we always do things,” don’t expect them to agree with you and keep coming back. They’re looking for a way out.
3. You don’t listen.
“Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh.” We all know when someone isn’t really paying attention. When talking to a customer, it’s tempting to immediately launch into a sales pitch or to be defensive, but by listening you build a better relationship with your customer and better meet your customer’s needs and desires. If a woman shopping for a car says she likes to drive fast, tell her about performance instead of cup holders. If a man asks about safety, focus on airbags and anti-lock brakes. Don’t assume to know what the customer needs and stick to your standard sales patter.
4. You don’t share critical information.
What time can I reach you? Where are you? Who are you with? Your nearest and dearest—and your prospects and customers—want to know. They’ll hate you—or just overlook you—if on your website and mobile search listings you don’t list your contact info, address of your physical location, phone number, email, hours of service, and what your business even does. Look at your company’s listings everywhere just like a stranger wanting to get to know you better. With enough info, you’ll be telling them “come on over, baby” instead of making them guess.
5. You’ve got trust issues.
Want to annoy a good customer? Treat them like they’re a bad one. When you hound a long-time good customer—who always pays on time—for payment up front or won’t work with them when they have problems, you show that the basis of your relationship is not trust. You may get paid faster this time, but by alienating your customers, there won’t be a next time.
6. You act hard to get.
When did you last contact your cable, cell phone, or Internet provider to ask about your bill, additional arbitrary charges, spotty service? How did that go? There are several reasons people hate these companies. One is they make it impossible for you to reach them when you have a problem. You don’t have a monopoly—you actually want your customers to reach you if they’ve got an issue. Step up your customer service game.
7. You trash talk on social media.
You talk about how great your business is, rather than how you can help your customers solve a problem. Or worse, your feed is filled with selfies. That might be okay if you’re showing off cosmetics, glasses, or face painting you offer, but for most small businesses, you have to provide something that will make potential customers want to follow you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on. Ask yourself, what’s in it for them?
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2018
This article originally ran in USA Today on March 7, 2018