8 Ways to Make Customers Love a Local BusinessMany local businesses are content if their customers seem “generally satisfied” overall. Others aspire to something more — they seek the kind of passionate customer satisfaction that inspires glowing thank you letters and backyard fence comments such as, “My plumber (or dry cleaner, pet groomer, dentist, insurance agent, hair salon, etc.) is really great! I highly recommendthem.”

If you suspect that your customers aren’t quite feeling that kind of love for your business, you’ve probably got some work to do.

Here are eight things that will help customers find the love:

End the obstacle course

Take the initiative to find out when customers need (or will soon need) service or help – before they have to ask. The magical customer service moment is when your call, email or postcard offering help arrives right when the customer needs it.  Meanwhile, make it clear to every customer how they can get the service or help from your business when they need it – including a name and contact information.

Avoid playing customer hot potato

Whenever possible, the person who speaks to a customer first should “own” that customer for the duration of their visit. Companies send signals of disrespect by passing off a customer to “someone who can better help you with your problem.”

Streamline your website

Many small business websites seem cobbled together – a collection of different areas with different terminology and logic for getting around. Figure out one look and message you want to send — and stick with that.

Fix (for real) the big issues bugging your customers

Millions of businesses ask their customers: “How can we improve?” That’s good. But how many really listen and act on what they hear? Customers read inaction as lack of caring and won’t bother to respond the next time you ask. A business that makes changes based on what it hears from customers earns more love.

Invest in customer loyalty

Customers have had it with loyalty programs that are too much work or offer skimpy benefits. Try offering customers something without them having to ask or pay extra for it.

Offer customers real choices

Don’t lure customers into the fake choice of letting them “opt out” of something. Let them know upfront that they can decide to get emails, offers or whatever from you. Give them a choice.

Make someone responsible

Maybe it’s you. Or perhaps you make it part of someone else’s responsibilities. Either way, you call attention to your company’s passionate and persistent commitment to customer care. Be sure to reward employees publicly for exceptional customer care performance.

Put your money where your mouth is

Define specific customer care objectives that are right for your business, put resources behind them, and figure out how you will measure the results.

In a sense, customers who aren’t wholeheartedly with you might as well be against you. Customers who lack “the love factor” can actually be more damaging to your business than those who do business with your competitors. That’s because people who aren’t yet customers might at least still try you out. But those who are blasé about your business have already tried out your product or service and found you lacking. That’s not good.

Earning true customer loyalty – the kind that translates into recommendations and referrals – takes commitment, innovative ideas, energy and a little old-fashioned elbow grease. You, as business owner, must clarify for everyone else just what it is you want to accomplish with customers. This includes partners, employees, vendors and others who support what your business does.

And lest we forget, customer “love” also translates into a better bottom line. A recent American Express survey found that 75% of small business customers are willing to spend more with businesses that provide great service – up from 58% just two years ago.  And here’s the kicker: A hefty 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of poor service.

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