What Do Small Business Customers See?

By: Dan Kennedy on: March 4th, 2010 10 Comments

On Monday, I wrote about the importance of customer or client relations.

I explained my belief that each customer you can acquire has tremendous long term value and that most small businesses fail to understand and work to preserve this value.

Now, here are some customer relations tips I urge you to consider for your small business:

  1. Make good customer relations a priority in your business – think about it, brainstorm it, talk about it with your employees, work at it.
  2. Manage first impressions – first impressions are lasting impressions. America does judge a book by its cover. It’s very difficult to overcome a poorly managed first impression.

If telephone contact is the source of first impressions for many of your potential customers you should give very careful consideration to how the incoming calls are being handled in your stores or offices. Many businesses lose a tremendous amount of business by bungling this first telephone contact.

If the first impression happens by the prospective customer walking in the door you need to give thought to specific procedures for meeting and greeting that person.

If your business is a public retail business I believe you need to give a great deal of attention to the store environment. It’s interesting to observe businesses that have historically had lousy environments and had that accepted by everybody as just the way it is, now losing their markets to new competitors who concentrate on environment.

The service station, for example, has always been a dirty, grimy, greasy, unpleasant place. The waiting area for customers is usually a couple of battered dirty chairs in the corner, wedged under a shelf with a dirty vending machine and a stack of old tattered Hot Rod magazines.

Today the service station industry has lost control of the oil change business to new instant lube companies like Minute Lube. These new stores have a nice image, pleasant waiting area, a new progressive approach to environment. I believe that you can improve just about any open to the public business success by improving it’s environment and I urge you to consider the store environment’s impact on all five of the customer’s senses not just sight.

Just as important as environmental appearance is to first impressions is the personal appearance that a customer or prospect will deal with. I’ll be covering that subject in a post next week.

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    Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

    10 Responses

    1. Great stuff, as always!

      I actually know of a lube place that actually brings the Lube to the customer- they drive up with a big rig and actually perform the oil change out of your house. (this is in a New Jersey town that has space to park the rig.)

    2. Great points on environment. Laundromats in college towns were forever changed when someone had the bright idea to add beer. It seems like there are countless examples of this until, of course, someone thinks about in terms of their own business.

      We S&D’d the laundromat example. Our retail business is in a historic district and, for a while, was located next to a quilt shop. On the weekends we’d get a lot of tourist husbands in who didn’t want to look at quilts, but weren’t necessarily crazy about what we sold either (but at least it was better than quilts). We started offering “beer samples” on weekends and the husbands started staying a lot longer and always seemed to find a few things they could buy. Our regular customers loved this added feature as well.

    3. Rob Anspach says:

      … I just wrote an article on my blog about a art gallery owner who served wine & champagne to prospective clients… it made them feel relaxed and non-pressured… sales boomed.

      Although I’m not a big advocate on promoting alcohol… anything to to take the “edge” of a client will help.

    4. Hey Dan –

      Great post! I agree completely. First impressions are indeed lasting impressions. Thanks for sharing!

      Looking forward,

      Jonathan Flaks

    5. Charles Ra says:

      Manage first impressions – first impressions are lasting impressions. America does judge a book by its cover. It’s very difficult to overcome a poorly managed first impression.
      great truth Dan
      thank you

    6. Charles Ra says:

      art gallery and wine
      great combination Rob

    7. The point about first impressions is so important and basic, but I’m always amazed by the number of businesses that don’t give this area proper attention. It makes a tremendous difference in whether a person decides to buy or come back. I like your application, Michael. Great reminder to watch what great companies outside our own industry are doing to wow customers.

    8. Charles,

      There is a bank in NYC that actually mixes Art+Banking. That’s one way to get the kind of affluent customer your bank is targeting…

    9. Rob Anspach says:

      in Lancaster County PA – a local bank tried to mix it up by creating the ultimate banking experience – they mixed banking with a coffe house and wi-fi service…

      the problem was – people would ‘hang out’ instead of banking and the regular customers who used the bank as an actual bank didn’t care about the coffee aspect… after 2 years the bank closed down

    10. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve done great marketing for a client, only to have him or her waste everything by not paying enough attention to the quality of the customers’ first impression of their business.

      Great marketing can pour tons of hot leads into the top of a company’s “bucket”, but poor attention to detail can poke holes in the sides of the bucket so that prospects just keep leaking out.

      Great advice, Dan.

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