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The business world is immensely complex.
Listing all the factors that go into the establishment and upkeep of a thriving business would take you a long time, and it takes people decades to master just some of those factors.
In case you haven’t noticed, running a successful company is remarkably challenging, and the convenience of modern technology only mildly dulls that edge.
In another sense, though, the business world is extremely simple.
Look to its core and you’ll find one objective that almost single-handed guarantees strong results.
Keep your customers happy.
That’s it: not easy, of course, but fairly straightforward in concept.
Whatever else is going on, whatever products you’re offering, you need to keep your customers happy.
This process starts in earnest once you sell to someone for the first time — prior to that, naturally, they’re not yet a customer — and your first big opportunity to make an impression is shipping their order.
If you want to earn their loyalty, you need to get that part right, then follow it up with a broad customer support scheme that paints you in a positive light.
In this article, we’re going to look at some tips for how you can manage this feat.
We’ll cover how you should approach packaging, shipping, service, and further marketing, all with the goal of securing the kind of brand loyalty that continues to pay off for years to come.
Allow customers to choose their packaging
There’s something so delightful about receiving a pristinely presented package.
You’re struck by the effort that went into the creation and arrangement of the materials, excited by the prospect of opening something so visually appealing, and — unsurprisingly — eager to get at the contents (particularly if it’s a gift and you don’t know what lies in wait).
Yet this experience isn’t always preferable.
Not only is it possible to have too much of a good thing (cheesecake for every meal doesn’t constitute a workable diet), but it’s also the case that recipients don’t always want upmarket packaging.
It’s more expensive, takes longer to put together, and leads to a messier clean-up operation when boxes aren’t kept.
When you’ve ordered a pack of batteries and some pairs of socks, for instance, you don’t need them handed to you on a silver platter.
You just want to get them as cheaply and efficiently as you can, with the only goal of the packaging being to keep the items suitably protected and get out of your way with great expediency when it’s time to open the parcel.
Amazon packaging is bare-bones and easy.
It’s also great for pets.
Image credit: Ctrl.blog
Accordingly, you need to allow each customer to choose the packaging they receive.
- Do they want something wrapped nicely to serve as a gift?
- Do they want the lowest cost?
- Do they want fully recyclable materials?
The more closely you can adhere to their preferences, the better.
And given the rise of unboxing videos, getting packaging wrong is a disaster in waiting.
Support shipping options (with click-and-collect if possible)
Just as people want to decide how their items are packaged, they also want control over how they’re delivered.
Ecommerce has risen massively in importance since the outbreak of COVID-19, and it seems set to remain as the dominant source of most products for the foreseeable future.
Due to this, standards have improved, and people expect more.
This doesn’t mean that you need to find a way to offer Amazon-style next-day (or even same-day) order fulfilment — but it does mean that you need something more than just one speed of shipment.
If someone is willing to pay extra to receive their item sooner, accommodate them through whatever means necessary.
If your chosen courier can’t manage, look elsewhere.
As for click-and-collect, there are services that can manage it for you, but you can also choose to approach business chains in your busiest customer areas to see if they’re interested in partnering with you.
They get some money for very little work, and you get to keep your customers coming back by ensuring they don’t need to simply wait for your deliveries.
If possible, you should look at places that are open 24/7, like some convenience stores (particularly those at fuel stations).
The ideal arrangement is to use drop-off storage lockers, which is why Amazon provides its Amazon Lockers, but that’s rather too costly for most sellers.
Stick to tactics that you can actually afford to consistently implement.
Provide various reliable customer service channels
Once you’ve shipped and delivered your orders, you don’t get to step back and wash your hands of the entire situation — not if you want those customers to be happy, at least.
The best companies are those that focus on post-sales follow-up to ensure that any issues are addressed and swiftly resolved.
Note that outbound efforts to speak to customers (such as emailing them to ask for feedback) are difficult to get right, so prioritize inbound service.
You can still be proactive within that remit, of course.
The smart deployment of features like knowledge bases and live chat assistance makes it possible to create proactive customer service that makes it optimally fast and easy for customers with queries to find satisfactory answers.
The key is to be there when people need you but otherwise stay quiet.
And when you speak to customers (or have support assistants speak to them for you), you need to get the tone and approach right.
There are careful balances to maintain.
You need to be friendly without seeming casual, and sales-oriented without being pushy.
Most importantly, you need to listen carefully to what your customers have to say and respond appropriately.
It isn’t unheard of for companies to decide that they know what’s best for their customers, at which point they stop listening — and this never ends well.
Sooner or later, that stance leads to declining results.
By placing customer success at the heart of your operation, and doing everything you can (within reason) to give each unique customer a great experience, you can avoid that fate and build the foundation for a lasting business.
Engage existing customers with relevant marketing
We just touched upon the need to be sales-oriented, and here’s why: one of the biggest reasons for loyal customers being invaluable is that they tend to spend more than others, yet they won’t generally spend money for the sake of it.
They won’t order things from you just to support you in the way they might try to support independent artists.
You need to earn their custom, and that means catching their attention with products they can’t afford to overlook.
If this sounds self-serving, that’s because it is — but that doesn’t mean it can’t also serve to increase customer happiness.
If you do everything right with your marketing, it should lead to purchases that help everyone involved.
You bring in some profits, and the buyers get things that increase their overall happiness.
But it isn’t just the products purchased that increase their happiness.
It’s also your service.
A great brand can become akin to a customer’s trusted advisor, occasionally appearing to pass on a great recommendation, referral, or reward a special occasion.
This is the level you should aspire to reach.
When your customers eagerly await your next marketing emails, you’ll know you’ve reached that point.
Show that your brand is worthy of support
Lastly, we need to look past the traditional ingredients of a seller/customer relationship as we consider a matter that’s achieved mainstream importance in recent years: corporate ethics.
It used to be accepted that companies would do unethical things in their daily operations, as their customers would identify (quite reasonably) that they had limited options.
But that’s changed.
Today, businesses are under much more pressure to behave responsibly.
Social media allows information about transgressions to be disseminated almost instantaneously, younger generations are far more active when it comes to policing actions, and the sheer level of competition for every popular good means that unhappy customers can go elsewhere.
If you want your customers to be happy about buying from you, you need to put some meaningful effort into cultivating a brand identity that warrants respect.
What can you do to encourage people to feel good about supporting you?
You could, for instance, donate to charity, arrange community events, or commit to using green energy for your entire business. There are plenty of ways in which you can display some level of altruism.
Apple writes extensively about its commitment to being carbon neutral, and this earns it some plaudits. Its commitment to using less packaging caused a bit of a stir but is a step in the right direction.
In the end, it’s the perception that matters for customer happiness.
Actually following through is up to you.
Wrapping up, establishing a business that can keep its customers happy is no small feat, but you can manage it if you follow these suggestions for your after-sales activity.
Allow your customers to decide how and when they receive their orders, be ready to help them afterwards, recommend useful items, and show that you deserve support.
That isn’t everything you need to do, but it makes an excellent foundation.