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Anticipate Customer Needs for a Greater Customer Experience

August 18, 2010

How well do you know your customers? Beyond the basic demographic details of who is buying your product or service, do you know what brings in your best customers? At every point of contact, from first impressions to closing the sale, are you delivering a great customer experience? Much of customer loyalty comes from anticipating customer needs and responding quickly to them. Consider your favorite store, hotel or restaurant. It’s probably not the actual purchase that you remember, but the entire experience. So how do you stay on top of knowing what your customers need?

1) Listen to your customers. Whether you initiate a customer survey or simply keep track of their questions and suggestions during day-to-day interactions, customer feedback is the best way for making improvements and creating new solutions. Social media channels also provide an excellent way to engage your customers and monitor what they are saying about you and your competition. Easy-to-use tools can monitor blogs and Twitter mentions, including Google’s Blogsearch, Twitter Search, Hootsuite, Technorati and Social Mention. Maintaining your own Facebook page can also offer a great forum for customer feedback, such as product and service reviews, and suggestions for improvement.

2) Keep track of customer preferences. Your customer database is gold when it includes supplemental information about preferences and prior purchases. By tracking this client history, you can cross-sell other products they may find useful or interesting and send reminders for re-orders. Both Amazon and iTunes do an impressive job of this by making immediate recommendations based on purchases and sending follow-up emails for similar purchases.

3) Anticipate questions. By addressing a question before it’s even asked, you’ll enhance your customer service. Signs should be visible. Add a FAQ section on your website and make contact information easy to find. Explain the return policy during the purchase, as well as other important policies before your client signs on the dotted line.

4) Make it easy to purchase. Whether your sales are online or you have a storefront (or both), you’ll want to make the purchasing process as easy as possible. Be sure your website is easy to navigate, with search and shopping cart buttons easy to find. Is online ordering easy or do you find that many customers stall before completing the purchase? Know which areas of your site your customers are most interested in and make them easiest to find.

5) Take notice of current events and trends affecting your marketplace. The high-end retailer Nordstrom responded well to the recession by opening additional Rack outlet stores, giving their shoppers an off-priced alternative and, in turn, maintaining healthy profits. MySalesHero.com saw a need for easier, more affordable sales leads and developed a site that gives business owners direct, online access to better marketing solutions.

Knowing your customers gives you an edge with greater customer service, higher loyalty and the ability to expand your market by tapping into new ideas, products and services. Stay ahead of your competition by delivering more than what your customers expect and solutions they can’t find anywhere else.

For more news and tips to grow your business, be sure to sign up for the MySalesTips newsletter. You’ll also find me on FacebookTwitter and YouTube, sharing ideas with other business owners and marketing professionals.

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