The Freedom to Choose: 4 Ways to Keep Customers Coming Back for More

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Customer Strategy
Customer Service
"Survival of the fittest" implies that only the strong succeed. But in today's consumer-driven world, companies must develop a blend of strength and intelligence that allows them to rise above their competitors. Low prices and a wide selection of products and services may seem like worthwhile incentives, but rampant comparative shopping makes customer service the only true differentiator in a world drowning in choice.

"Survival of the fittest" implies that only the strong succeed. But in today's consumer-driven world, companies must develop a blend of strength and intelligence that allows them to rise above their competitors. Low prices and a wide selection of products and services may seem like worthwhile incentives, but rampant comparative shopping makes customer service the only true differentiator in a world drowning in choice.Walk into any electronics store and you will see nothing but a sea of smartphones and flat-screen televisions. You cannot discern one from the other, conformity contaminating even the gadgets we use each day. Brand names and serial numbers are the only way we can be sure we're getting the product we were searching for. It's not until we interact with the in-store sales associates that we can begin to assess whether we've chosen the right store for our purchase or not.

Though I'm not an expert, I've been a consumer longer than I've known the alphabet--a truth most of us share. And with so much experience fueling our shopping experiences, I think we can all agree that the following service traits keep us coming back for more:

1. Know your stuff. The Internet may be a wonderful thing, but websites can only tell us so much. Nothing compares to a well-educated sales associate. Customers don't want someone who only regurgitates what's written on the company's website. For major purchases, we want to know every detail, not the abridged version. Bore us with your encyclopedic knowledge. It's fine, really. We'll appreciate it in the end.

2. But don't be condescending. We want you to know everything, but we don't want you to be a know-it-all. We approach sales associates because we need help. We are already aware that you are (hopefully) smarter than us, so there's no need to make customers feel like infants being scolded by their parents. If we're looking to purchase something all wrong for the intended purpose, guide us in the right direction. Don't treat us like simpletons who need a good ol' knock on the noggin.

3. Make us feel special. Even though we may not be your number one (or even number 10) customer, when we're in your care, make us feel like we're at the top of the list. If your significant other prized their past romances above your current relationship, you'd probably reconsider, pick up, and move on. Customers can just as easily take their business elsewhere.

4. Smile! There's nothing more painful than a sales associate who visibly doesn't want to be working. We all have "those" kinds of days, but when you play such an interactive part of the purchase process, you don't want to convey negative emotions that may drive customers away. Sighing, eye rolling, and lack of conversation put the typical customer on edge. If we feel like a burden, we're more apt to leave quickly and less likely to make a purchase on our dash out the door.

Of course, these are just a few traits in a long list of ideal qualities, but they certainly make quite a lasting impression. Which characteristics keep you coming back for more?

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION