Customer service is an important part of operating any business, online or offline.
How you treat your customers could be the difference between whether or not that customer decides to return to your business in the future.
It is common knowledge that repeat customers are the bread and butter for most businesses. Don’t bother looking at your own business for proof. Look to yourself.
How well do you feel when you walk into a supplier’s business premises (or you even just talk to them over the phone). What do you like about them? Why do you continue to do business with them?
Cost will be one aspect, but you can also be pretty sure that somewhere near the top of your list will be the friendliness of the people you are dealing with and the trust you have for them. You may even be on first name terms with them.
Your own customers are no different and if you ask your own sales people similar questions, they will offer similar answers. What better way to prove the value of good customer service to your people?
Next you need to remember that your sales people are also your customers. You need to ensure you provide them with the tools to help them sell and a service that will keep them motivated.
Effective stock control and loyalty card schemes supported by effective, market research and targeted marketing will meet those requirements nicely to keep your customers coming back and money flowing through the tills.
Stores continue to slash their prices, offering some big discounts in a bid to get customers through their doors.
Generally, traders continue to report slower sales and are still looking for any sign of an upturn in purchasing this year.
In an effort to entice customers through their doors, many businesses are extending their sales and varying special offers more frequently.
Marketing and retail sales analysis could well play a big role in determining what customers are looking for and also what they are buying.
Customers are being continually prompted to make use of all the money off coupons, vouchers and loyalty card schemes to help reduce outgoings but these are also excellent tools for monitoring such activities.
Analysis of the coupons and vouchers being redeemed together with analysis of the products being purchased by a store’s loyalty card holders is probably one of the cheapest and most economical ways to collect data.
Today’s technology makes it very simple indeed, even for those who’s tills are not linked electronically to their loyalty card sales.
A simple Excel spreadsheet would be more than adequate to generate the necessary data analysis. It is then simply a case of interpreting the output and identifying any trends.
Three people had their purses stolen in Colchester town centre recently. This didn’t happen on what is usually considered to be the busiest shopping day, Saturday. All thefts took place between 11.30am and 12.05pm on a Tuesday.
In the first theft, a purse containing money was stolen from a jacket pocket.
Within 15 minutes, a purse containing a three figure sum of money was stolen from the zipped compartment of another victim’s handbag.
A further 15 – 20 minutes later, a third purse was stolen from a handbag being carried over the victim’s shoulder.
It is all well and good alerting people to such threats and reminding people to be extra careful when out and about but there are things that people can do to help protect themselves against such opportunist theft, such as attaching purses to cat bells or lanyards.
There are many manufacturers and suppliers offering varying designs so lanyards are readily available.
Combining modern, even bespoke lanyards, made from one of the large range of materials they can be manufactured in nowadays, allows users to remain fashionable, even colour co-ordinated if they so desire.
ID smartcards which restrict access to certain networked computer systems within an organisation can go a long way to assuring security.
ID cards controlling access to sensitive areas within buildings take security a step further but don’t offer any protection against employing the wrong individuals in the first place.
Businesses suffer enormous losses due to theft of both physical and electronic information and risk both prosecution and law suits from employees if they fail to meet their obligations.
There is however help on hand for employers wishing to check the employment history of potential employees in the form of a National Staff Dismissal Register.
The database allows companies to share details of employees accused of dishonesty at work and lets firms log details of staff caught stealing, committing fraud or damaging company property. Other companies can then use the database to check job applicants’ history.
Whilst not overly popular with trade unions or civil liberties groups, the database is not a “blacklist” and not everybody who has been dismissed will go on the database.
It is not there to record minor offences, more for reporting those people that have shown systemic planning and conspiracy.
The database complies with data protection laws and it is said that 99% of people logged would have their details removed after three years.
The database complies with data protection laws and holds details of people not prosecuted or found guilty in court of the allegations made against them. Information will be retained for a period of three to five years - except in exceptional circumstances.
The information is encrypted and password protected.
What does it take to protect a retail environment while at the same time creating a welcoming and interesting shopping experience for your customers?
Since the beginning of the decade, retail has lost an average of around £1.5 billion every year. Most of this is due to customer-related theft.
The British Retail Consortium’s annual retail crime survey shows store owners invest £723 million in security each year in a bid to beat the thieves.
Any security installations, whether physical or electronic must address two key points, namely, security of the premises when closed and loss prevention during store opening times.
An effective system would need to be made up of a combination of intruder alarm systems, CCTV and electronic proximity identity (ID) access controls.
ID card access control can be provided using a control unit linked to readers at key points within the store with cards encoded with an individual number.
The wall-mounted readers identify the code of valid cards when presented in close proximity to the reader and on automatic authentication by the database, either the electronic release mechanism is activated or an electro-magnetic lock thrown open.
Such readers could be placed strategically around the store to control access to sensitive areas such as stock rooms, accounting and areas where personnel records are stored.
In late 2008, the government began to issue its first national electronic identity cards. These were in fact the first ID cards of any kind issued in the UK since World War II.
Each ID card contains an image and printed data, as well as biometric data such as the person’s fingerprints. All information is loaded onto a secure chip on the card.
Just like electronic passports, these ID cards use contactless RFID technology to provide the data transmission capability that allows the biometric data to be checked quickly by a contactless reader.
Any ID card scheme was going to raise concerns and objections and be perceived by many as a threat to their personal privacy, none of which did anything to help the government secure acceptance of the scheme.
Some of the concerns surrounding the UK ID card scheme are fully justified, particularly given the volume of government data that has gone missing lately, but some are misperceived.
Many people fail to distinguish the differences between RFID and biometric technology.
Contactless RFID is simply the method for speeding and securing the communication between the ID card and the checkpoint, whereas biometrics is the technology specifically designed to automate the recognition and identification of an individual.
Biometrics technology is already used to secure the information held by banks and hospital records.
Custom corporate imprinted lanyards offer companies an excellent opportunity to promote their products.
Technological advances in both the design and materials available now enable suppliers to offer even more choices for all types of branded logo promotional products including lanyards, key fobs, even hats.
Couple that with quick turnaround times, reliable, secure delivery services and you could soon realise the benefits such promotional products will bring in effectively marketing your company.
Research shows that customers and trade-show attendees enjoy promotional products. From a business perspective, products leaving customers etc. with lasting impressions are extremely hard to duplicate with other marketing and advertising techniques.
Much of the extended product ranges on offer focus towards the growing environmentally conscious trend. Eco friendly products are becoming ever more popular offering businesses an opportunity to tangibly display their commitments to supporting environmental change initiatives.
Other attractive eco-friendly promotional products include biodegradable and recycled promotional pens, personalised company stationery such as diaries and desktop calendars made from recycled materials.
Custom printed promotional products are going to prove far more attractive and popular with your customers and if you choose the right products, they will be both enjoyed and indeed referred to by your customers when they are sourcing products.
You don’t have to be a multi-national with a budget running into millions of pounds to run a successful marketing campaign.
The world of loyalty card schemes, special deals, BOGOFs and student discount schemes can be affordable for smaller businesses.
Small family run businesses can promote deals and run such schemes alongside their usual promotional advertising in the local press etc. Local door to door leaflet delivery services are not expensive and offer excellent opportunities to get your message out there to those people that may not normally visit the shops.
One of the most attractive features for many customers is locally grown foods/ingredients and locally manufactured products, so ensure you include such detail in any marketing material. You could even offer special discounts on such items.
Include reference to the benefits to the environment by significantly reducing carbon footprints for locally produced products. In the food industry, this probably equates to far fresher food items too. If your food is organically grown, include this in your marketing material.
In the current climate, customers are looking for quality bargains offering value for money with an eco-friendly edge.
A consistent, easy to understand loyalty scheme can be an excellent tool to help generate loyalty amongst your customers and when you regularly review your offers and deals, you could well reap some benefit.
Some pubs across the country have found a way to fight back against this credit crunch by offering meals for £1 every day of the week, showing that independent pubs can come up with new ideas to keep customers coming through the doors.
The heavily discounted food offer is achieved through bulk buying and passing any savings on to the customer.
With pubs currently closing at a rate of 39 per week across the country (19 in suburbia, eight in town centres and 12 in more rural areas) times are hard and the British Beer and Pub Association says that the industry continues to face extreme economic pressure.
With more than 3,500 pubs and 44,000 jobs lost in the industry since 2007 public houses need to be more creative and this is shown by some of the other methods adopted to entice customers.
• Poker nights
• Loyalty card schemes
• Live bands
• Live football and other popular sporting events
• Discounted drinks nights
• Quiz nights
Ask your customers what they would like and you will probably find some, or all of the above mentioned.