by Larissa Gutscher

If you’re running a restaurant or a small business, you may have trouble matching the prices or convenience of established chain stores. So how do you differentiate yourself and ensure you stay in business? You provide an unforgettable experience for your customers that keeps them coming back again and again. Various studies have shown that it is much more expensive to attract new customers than it is to retain existing ones, meaning you need to be wowing your guests at every opportunity. Fortunately, there are several ways to build and maintain loyalty through personalized customer service.

Start Collecting Data

Before you can go above and beyond for your customers, you need to properly understand them. Be sure to ask questions when selling that help you figure out what the shopper is looking for, whether it’s a certain product or a service. If you find that many customers are looking for the same thing, it might be time to expand your offering. On the other hand, if you have a lot of shoppers looking for different but specific things, you might consider offering a service that allows for ordering something to your store.

Keeping a comprehensive list of your customers allows you to target them individually. When completing a sale, ask for some basic information, like an email address, that you can use to gain more information, such as birthdays or frequent purchases. Use the data you collect to connect with your customers on a personal level; for example, you can send them a coupon for one of their favourite items on their birthday.

Personalized Customer Service

Start making a list and checking it often.

Make sure your customers have an opportunity to provide feedback. If they prefer in-person conversations, ask them about their experience that day when ringing them up at the till. Send out surveys with incentives to your existing customer list. Set up a page for your store on popular review sites and monitor them so you can respond to feedback, whether positive or negative, quickly.

Once you have a good base of collected data, you can use it to personalize your communications and make your customers feel truly special.

Use Customers to Promote Your Brand

Nothing makes a customer feel special like asking them to represent your company. While it’s your employees’ job to sell, having brand ambassadors drive traffic to your store can create a whole new group of loyal consumers. And, for the brand ambassadors, it’s nice to feel appreciated and recognized as a repeat customer.

If you own a clothing store, consider offering one of your popular frequent shoppers a small commission if they promote your fashions through their Instagram accounts. Or, if you sell food products, you might want to sponsor a blogger to create a recipe around one of your items. This also brings a more human aspect to your brand to potential customers.

Personalized Customer Service

Show your customers you care by sponsoring their endeavours, like cooking.

Offer Perks to Keep Customers Coming Back

Remember the days when shops would give you a small cardboard card and punch a hole in it whenever you bought a certain item? After buying ten or so, you were rewarded with a free one. Nowadays there are plenty of apps to recreate this in a more digital world, but the concept is still a good one. By giving your customers an end goal, it instils a competitive spirit in them and may actually encourage them to buy more often in order to receive their reward.

Another opportunity to attract your customers to keep shopping at your store is to host special invite-only events. Even if you invite every person on your customer list, requiring an invitation to attend creates a sense of exclusiveness, and customers feel special to have been included. You can then use these intimate events to get to know your customers even better and provide them with another outlet for feedback.

Make Your Store Attractive

While it seems that online shopping is continuously increasing in popularity, a recent study by PWC revealed that more than 50% of consumers still prefer to buy most product categories in-store. Therefore, it’s important to keep your physical space in tip-top shape, including having a pleasant ambience and knowledgeable staff. You can read more tips on the in-store experience in our post 6 Effective Ways to Improve Your Retail Customers’ Experience.

Don’t Mess Up the Moment of Truth

According to McKinsey, the moments of truth a customer experiences with a brand are “those few interactions when [they] invest a high amount of emotional energy in the outcome”. Some interactions are expected when dealing with a company, and thus customers do not feel much more than satisfied when things go right. When you can add value to your customer’s experience by exceeding their expectations or solving a problem, you create a moment of truth for them.

It’s in creating this moment of truth that personalized customer service can be exceptionally valuable. You want to make sure your guests have positive interactions with your brand and that they feel truly appreciated so that their lasting impressions of your store encourage them to keep coming back.

If you end up with a customer with a negative moment of truth, it’s not too late to do damage control. Empathize with your customer and try to understand what made their experience awful. Putting in extra effort to solve a problem shows your dedication to your customers. Be sure to keep communication going until the issue is completely resolved, and you may just be able to turn a negative impression into a positive one.

Personalized Customer Service

Small businesses may not have all the resources of large competitors, but they do have the unique opportunity to engage closely with their guests. Take advantage of this benefit to give your customers a solid relationship with your brand and make them feel truly valued as an essential part of your company.

Check out: Rapid Growth of mPOS Industry and How Your Business Can Benefit and 7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Ecommerce Business