Customer experience remains one of most exciting marketing opportunities for every business, regardless of industry. Here are eight things that must be true to fulfill customer expectations every time they do business with you.

Customer Experience: 8 Ways You Could Fail to Meet Customer Expectations

No matter what unique novelty you build into your customer experience marketing strategy, if you fail to deliver when it comes to what the client expects from you in the first place, it might all be for naught. Use this eight point checklist to ensure that you don’t miss the mark with your customers.

Meeting customer expectations is the baseline from which a truly compelling customer experience can be created. But if you don’t know what customers expect to be true each and every time they do business with you, you run the risk of failing to deliver for some customer must-have’s.

A study released by the EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) called Creating a Seamless Customer Experience reveals the areas that customers say represent the experience they want to have with the brands they do business with. In the study, respondents were asked to select up to three basic customer expectations which they considered most important relative to “the ideal customer experience.”

One note of caution: In this case, “Ideal” is not the ideal.

The word ‘ideal’ has more than one meaning. Most often it’s used to describe something that is perfect, as in: “existing only in the imagination; desirable or perfect but not likely to become reality.” But as it relates to this study, the definition that is more applicable is, “satisfying one’s conception of what is most suitable.” As you think about the customer experience your business provides relative to these eight customer experience baselines, remember that these are elements that customers want to be true of each and every interaction when it comes to the brands they do business with.

You might also like: 3 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience at the Point of Sale

In other words, you’re going to have to do even more to exceed customer expectations. That said, it’s also worth noting that many of your competitors may be missing the mark when it comes to providing an ideal customer experience in one or more of these areas. If your business gets them all right, you could be giving your business a competitive advantage and improving the way customers perceive your brand.

CHART - baselines for meeting customer expectations

8 Baselines for Simply Meeting – Not Exceeding – Customer Expectations

1. Fast Response Time – 47%

Whether you are being asked to provide information, a quote or proposal, or you must deal with a customer complaint, consumers said that providing a fast response was critical.

2. Simple Buying Process – 47%

Equally important to buyers is that the purchasing process be simple. Our marketing director often paraphrases this concept as “Marketing 101: Make it as easy as possible for the customer to buy.” Any time the customer has to jump through an unnecessary or unexpected hoop, it represents something that might interrupt the buying journey and stop the sale.

3. Knowing Where My Stuff Is – 34%

Whether it’s buying a commodity online or a service that takes months to complete (such as website development), your customer wants to know where their items are in process and when they can expect them. They want to know that their stuff isn’t lost, stolen, or forgotten along the way.

4. Omni-Channel Experience – 25% and 14%

Your customers want your business to “feel” the same whether they are interacting with you in person (or in-store), on your website or blog, one fourth of the consumers surveyed said that clarity and simplicity across channels was important to them, and fourteen percent said that consistency of product information across channels was key to their perceiving a customer experience as ideal.

5. Being There When I Need You – 22% and 14%

Whether it’s having the ability to engage with a brand over multiple channels (in person, by phone, via email, social channels, etc.) or wanting to know they can reach a brand representative at a time most convenient to them, customers want to know that your business will be there when they need you.

6. Giving the People What They Want – 12% and 7%

Buyers increasingly expect that brands will personalize their buying experience, and that means much more than an auto-fill field that inserts their name after the word ‘Dear’ in an email message. Keeping track of customer purchases, preferences, and interests and creating better buyer profiles in the spirit of predictive marketing can help ensure that you don’t waste your customer’s time with irrelevant offers.

7. An On-Going Relationship – 10%

One out of ten survey respondents said that their ideal customer experience included brand engagement after the sale. If you aren’t checking in with customers post-transaction, you run the risk of failing to identify dissatisfaction or giving customers the impression that your business simply doesn’t care about whether they were satisfied with the customer experience. Plus, checking in after the sale is a great way to encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews, ratings and testimonials for your business online, and lay the foundation for referrals and repeat business.

8. A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name – 7%

Fans of the popular sitcom Cheers will instantly recognize this reference to the show’s theme song, referencing the fact that people want to go where everyone knows them (and is glad that they came). In the survey, seven percent of respondents said that their ideal customer experience would include a brand that recognized them (and their preferences) as a customer, regardless of the channel they used to interact with the brand. In addition, seven percent of respondents also said that they expect brand engagements to reflect their preferences and interests as revealed on different channels.

Great networking skills can translate into new opportunities, more leads and sales, and higher retention and referral rates. Use the networking skills laid out in this infographic to find out whether your networking skills are up to snuff.

Networking Skills Infographic: 10 Things the Best Networkers Understand

Effective networking is a talent that comes naturally to a lucky few. For the rest of us, it’s important to decipher the elements that the best networkers already understand so that we, too, can enjoy the benefits that strategic networking can generate.

There’s an old saying that says “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Knowing the right people (i.e., having the right people in your network) might be the key to landing a new job, filling the sales funnel, keeping important clients engaged and generating coveted referrals.

Your network (noun) consists of the people you know; networking (verb) are activities you can engage in, in order to grow your network strategically. Adapted from the Business Insider networking skills infographic below, here are eleven things that talented networkers understand, that you can master, too.

Infographic – 10 Ways to Test Your Networking Skills

1. It’s not business, it’s personal.

Although networking is a business activity and – done well – produces business outcomes, most networking occurs in social settings, giving participants a better opportunity to assess whether you are someone they want to do business with based (at least in part) on whether they enjoy spending time with you as a person.

2. Pitches are for closers, not openers.

While many sales professionals hope a great pitch will mean easy conversions, elevator pitches work best when a lead is ready to buy. When networking, focus on introducing and exploring topics that speak to customer needs, and save the elevator pitch for closing time.

3. Everyone doesn’t need your card.

Exchanging business cards at the end of a conversation, instead of the beginning, gives you an opportunity to write something personal and important about the exchange on the card that you give away as well as the one you receive. This can make it more likely for a prospect to reach out to you, or help you remember what was important to the prospect when you reach out to them after an event.

4. Spend more time listening than talking.

When you meet up with a likely prospect at an event or through networking activities, it might be hard not to jump into talking mode right away. The more time you spend listening (really listening!) and assessing the prospects real need, the more likely you are to deliver the information that will be compelling to them.

5. Have a book of short stories.

When you get an opportunity to talk about what you do, try telling stories about customer resolutions that are likely to relate to the audience at hand instead of talking products and services. Talking about customer outcomes, gains and resolutions helps your prospect envision these results as probable for themselves, if they choose to do business with you.

6. It’s not a numbers game.

Sales processes are often viewed as a numbers game. The more quantity of leads that get put into the funnel, the more that will convert to real sales by the end. When it comes to networking, all connections are not equally valuable. Spend time seeking out and cultivating quality contacts vs. trying to get as many people as possible into your network.

7. There is real work involved in netWORKing.

From the work you do in advance of activities to research and prepare to moving out of your comfort zone to engage people you don’t know, and give them a reason to want to know you too, the more work and strategy that goes into your networking efforts, the more return on investment you are likely to realize.

8. A network isn’t a circle, it’s a sphere.

A circle is a flat, one dimensional shape, while spheres are multi-dimensional. If you only connect with people you can sell to then you are merely skimming the surface when it comes to networking. You will be missing out on potential referrals and the chance to cultivate relationships with people who do not need what you have to offer now, but will in the future.

9. What goes around, comes around.

Networkers who are constantly trying to sell or engaging only in self-serving activities aren’t going to be perceived as valuable relationships. The best networkers understand that a lot of what constitutes effective networking are activities that are not self-promotional or self-serving at all. Connecting people with resources and solutions, sending links to interesting articles or apps, and getting involved in charitable and civic endeavors can all make you a more valuable networking partner, and keep you top-in-mind for when prospects do want products or services like yours.

10. Know when it’s time to move on.

Knowing how to end a conversation is just as important as how you begin it; and maybe more. Time is valuable. Whether you are connecting with someone over coffee or at a networking event where many other people are present, have a plan for ending the conversation that plants the seed for future interaction or gives people a reason to follow up with you (or welcome your follow up call or email) later on.

Infographic - 10 Ways to Test Your Networking Skills

You’ve got an app – now what? Retail, service and restaurant businesses that use push marketing effectively can score more sales and increase revenues.

More than half of all app users have push marketing notifications enabled on their mobile devices according to a whitepaper called Recipes for Perfect Push Messages recently published by Localytics.com. These users launch apps 88 percent more often than users who have push notifications disabled, which means that they are biting when it comes to notifications. Taking this into account, we are offering these five tips on how to use push marketing to attract more shoppers and increase sales.

How Does Push Marketing Work?

A push marketing notification (also called server push notifications) is a form of automated loyalty marketing where a software application sends information to a computing device (like a smartphone) without a specific request from the device’s user. This information could be delivered as an email message, text message, social media notification or an app notification.

Although the user has not requested the information, there is still an element of permission-based marketing here as the user must have at some point opted in to an email subscription, text subscription or has downloaded and app and either set or left app notifications turned on.

5 Ways to Use Push Marketing to Increase Sales

#1 and 2: Send Push Messages on the Right Day at the Right Time

What is the best time to send a push notification? It depends.

The Localytics study found that – in general – push messages have the highest click rates when sent in the afternoon, between Noon and 5 PM. Evenings were the worst time to send push messages, perhaps indicating that consumers hold evening hours as reserved for personal and family time, or indicative that it’s too late in the day to head out to a local retailer’s location.

Which day of the week do app notifications get the most clicks?

Saturday and Sunday were (by far) the worst days to send them and Thursday was the weekday with the lowest click and response rate. Push messages sent on Fridays received the highest click rate, Tuesday the second most.

Best Advice: Push notification success comes down to knowing what shoppers want, and when.

Like any other type of marketing, you have to understand likely shoppers and your brand’s ideal buyer types to know when they would be most likely to open and read a notification as well as when they would be most likely to take action. These times might be the same and they might not. And different segments of your audiences may also call for different push marketing strategies. The more you can segment and customize push notifications, the better your click and take-action rates are likely to be.

For instance, to attract consumers shopping at retail stores on weekends, mid-morning on a Saturday or Sunday might be the perfect time for a restaurant to send a push notification. That same restaurant might want to send push notifications about using their facilities for corporate parties on a weekday morning or even late afternoon, thinking that staff responsible for planning the company party would be more likely to read, research and book space at that time.

#3: Less is Much, Much More

When it comes to push notifications, less content seems to be more effective. Click rates for notifications with 10 or fewer words were 8.8 percent, dropping drastically to less than five percent for notifications of 11-20 words and falling even further for messages with 21 words or more.

Best Advice: Focus on one message and use clear, compelling language to get your customer’s attention. Think of a push notification the same way that you think of the seven seconds you have to get the attention of someone who visits your website. Fail to connect quickly and you lose the opportunity.

#4: Tell Them Exactly What You Want them to Do

For years conventional marketing wisdom has suggested that asking questions is a great way to discover buyer motivations and help them move through the buying journey from brand discovery to preference and purchase. For push notifications, the opposite holds true. Click rates go from 3 percent to 6 percent for push notifications that don’t ask questions, but tell the user what’s important or what to do instead.

Best Advice: People are freaking busy! Tell them what they should do (come in) when (now) and why (compelling time-limited offer).

#5: Use Super Offers to Attract customers

Need to imply urgency? Telling shoppers when offers end is likely to produce more action than telling them they have to shop today. The Localytics white paper offers up some key tips for which words get more clicks with holiday shoppers, with words like “super” and “offer” coming in on top with nearly three times as many clicks as words like “today,” “deals” and “win.”

Best Advice: Use words that convey compelling value and time-limited urgency to get customers to act. Remember that people are busy and they have lots of options when it comes to spending their money. Use words that make your message stand out from the pack.

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Request a free, no-obligation quote and get the marketing automation you need to nurture loyalty, attract customers and increase sales. 

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Here’s a closer look at webroomers, showroomers, and four tips for retailers who want to win the hearts, minds and purchases of both.

Webroomers and Showroomers – Pros Cons and Conversion Strategies

Webrooming and showrooming are two sides of the same coin.

Webroomers browse and research purchases online before buying at a brick and mortar store, often because they still want to see the item in person before buying but sometimes to avoid paying for shipping or waiting to receive the item.

Showroomers visit local brick and mortars to see, touch, try and sometimes try on items before ultimately buying them online at a lower price. While price may not always be the reason that showrooming leads to online buying, an Accenture report found that discounts were important to the buying decisions of more than nine in ten shoppers who engaged in showrooming.

Both have produced angst for retailers, since time and resources invested in creating and running online stores and physical retail locations go uncompensated if shoppers use their sites and stores for research, browsing and product experience, only to reward a lower-priced competitor with the sale. So much so that some brick and mortar retailers even charge fees for trying on or trying out their equipment, knowing that shoppers are likely going to buy somewhere else.

Retailers who have both online and offline shopping locations and the ability to offer consumers a seamless webrooming and showrooming shopping experience can negate the negative effects of both, provided their pricing is competitive and they can offer free or low-cost fast-delivery shipping. They still might not always win the sale, but by offering an omni-channel shopping experience, they give themselves a better chance.

What motivates Webroomeres and Showroomers to buy?

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – or at least meet them where they are. Webrooming and showrooming is standard practice for many shoppers, and it’s not always about price.

Digital shopping gives consumers the ability to make the most of their time online and off. By researching products, stores, prices and availability online before buying at a local store, they can get shopping done more conveniently and efficiently. Some keys for winning the business of shoppers who are webrooming include:

  • Free shipping and same or next day delivery options
  • Quality of graphics high enough that they feel confident about buying online, sight unseen
  • Super-fast, uncomplicated checkout process
  • Painless, convenient and free return policy if something’s not right
  • Real-time or automated marketing encouraging them to buy online or at least buy at the ecommerce site’s brick and mortar location

When it comes to consumers who visit showrooms with the intent to research and buy at a lower cost online (which is sometimes even done while the showroomer is in a physical retail location, right in front of sales staff) it’s important to remember that price objections can be overcome for some. To get the sale in-store before showroomers look for a better deal online, try:

  • Appealing to the shopper’s desire for immediate gratification –“You can own this today!”
  • Adding value that online retailers can’t or won’t, such as free returns, free adjustments, warranties, free or automatic upgrades when new models come out, etc.
  • Price-match guarantees
  • Using limited quantity or limited time offers to appeal to the buyer’s FOMO (fear of missing out)

4 Ways Retailers Can Win Over Webroomers and Showroomers

1. Webroomers and showroomers should be segmented, too.

All shoppers aren’t created – or motivated – equally. While some might be motivated to find the lowest price whether online or in a brick-and-mortar store, consumer shopping behaviors come from a variety of motivators. By discovering those consumers who want convenience, immediate gratification, who fear missing out, who appreciate value as much (or more) than perceived discounts, you can convert many webrooming and/or showrooming shoppers into buyers.

2. Automation and real-time marketing can improve conversions.

We live in a real time marketing world. Hitting shoppers with a real time offer before they leave your website or walk out of your retail store can provide the incentive they need to buy from you.

3. The ROI of Webrooming and showrooming isn’t limited to sales.

Just because a webroomer or showroomer didn’t buy from you, that doesn’t mean you didn’t get a win. Brand awareness, future sales, personal referrals and recommendations can all lead to sales down the road. Don’t skimp on the customer experience, even if you are convinced a shopper is going to buy somewhere else this time.

4. The opportunity to convert a webroomer or showroomer doesn’t end when they leave your store or site.

Give your business the chance to deliver bounce-back offers and create long-term relationships with shoppers. Capture email addresses, get social followers and use retargeting automation to keep the dialogue alive with webrooming and showrooming shoppers long after they leave your store or website.

If your business depends on in-store shopping, or you just want to make your business more profitable, here are five retail marketing strategies that can help.

Study: In-Store Shoppers Spend More than Online Shoppers

No matter how convenient, eCommerce can’t rival in-store shopping when it comes to physical experience, and it might show up on the bottom line. A First Insight Report found that 71 percent of shoppers spent more than $50 shopping in-store while only 54 percent did the same when shopping online. For businesses that depend on attracting and selling to local shoppers, tweaking their retail marketing strategy might help attract more of these shoppers.

Even popular retail giants that spend millions on marketing and advertising can struggle to attract the numbers of in-store shoppers they want to see, despite facilitating (and not fighting) the new consumer penchant for showrooming (researching and shopping in-store, and they buying online, usually to get the lowest price). So if it’s not about big money, retailers who creatively re-think their retail marketing strategy could be the ones to get more local shoppers back inside their brick-and-mortar stores.

5 Retail Marketing Ideas to Boost In-Store Foot Traffic

Come Up with an In-Store Only Gimmick

While differentiation is an important part of marketing, it’s not always easy to pull off. A gimmick is a unique or quirky special feature that makes something stand out from competitors. A gimmick can even be developing a special feature for the sake of having a special feature.

If nothing about the customer experience at your business is unique – quirky – special – or different from the experience customers can expect from competitors, including e-commerce buying options, then why should they come to your brick and mortar store to buy?

Speaking of in-store marketing gimmicks: Fast food giant Arby’s recently discovered a traffic-generating gimmick, albeit by accident. Having launched a marketing campaign with the tagline We Have the Meats® along with a photo showing Arby’s meat selections stacked atop one another, they responded quickly by making the Arby’s Meat Mountain available by customer request, even though it’s not officially on the menu. News of this $10 meat-lovers delight quickly spread via viral means and brought consumers in-store to see if they could tackle it.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: Sell Online as Well as Off

Brick and mortar retailers may be able to significantly boost revenues during the holidays and all year long by adding a shopping cart that both local and remote customers can use, incorporating shipping and handling fees into pricing in order to sell online without increasing shopper costs, and stepping up email marketing and social media efforts.

Stepping up communication is critical to attracting local customers. Engagement via social networks boost top of mind awareness and makes your content and offers highly shareable. Being present in your customer’s email inbox at the right time means that when they are ready to buy, they are going to remember to visit your store online or offline while researching their options, early in the buying process. Extending customer-exclusive offers via email, text messages (SMS) and social networks can be an especially meaningful way to reward your most loyal customers and keep their business in-house. Holding “flash” sales with offers only extended via email marketing, text (SMS) marketing and social networks can be an effective way to drive traffic during slow hours or help slow movers make their way off the shelves.

Use cash advance financing to add a web store to your website!

Expand your business with brick-and-mortar or online, virtually, by adding e-commerce to your list of shopping options. Adding a shopping cart to your web site – or building a whole new web site in order to accommodate online ordering, call-ahead ordering, inventory queries and so on can be out of reach without adequate working capital. Apply for one of our retail business loans and find out how much working capital may be available to help you grow your retail ecommerce or brick and mortar store.

Expand Engagement Campaigns Over Advertising Campaigns

The cost of traditional advertising has been prohibitive for most small businesses and can be even more expensive when a corresponding return on investment does not materialize. Plus, advertising is often a one-and-done proposition, requiring constant reinvestment in order to maintain brand awareness and put offers in front of target audiences.

Engagement, on the other hand, goes deeper, lasts longer and – maybe best of all – costs far less than advertising. A brick-and-mortar Main Street business can engage its local target market by stepping out of its location and into the community, being present for community projects, supporting local charities, donating and time and resources toward local people in need and providing resources beyond products and services for local consumers.

Find out what else interests your customers – and give it to them. By making your web site as well as brick-and-mortar business location more valuable to your target audiences, you give them more reasons to visit, refer others and create buzz about your business.

Put VIP customer-exclusive events back on the calendar. While we may be more “connected” thanks to technology than ever before, digital connection does not always replace face-to-face engagement. Give your customers and prospects the opportunity to take part in hands-on demos, product sampling, education, exhibits and other in-store events during hours that are closed to the general public. Giving away event grab bags, holding substantial event-only prize drawings or amping up your event with music, wine tasting and food can also help boost event attendance. Hold one or two significant events – perhaps with other retail marketing partners – each year that will get customers buzzing inviting their friends to visit your business and move people into your organization’s insider “circle of friends.”

Is there an organized “shop local” effort operating within your community? If not, now might be the perfect time to move your local business networking group from brainstorming into strategic action. Shop local activities help to educate local customers about the economic and civic benefits of spending their money at local establishments instead of online or at remotely-headquartered chain stores. When local consumers realize that – just by shopping – they are helping to improve their own community, they may be far more likely to go out of their way, or even spend more, in order to do so.

Master Local Search Optimization (or Local SEO)

Google has made it abundantly clear that local businesses must optimize their web sites for search and provided guidelines for doing so. Publishing content on a regular basis per local SEO best practices will bring more local web traffic to your site, which in turn can bring far more customers to your brick and mortar location to buy.

As you develop content for your website, be sure that your on-page content includes phrases that local shoppers would naturally type into a search engine when looking for the type of solutions your business provides. Use these phrases where it makes sense in your online content in order to help those local shoppers find your business more often in online product or service research.

To help you get started, here is a quick guide to SEO in 2019 as well as an article specific to local SEO, titled Local Search Trends from 2017-2018 from searchenginewatch.com.

Accommodate the Convenience-Driven, Multi-Device Consumer

It may be impractical (or even impossible) for you to actually sell and ship the goods or services your business provides online, but that does not mean you cannot accommodate the convenience-driven, multi-device shopper. For example:

  • Be sure you have a search-optimized mobile version of your website and make sure that you periodically test it to be sure that it is synced with your regular website, is providing useful analytics and works well across device types
  • Make it possible for people to check inventory, reserve items for pickup or pay online for pick up or local delivery
  • Provide price and feature-comparisons on your website and in in-store signage to save shoppers the trouble of comparison shopping
  • Solicit customer preference about how they want to receive offers and updates, and put them into practice as quickly as possible by extending valuable, contact-only offers, tips, resources and ideas

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Organizations with engaged employees earn nearly 150 percent more per share than competitors, so improving company culture could potentially produce more gains than simply selling more stuff will provide.

5 Reasons Employees Hate Your Company Culture – and 10 Ways to Fix It

When a business wants to increase revenues or improve profit margins, they often look for ways to generate additional sales or find new clients. However, by only looking outside for new sales, they might be missing big opportunities that exist on the inside of the organization. Here are five symptoms along with ten ideas that can help you realign your company culture in order to reengage employees.

Human beings are wired for engagement. We want to be intrigued, interested and moved to identify ourselves with our heroes and with heroic enterprises. Most people will readily plug in and help promote organizations that fulfill these types of needs.

Yet, for nearly 15 years running, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace pegs employee engagement at just 30 percent, leaving 70 percent of American workers under-engaged or not engaged at all. When you think about the number of hours spent on the job, it’s disappointing to think that a majority of your organization’s employees might be just putting in their time, watching the clock, waiting for the moment they can leave at the end of every day.

As a business owner, you probably want your staff to feel engaged – but are you doing anything to earn it?

There’s a long list of benefits that go along with employee engagement, and many of them directly impact the bottom line when it comes to profitability and productivity. For instance, HBR (Harvard Business Review) notes that organizations with high levels of employee engagement enjoy:

  • 22% higher productivity
  • lower employee absenteeism
  • 25-65% lower levels of employee turnover
  • 41-48% less safety incidents
  • 41% less quality defects

In Employee Engagement: What It Is and Why You Need It we find even more compelling statistics, including a direct tie to the bottom line, listing some of the benefits of employee engagement as:

  • 19% boost to operating income (and correlating 33% loss of operating income for companies with the lowest percentages of engagement)
  • 26% increase in employee productivity
  • greater ability to attract top talent
  • 13% higher returns to shareholders over 5 years

Plus, engaged employees are twice as likely to be top-performers as less-engaged counterparts and miss a whopping 20 percent fewer days of work.

Entrepreneur.com published an article called, “5 Signs Your Company Culture May Actually Suck” listing five symptoms of cultures crying out for improvement. Here are the five signs, along with ten ways to fix what’s wrong so you can reap the benefits of employee engagement.

10 Ways to Fix Company Culture and Enjoy the Benefits of Employee Engagement

Sign Number One: Your Culture Relies on Perks

Companies that rely on employee perks instead of employee passion are simply trying to bribe their staff to love them. Perks might get talent on board and even keep them there, but won’t turn those same employees into engaged brand advocates, top performers or customer expectation-exceeders. What’s more, if lack of profitability dictates that you must eliminate perks or competitors match your offers, they won’t work at all.

1. Identify shared values and give employees something to believe in.

2. Improve on-boarding to ensure that new hires (and all employees) are well-versed in company history and lore, including mission, vision and values.

Sign Number Two: Your Company Has a Generic Mission Statement

If your mission statement is filled with expected clichés, has become obsolete or is simply M.I.A. (missing in action), you can’t expect employees to be excited about it or understand why their job is important.

1. Update your company mission and vision statements so that they are unique to your organization and express precisely how your business will meet important customer needs, improve the lives of its employees and make the world a better place.

2. Tie each and every job description (and salary review) back to measurable goals that relate to mission and vision pursuit and fulfillment.

Sign Number Three: Your Culture Exists Only at Work

If you want your brand’s influence to extend beyond the walls of your business, you have to do more than just sell stuff and your efforts must be geared for more than just selling stuff today.

1. Put verbs behind your shared values and vision; your business should be known for the causes it supports and champions, not just the goods or services it sells.

2. Give employees a voice in helping to choose give-back activities and projects, and give them time to participate.

Sign Number Four: You Hire Skills, Not People

Ideally you will hire someone who is a good fit for your company culture who “happens” to be able to fulfill the responsibilities of the job for which they were hired. Hiring for skills without considering whether an individual will be a good fit relative to shared values, co-workers, managers, important customers and other key stakeholders can be a recipe for disaster.

1. Add personality and value assessments to the hiring process and use group interviews to gain additional insight into candidates.

2. Ensure that some portion of the employee on-boarding process is designed to help the new hire integrate into the culture, their department and even facilitate social interaction with co-workers.

Sign Number Five: You Discourage Risk

When did you ever hear of a great team or a great coach that didn’t take risks? Nothing ventured, nothing gained! But all too often there are dis-incentives for taking risks within an organization.

1. Tie risks to rewards, proportionally, based on measurable goals and achieved outcomes. You should always reward employees who stick their necks out to share a great idea with recognition, and might also consider other “thank you’s” such as a one-time reward, a promotion, shares or a percentage of returns.

2. Create a process. A process for assessing employee suggestions can help to mitigate any potential negative outcomes and help you choose ideas which represent the most return on investment.

Many retail business owners claim customer service sets their business apart but don’t have the numbers to prove it. If 3 out of 4 consumers will really pay more for good customer service, it’s time we defined what that looks like.

3 out of 4 Shoppers Willing to Pay More for a Good Customer Experience

An ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) study found that 73 percent of consumers said they are encouraged to spend more money than they had originally planned when they receive good customer service or have a good customer experience. But what makes a customer experience “good?”

Implementing the right CX (customer experience) strategy could improve your business’s growth and profitability, but it might not be as easy as you think. 50 percent of shoppers said their customer service expectations are higher now than they were just three years ago. Here’s what they said they wanted, according to Retail Touch Points.

5 Takeaways for a Good Customer Experience

62% of shoppers want to interact with friendly, knowledgeable employees

People skills, soft skills, emotional IQ – call it whatever you want, but any employees who deal directly with customers should be positive, approachable, friendly and have sufficient training to be able to easily answer common customer questions. This means resisting the temptation to rush the employee onboarding and orientation training, and reinvesting in employee training on an on-going basis.

59% of shoppers want to be able to easily find what they’re looking for

Standard thinking for brick-and-mortar retailers is to put the most-purchased items at points farther away, and putting popular items far from one another, so that customers must pass by less-popular products to get to the ones they are looking for. But is that what’s best for customer experience?

Consumers are voting with their devices, with many now opting for ecommerce shopping or order online and pick up, even for often-purchased commodities like groceries. If it’s important for you to have customers come into your business and browse, is there something you can offer in return for shoppers willing to forego convenience?

And it’s not just about location. When shoppers are comparing two or more options, it’s also important for them to feel confident that they found the right product, the best option for their needs. A combination of well-informed staff, good in-store signage, clear explanation of features and benefits, and similar types of information will give your customer more confidence in their buying decision.

59% of shoppers want the checkout process to be fast and easy

Convenience, convenience, convenience! When you compare the process of going to any brick-and-mortar retail store to shopping online, there’s no comparison when it comes to ease of shopping and checkout. Where the brick-and-mortar retail has the advantage is the immediate gratification of ownership. Eliminating barriers in the purchasing process by making it easy for shoppers to check out and deploying a fast credit card processing solution streamlines the customer experience.

Likewise, offering a variety of payment processing options such as scanners customers can take with them, having customer credit cards on file for payments or quick pickups, offering customers the ability to checkout online while shopping in-store and ensuring adequate staffing and POS equipment at the point of sale can all contribute to a faster, easy-to-navigate checkout that lets the customer personalize the way they pay.

57% of shoppers would pay more for a particular item if they knew they would receive strong service

Strong service is what turns commodities into must-haves. it’s what helps to sell big ticket items where competition is fierce. If you want to know the difference, go car shopping. See how different the experience is at your local entry-level vehicle dealer than it is at your local luxury car dealership. Both automobiles will get you from point A to point B, but you’re only going to want to go back to one of them!

90% of shoppers say they are vocal about their retail customer experiences

Today, a retailer could go from anonymous to infamous in a matter of minutes. Deconstructing the customer experience in order to eliminate pain points and add in positive touches gives your customers reasons to recommend your business to their friends, loved ones and co-workers.

Why pay more for credit card processing?

Not only do we offer fast, efficient credit card processing solutions, we also offer free local setup, installation and support in many regions. If it’s been a while since you evaluated your merchant services card processor, customer rewards and other loyalty marketing or your payment processing POS equipment, we would be happy to give you a free, no-obligation quote to compare against your current plan or help you better-understand merchant services fees.

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What makes customers buy and what makes them brand-loyal might not be all that far apart. A new Trendera study reveals the top 10 brand loyalty factors with US consumers ranging in age from 13-50.

Top 10 Brand Loyalty Factors with U.S. Consumers

Quality and price top the list of factors that U.S. consumers say makes them loyal to a brand, according to research by Trendera. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, it’s still interesting to note that these are generally the reasons people buy in the first place – but this isn’t the only takeaway for brand marketers.

Loyalty programs barely make the top five list of reasons people say they become loyal to brands, despite the money and resources that have been poured into loyalty programs over the past decade, indicating that there is room for improvement. A business that successfully manages to re-think their loyalty program and makes it truly meaningful to buyers could create a serious competitive advantage for itself.

The biggest generational divides are the importance of creative marketing and whether and how brands respond to customers on social media when it comes to the youngest U.S. consumers surveyed, known as Generation V aged 13-20. In fact, creative marketing was even more important to Gen V than strong brand ethics and responding to customers on social media was almost as important.

Celebrity affiliation was nearly as influential with Gen V as company culture; although to be fair, this generation has not had first-hand experience with the complexities of company culture as of yet! As these younger consumers begin to gain more purchasing power and ultimately enter the workforce themselves, it will be important for brand marketers to discover whether these factors continue to weigh more heavily with this generation.

Top 10 Brand Loyalty Factors with Generation X from Most to Least Important

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Great customer service
  • Past interactions
  • Loyalty program or rewards
  • Strong ethics
  • Creative marketing
  • Company culture; tied with,
  • Responding to customers on social networks
  • Celebrity affiliation

Top 10 Brand Loyalty Factors with Generation Y from Most to Least Important

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Great customer service
  • Past interactions
  • Loyalty program or rewards
  • Strong ethics
  • Creative marketing
  • Company culture
  • Responding to customers on social networks
  • Celebrity affiliation

Top 10 Brand Loyalty Factors with Generation V from Most to Least Important

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Past interactions
  • Great customer service
  • Loyalty program or rewards
  • Creative marketing
  • Strong ethics
  • Responding to customers on social networks
  • Company culture
  • Celebrity affiliation

generational breakdown of why we buy - trendera research

The Best Place to Compete for Brand Loyalty

Given that quality is not a concern and that pricing is competitive, while consumers say these factors top the list of brand loyalty drivers, they aren’t where a business can create competitive advantages and increase brand loyalty with all three generations of U.S. consumers. Customer service and past interactions come in at number 3 and 4 on these lists with all consumers which leads us to believe that customer experience is the best place to compete for brand loyalty.

A remarkable customer experience becomes the “past purchasing interactions” that consumers point to as the reasons they return to a business and feel loyalty to its brand. Customer service that stands out from the service they can receive in other businesses is what makes it great.

The way consumers feel about doing business with a brand outweighs the monetary and other tangible rewards that a brand offers in return for loyalty. Customer experiences become the stories that patrons repeat to friends, loved ones and colleagues. They are the driving force behind social media shout outs and recommendations. They are the reasons that followers open a brand’s emails and follow them online.

Instead of thinking about the customer experience at your business as a whole, and using words that describe your brand experience and values in general terms, try breaking it down into customer experience touch points, instead. Every customer touch point contributes to their experience, and so each represents an opportunity for you to generate the positive emotions that make them feel satisfied, happy, and proud of doing business with you, time and again.

Americans have embraced food trucks and other mobile businesses nationwide, but is your point of sale marketing turning mobile business lovers into loyal customers?

Why Point of Sale Marketing is a Necessity for Food Trucks and Other Mobile Business Models

It’s a growing and competitive market. To win in this type of environment, food trucks must do more than serve great food. Food truck industry stats speak for themselves:

  • It’s a $2B a year industry – according to Food Truck Nation, the food truck industry grew 300 percent from 2014 to 2017
  • It’s super-competitive – according to Food Truck Operator, food truck growth is outpacing other food service, including restaurants, by 5.4% to 4.3% for the industry overall
  • Low cost of entry – startup costs can be as low as $50K (Food Truck Nation)
  • Excellent revenue to startup costs – a food truck that drives revenues of $250-500K annually can be started for less than $100K (Food Truck Operator)

When the 90 percent who rated the food truck experience as “excellent” or “good” were asked why, more than 8 in 10 used words like fun, exciting, new, different and unique (Mobile Cuisine). Worth noting here, once someone has visited a food truck once or twice, words like new, different and unique may no longer apply.

Startup costs for a food truck or another type of mobile business are generally far less than their brick and mortar counterparts and the startup process is very different. However, to generate repeat business – which is far less expensive than acquiring new customers – food truck POS marketing (point of sale marketing) must adopt many of the same loyalty marketing activities their brick-and-mortar competitors do.

7 Food Truck Point of Sale Marketing Ideas

1. Capture Contact Information

It’s pretty much impossible to do post-sale marketing when you don’t have the ability to email or text the customer. Food truck POS marketing starts with capturing the customer’s email address and/or mobile phone number along with permission to send them information after the sale. This can be done in many cases by simply giving the customer the option of receiving a receipt by email or text, but can also be encouraged using:

  • Giveaways – such as a free lunch next month
  • Surveys and feedback – how was your experience and/or what would you like to see next
  • Notifications of locations – where the food truck will be next or when it will return
  • Online ordering or order-ahead options
  • “Remembering” customer orders and customizations to save time in the future

2. Use Video and Selfies to Turn Customers Into Foodies

You can use video and selfies to turn customers into foodies at the point of sale by asking what they loved and why for a quick video testimonial or inviting them to pose in front of your food truck for a selfie and hashtag your food truck and location on social media.

There are foodies with large followings in virtually every urban and even many suburban areas of the U.S. Discover which foodies are influencing your target audience on Instagram, Snapchat or other platforms and engage them (generally done by paying them to try and then to review your food online) to generate social influencer marketing on social platforms, including a video or selfie done in front of your food truck. Lather, rinse, repeat as you seasonally change your menu or introduce new items to cater to those who used those three magic words: New, unique and different.

3. Adopt a Neighborhood Cause

Show your love for the ‘hood! Adopt a neighborhood cause for a benefit events or proceeds donation (such as, “$1 for every specific item sold this month will be donated to…”) And again, you can cater to that crowd looking for new, unique and different by changing causes monthly, seasonally, with the release of new menu items, etc.

Invite local dignitaries and media to press-worthy events to give proceeds and/or monies or items raised to the charity or cause to receive public relations for your efforts. Make the event even bigger by teaming up with (or issuing a competitive challenge) to a local brick-and-mortar restaurant to increase exposure and make this even more interesting to local residents.

4. Upsells and Add-ons

Like any other restaurant, food truck employees should be asking customers “do you want fries with that?” where “fries” is interchangeable with any type of appropriate add on or a beverage or an upgrade (supersize!)

5. Samples

Give food truck patrons a chance to weigh in on upcoming menu items or create demand for new items before they are released by sampling bite-size items to customers while they wait for their orders. This is also a great way to gather testimonials to use in marketing when you launch the new menu items.

6. Video Display

Use videos at the point of sale to stimulate customer interest in other menu items, reinforce their buying decision through happy customer visuals and videos, notify customers of future appearances, events or promotions, and so on. Customers should be able to take this in while they are waiting for their order.

7. Point of Sale Loyalty Marketing

When asked about loyalty marketing, 73 percent said loyalty programs should be a way for the business to show loyalty to the customer – not the other way around (kitewheel.com). Make sure your loyalty program gives customers rewards they actually want, and stimulates action on a frequent basis.

Marry your restaurant’s point of sale card processing solution to your loyalty marketing strategies. Following up with new customers with automated and personalized email marketing could turn that first timer into a long time fan. Reach out to us to find out how it works:

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A UK survey of 2,173 British women aged 18-30 found that one in four were more likely to cheat on a romantic partner than their hairstylist. Here are six secrets to customer loyalty you can learn from the best salons and hairdressers.

Life is full of trials and tribulations… but eventually you find a stylist you like.”

So it seems, as 26 percent of the women who participated in a survey commissioned by babtac.com (British Association of Beauty Therapists and Cosmetology), indicated they were more likely to stray romantically than stray from their favorite hair stylist or colorist.

89 percent of the women surveyed said they would remain loyal to a good hairdresser. It is fascinating, really. Given that even the smallest towns usually have at least one (if not several) hair salons and bigger cities have thousands of salons, salon suites and hairdressers women can choose from, why is it that women see hairdressers and colorists services not as readily-available commodities, but as uniquely valuable and practically irreplaceable?

It is a particularly interesting question in light of the fact that customer loyalty (at least for purposes of the survey) is tied to individual beauty professionals, not just the salons they work in. How are these stylists and colorists (who could be working as booth renters or salon or salon suite owners or employees) establishing such strong brand perceptions with their client base?

We came up with a list of six brand perceptions that hairdressers and colorists who have a loyal client base have established, and which can be replicated by other businesses, consultants and service professionals.

6 Brand Perceptions that Inspire Customer Loyalty

Cheating – leaving for another provider – is a risky proposition.

Of the women surveyed, 49 percent agreed that a good hairdresser was harder to find than a good (romantic) partner. This is the marketing principle of scarcity. While there might be many hairdressers, the perception is there are not many good ones. Therefore, once you have found a good hairdresser, it’s risky to leave.

When it comes to customer loyalty, relationships are a two-way street.

82 percent of respondents said they felt it was very important to have a good relationship with their stylist. As opposed to a feeling of customer entitlement, where the onus of the relationship rests mostly (or completely) on the business, these women feel invested in the relationships themselves.

The business truly understands – and meets – the customer’s need.

Emma Roberts, Marketing Executive of BABTAC, put it this way, “Discovering a good relationship with a hairdresser who understands their clients’ needs is like gold dust, so it’s understandable that we don’t want to upset the balance we have with our stylist.” Getting to this point of fully understanding and meeting the client’s need, visit after visit, doesn’t happen by accident.

Stylists provide consultative services to their clients and work diligently to get from client-expressed wishes to the results they want, even when that means interpreting vague concepts about the appearance they want to achieve or the need to overcome challenges to get there (damaged hair, prior services, etc.)

The business is in it for the long haul.

In terms of getting a client all the way to the look-style-length-color they wanted, hair styling and coloring is rarely a one-and-done proposition. It might take months and several visits to get the client the results they are looking for.

Hairdressers build a file on each and every client, including a record of past services, client preferences, client desires, and a plan for how to get the client from where they are now to where they want to be. They send a clear message to their clients that they are in it for the long haul and committed to helping the client achieve their goals. Customer loyalty is a reflection of the business investment in making it a long term proposition.

They can put absolute trust in the business.

An iconic Clairol hair color marketing campaign ran with the tagline, “Does she…or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” A girl’s natural hair color is not the only secret that hairdressers are privy to; the salon is traditionally an environment where a woman can share her troubles and triumphs, and even her secrets, without fear of betrayal.

Over time, a stylist runs the gamut with a client, delivering services that make the client feel their best and look their best through – and despite – the ups and downs life is throwing at them. It’s a place where clients can confess their sins (like the time they cut their own bangs or how they save money by cutting their children’s hair at home) without fear of judgment or reprisal. They get empathy and understanding, without lectures or instructions about what they are doing wrong.

Their services cannot be replicated.

Returning to the question of why women do not perceive hair services as commodities, hairdressers with loyal clients have established the brand perception that their services cannot be replicated. Their clients believe that they have innate talent or skills that cannot be taught, and so cannot be replicated elsewhere. This may be the toughest brand perception for a business to establish; delivering a client experience and results that customers cannot get anywhere else to drive customer loyalty.

You might also like:  4 Ps of Loyalty Marketing that Make Our Customers Love Us