Guest post by Barron Cuadro
I’m a firm believer in the idea that the more you give away, the more you receive. It makes perfect karmic sense, and it is especially true in the online world.
If you look at businesses that over-deliver on their promises, you’ll notice the overwhelming magnitude of their success. That’s because these businesses that are so open to give are often paid back many times over through referrals, customer loyalty, and brand evangelization.
If you’re an entrepreneur, blogger, or small business owner, you can replicate these simple ideas in your own business, and then email me in a couple months to let me know how your growth has progressed by leaps and bounds.
On the surface, these might seem like basic ideas. However, if you take the time to implement them, they will have a positive, lasting effect and will forever change how your audience perceives your business.
What to give?
Let me preface this list by saying that most of these suggestions won’t cost you money. It may take time and extra attention, but like I pointed out earlier, the potential reward for spending the extra time will only snowball the more regularly you put these into action.
1) Pay Extra Attention
Awesome customer service is like icing on the cake. Consumers always seem to brace themselves for an awful experience, but when met with smiles or an emphatic human on the other end of the line (or computer), they are pleasantly surprised.
This is where you can hook ’em! Kill them with kindness and empathy. If they’re heated, apologize profusely, even if you think the customer is completely off base. If your business sells a tangible product, do everything you can to satisfy your customer; replace their product at no charge or grant them a refund if necessary. If you’re a blogger with an eBook or a paid course, offer several methods of getting in contact along with a no-questions-asked, money back guarantee. This will ensure trust and puts the customer at ease when making that monetary commitment.
Companies like DreamHost, PageLines, and Chase Bank do great things online by offering prompt customer service and quick responses. DreamHost, a web hosting service, has a status hub that customers can visit if they’re experiencing server hiccups. They’re also very responsive through email and Twitter. Same goes for PageLines, who responds to customers from their Twitter account all the time. These companies know the importance of acknowledging their customers’ concerns in the specific places they hang out. Chase Bank has a secure email system set up that allows you to quickly send messages to customer service. It’s a little clunky for my taste, but the upside: I have never waited more than 24 hours for a response, which still seems to surprise me.
I can already hear some of you who are so ready to point out the bad experiences you’ve had with these and other similar companies, but you should understand that’s the nature of working with a large pool of customers. Some will have relatively-nightmarish stories that are beyond a company’s control, and others will have nothing but glowing reviews.
What’s the takeaway?
As a small business owner, do the best you can for your audience, no matter how small. Give them the extra attention they deserve but may not expect; they will remember and appreciate it.
The next time they need to buy a product or hear of someone who could use your service, they won’t hesitate to talk about their positive experiences with you.
2) Free information, free services
The freemium model is brilliant, and completely changes the customer experience. You can witness this model in companies like Evernote, MailChimp, and many others, where customers can use a free, feature-packed version of their products. For the ultimate experience and complete functionality, however, you’ll have to buy or subscribe.
Why does this work?
For a certain segment of your audience, the free version works just fine. The remainder will want the full-blown version… yet everyone’s entry point will begin at the free version. If you give them a great experience at the free level, and shine when it comes to support and response times, your customers will fall in love with you and in time, will become your paying customer. At the very least, they will spread the word about your awesome product, and someone in their circle could become your paying customer.
Popular writers and marketers give away free information daily! How many of you have started building your side hustle solely through the tips you read in successful marketers’ blogs and eBooks? Maybe you’ve found infinite inspiration through sites like sethgodin.com or zenhabits.net. Depending on your niche, you can consume a wealth of information and gain enough knowledge to confidently get started doing what you’ve set out to do… all for free.
How does giving away free information = more sales?
When your business gives away valuable information for free and you’re receptive to the customers’ needs, customers subconsciously put more trust in you. They feel at ease and appreciate your help… and for good reason; you’ve given them so much great info, how could they not love you?
The customer reasons that since your free information is of such high caliber, your paid information must be even more valuable. Topping that with excellent customer service and a money back guarantee makes your offer even more irresistible. They have nothing to lose! If you’re honest and you over-deliver in every way imaginable, they’ll have no reason to ask for their money back.
Just remember this
When you gain the love and trust of your audience, you gain loyal customers. The key is to be honest and upfront with who you are as a person, and the quality of the information you offer. These things combined with great customer service is what makes consumers of your free products lifelong customers of your paid products.
The same goes for freemium services. I haven’t yet reached the point of monthly subscription fees for MailChimp, but I’ve been using them to build my list for the past year and have been completely satisfied with their service and product. When it’s time to get a paid membership, you think I’m gonna waste my time looking elsewhere? Hell no.
3) Go beyond expectations
In most retail situations, customers are used to paying money for shipping. I guess we consider it a premium for the convenience of having things delivered to our homes, or a price paid for getting exactly what we want if we couldn’t find it anywhere nearby. Then Amazon comes in and offers standard shipping for around $3.99, way cheaper than what is normally charged. Not only that, but customers can subscribe to Amazon Prime (their upgraded service for $70 a year) and get UNLIMITED FREE TWO-DAY shipping.
Well now, Amazon, you’re really spoiling me. I will gladly pay $70 a year for the opportunity to receive a product two freaking days after I order it, and for free. This gives me the incentive to shop Amazon first, before any other online retailer. Additionally, Amazon Prime users can include three others in their family under that same $70 payment. What? Crazy.
Amazon seems to set the standard in this arena, and I’m hard-pressed to find a company who can match their consistency, great deals, and outstanding customer service. Another example would be Zappos, who guarantees a 365-day return policy (one whole year!) and free shipping both ways. Zappos is a great company to emulate, and if more businesses observed their model and adapted part of it to their own, customers would be very, very pleased.
What it comes down to
Make it a goal in 2011 to pay extra attention, offer free information and services, and go beyond your customers’ expectations.
There’s nothing more valuable than a raving customer. Do everything in your power to cultivate, serve, and communicate honestly with these customers, and you’ll have them for life. Oh, and make room, because they’ll be telling everyone they know about you.
photo by Brandon Christopher Warren