As a small business owner, you probably have a certain way that you like things to be done. You have personal quirks to your organizational strategies, technological limitations, and best practices that you’ve found work best for you. It’s perfectly normal, too! We all have our own personal preferences, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Here’s the thing though: your personal preferences are exactly that: Yours. This means that what works best for you might not work for your customers, especially when they are actively interacting with your business, whether by phone, through your website, or through frontline employees.
This is what we mean when we say that you should stop trying to train your customers. Instead of attempting to bend their habits towards what works best for you, a better idea is to structure your business around what works best for them.
Let’s look at some examples of “Customer Training” and then discuss some ways to train your business to work for them instead.
Hostile Cancellation and Scheduling Policies
One of the classic examples of customer training is subjecting them to draconian cancellation and scheduling policies. Do you require cancellations in writing or by certified mail? Do you require reservations for certain days of the week, but not for others? Do you only allow cancellations through your website? Do you only allow reservations during certain periods of time in the future? These are all examples of training customers to work around our needs instead of the other way around.
So what are some good remedies to this tendency that so many business owners gravitate towards? Well, first of all, both cancellations and scheduling inquiries are fantastic opportunities to interact with your customers and show them that you are receptive to their expectations.
In his insightful LinkedIn article, CEO and entrepreneur Abdi Guleed presents a simple question: “Do you build your processes from a member’s point of view?”
When we design our business practices with the intention of coercing behavior from customers, these requirements create friction in our interaction with our customers. They make it harder for customers to engage with us, and less convenient to be our customers. The ideal business relationship with our customers is one where attempts to engage with the service by scheduling reservations are streamlined and intuitive. A cancellation request is accepted as a chance to make a customer feel validated in their concerns and offered satisfactory recompense.
Don’t train your customers to jump through hoops to meet your expectations; approach these challenges by imagining a workflow that is designed by your customers according to what is most convenient for them.
Center the User Experience
When your customers interact with your business in person or online, is the workflow designed to make things easy for them, or easy for you? Do you offer support only through email, not by phone? Do you require customers to keep paper receipts and physical copies of documents with no digital options? Are submission forms on your website full of unnecessary required fields that grind conversions to a halt?
When you strictly dictate how a customer interacts with your business, you are giving them unnecessary rules to follow, and these rules often have to be stated and restated multiple times a day. You are training your customers, and we promise they don't appreciate the training.
Having simple, inviting, and intuitive ways to interface with your customers is essential to centering your service around their needs. Consider the fact that 88% of online shoppers report that they would not return to a website after a bad user experience. This number is telling, and it demonstrates the importance of centering your customers’ experiences when interacting with your business.
Training your customers to understand the way you do business with them tries their patience. Your average online customer will only bother to read about 28% of your website’s content, so when it comes time for them to actually engage with your service, they need to understand exactly what to do as intuitively as possible.
If you feel like you might have engaged in some customer training in the past, don’t worry. There are a few great places to start addressing the issue. First of all, make a more concerted effort to actively engage with your customers. Read and respond to reviews. Ask a confidant for their unbiased opinion on the ease of interacting with your company. Send follow-up emails to clients and make their voices heard. One of the best resources you have is your employees who interact with your customers. Talking to your employees gives you insight into the issues that customers have when doing business with your firm, and can provide excellent feedback on where things can be improved.
Of course, having a streamlined, attractive, and user-friendly website is perhaps the best step to take. If you’d like to start centering your customers’ experience and stop training them, please reach out to us as soon as possible. The best way to keep customers coming back is to make it as easy as possible for them to do so, and a tailor-made website for your business will give you the tools you need to keep everything running smoothly.