The one thing that all businesses are trying to crack is the whole “word of mouth” process in their business. Trying to get customers referring has been a long time aim for any large or small business. But with one bad experience, all of that effort and time put into a customer can go down the drain pretty fast.

They set up fancy and convoluted systems, they print out referral cards, they advertise everywhere they then want us to refer customers to them but there is one major issue within the whole process….

Getting a referral into your business is one thing. Keeping that referral as a customer is a totally different issue. You see the whole area of customer service and customer experience needs to be addressed BEFORE you try and get your customers referring for you.

A true referral will come naturally based upon a customer’s positive experience with your business. There then is no need to have a huge referral drive with your customers as they naturally will be raving about your business.

Recently I was asked to come in and train some retail staff of a large retail chain with regards to increasing in store sales, customer service training and increasing natural referrals. What I saw made me really scratch my head. Sure, they had all of the correct marketing to their customers, yep they also had the branding down pat. But the issue wasn’t any of the fluff, the issue was that the staff really didn’t have the passion or desire to give their customers an amazing experience. They were just doing “what they were employed to do” which was essentially take the customers money at the register. When i did a bit of digging, the customers who were having negative reactions weren’t being directed to the actual people giving them a less than suitable experience. Their reaction was to go on line and on to social media outlets and express their total dissatisfaction with their experience. The online ranting was huge but no one seemed to want to address that simple fix.

Back in the olden days there was the whole “if you give someone a bad experience they will tell 10 people”. Now if a customer gets a bad experience they will tell hundreds of people in around 30 seconds from that said bad experience. The best referral is an instant one. That is why giving amazing service can be enough for your customers to shout it out on social media as soon as it has happened. That is why all staff need to be trained to give an amazing experience. That alone can drive customers to your business…. far more than a fancy marketing campaign.

This is why training your staff not only in service and product areas of the business is important, but also in customer expectation is definitely necessary these days. Yes and I can already hear what some might be saying “some customers have unrealistic expectations”. I realise that, and that is why training staff in addressing those expectations with the customer and having the skill to re-divert their attention and expectations is a must in today’s service based areas.

The customer has one thing more than ever before these days….. CHOICE!  We cannot as business owners lose customers based upon our employees not trying to exceed their customers’ expectations.

The last thing I would like to add to this is make sure staff training is a priority for you and your staff. I am being contacted more and more these days to train staff but when i ask when the last time staff were trained the answer most commonly is “we haven’t for a long time”. Your customers are evolving in how they shop every day and if your staff aren’t evolving in the service aspect of your business, then you will be left behind and the customer will find somewhere else that addresses and fulfils their needs. They are ready and willing to spread their experiences with their mouse (or phone) so make sure they are spreading good stuff and not the opposite