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How to Establish Lasting Customer Relationships With a Standout First Appointment

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How to Establish Lasting Customer Relationships With a Standout First Appointment

The first impression is often the most important. With so many choices these days, customers can afford to be picky and make quick decisions regarding the businesses they patronize. When you finally hook a customer for a first appointment, that’s the time to reel them all the way in.

You only get one shot at a customer’s first appointment, so make sure you do it right. Putting in the effort for those initial encounters will boost your retention rates and have your business booked up all year long.

Send a Friendly Reminder

Start off on the right foot by sending a new customer an appointment reminder. A good reminder sets the tone for an upcoming appointment. It lets the customer know that you’re ready to serve them and that you’re anticipating their arrival. You would hate for the person to show up late for that first appointment or not at all.

Express your appreciation to the customer for entrusting you with their business and your excitement about seeing them soon. Make sure the appointment date and time are clearly visible and that the reminder includes links to any information that may be required beforehand. 

Start on Time

Making a customer wait past their appointment start time will tarnish even the best appointment experience. New customers may fear that every appointment is going to start late, costing them valuable time. To avoid raising such concerns, do everything you can to make sure you start on time.

A huge factor in appointment timeliness is reducing the number of appointments that run long. Overtime appointments push back start times for customers with later booking slots, which isn’t fair to them. Try adding some buffer time in between your appointments or increasing your appointment duration if overtime appointments are a recurring problem for your business. 

Online appointment software can also help get appointments started on time, especially for first-timers. For many industries, the first appointment is the longest, as the business collects initial customer information and gets any needed documents signed. When customers are able to complete these tasks online, they can walk through the doors ready to get started. 

Serve With a Smile

The importance of customer service can never be understated for appointment-based businesses. A NICE inContact survey found that 80% of customers will switch businesses due to bad experiences with customer service. That’s why appointment-based businesses can ill afford getting off to a rocky start with new customers.

So provide customer service training to all of your employees, as there are numerous factors that go into a good appointment experience. Much of it has to do with soft skills; listening, communication, and patience are all vital for a good customer service rep. You can use online resources to boost customer service as well, such as a website chatbot and a user-friendly app to help new customers acclimate quickly. 

Be Generous

For the first appointment a customer books, go the extra mile to wow them. Make them feel comfortable and welcome, and give them a taste of everything your business has to offer. After one great experience, they’re bound to come back for more.

For example, a hair salon could provide a enhanced package for first-time customers, letting them try out additional services at no additional cost. They’ll leave feeling extra pampered and have something new to look forward to on a return appointment. It can be easier to justify an add-on when you got it for free on your first appointment. 

Personalize the Experience

According to Gladlys “2020 Customer Expectations Report,” 84% of consumers said a brand that offers them personalized customer service will earn more of their future spending. Personalization helps consumers connect with a brand and vice versa, rather than feeling like another customer statistic. Pulling a ticket number at the DMV is an example of how a lack of personalization leads to a feeling of drudgery and low satisfaction rates among visitors.

Giving your customers choices allows them to personalize their experience by themselves. Accommodating different payment options and providing a variety of services is a great place to start. Updating your customers’ profiles to reflect their choices will maintain that personalization through following appointments. 

Ask for Feedback 

At the end of that first appointment, ask each customer for feedback on their experience. What went well and what didn’t? Knowing what resonated with them and what fell flat will enable you to make changes and ensure a better return appointment. 

Businesses that take feedback to heart enjoy higher customer retention than their peers. Even a small adjustment shows customers that you have their needs and desires in mind, which builds confidence and trust between you and them. Furthermore, when you show you’re receptive to feedback, gratified customers will refer you to friends, growing your client pool.

(Mostly) Stick to Your Guns

Each business has rules and regulations to uphold. The best example for appointment-based businesses is a late arrival/cancellation policy. Inform new clients of your policy ahead of time to ensure the expectations are clear. But if a first-timer runs late because they had trouble finding your location (or a parking spot upon arrival), do try to be understanding. Coming down on them too hard could make their first visit to your business the last.

Remind them, however, that you will need to enforce the policy going forward. Not to do so would be unfair to your existing customers. If you continue to have problems, look for ways to make your company rules more visible and easier to access in order to avoid future confusion. 

Nailing that first appointment will build strong relationships with your customers from the start, encouraging them to return soon and often. Make sure to keep up your customer service efforts with every appointment after that to keep them coming back again and again. 

How to Tell Challenging Customers the Truth

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How to Tell Challenging Customers the Truth

It goes against every professional instinct to disappoint the person signing the checks, but the truth is, the customer is not always right. 

If a client has you working around the clock, rearranging your online calendar around their needs, or scrambling to provide services you don’t usually offer, it’s time to have a conversation. Can you reasonably meet their expectations?

Perhaps not. Sometimes, you’ll need to push back on challenging customers without hurting your relationship or losing business. 

Threading that needle is not easy, much less enjoyable. Here are some tips to help you have constructive conversations that reinforce your boundaries and prevent client relationships from deteriorating:

1. Go Back to the Contract

A lot of client overreach is born not out of entitlement, but out of the fact that the client has simply forgotten the scope of work. This is why it’s so important to establish clear expectations at the beginning of a client relationship, and to put those expectations in writing. If you don’t, you will have a much more difficult time telling a pushy client why something can’t be done.

Moreover, pointing to a contract is a respectful way to turn down a request, and one few reasonable people will argue against. If the client still wants you to perform extra work, you can offer to renegotiate their contract — and find opportunities to upsell them in the process. 

2. Take Time to Listen

When a client makes a demand that sounds unreasonable, it’s easy to assume they’re disrespecting you and your time. But it’s possible that they’re facing extenuating circumstances you don’t know about: Perhaps they’re under immense pressure from their own boss, or perhaps they simply don’t understand how much time and effort their request would require. 

Before saying “no,” schedule a meeting to talk through their request. Ask clarifying questions, and practice active listening when they answer. Fully understanding their needs will help you brainstorm a solution that works for both of you. And if you do still need to turn them down, the respect and consideration you showed them will soften the blow. 

3. Pick Your Battles

Being flexible without becoming a pushover is a difficult balance to strike, but an important one to master. If a task is technically out of scope but wouldn’t significantly strain your resources, consider the pros and cons of taking it on. If your contract allows you five business days to complete your deliverables, but the client’s CEO wants it on their desk in four days, it’s likely in your best interest to make an exception. 

In these situations, it’s helpful to make sure your client is fully aware that you’re pushing the bounds of the contract. Tell them, “While we usually prefer five business days to complete this task, we’re happy to expedite the process in this particular circumstance.” This reminds them what the norm is while highlighting the fact that you’re going above and beyond for them.

4. Be Specific

This should go without saying, but just saying “no” without an explanation won’t do much for your customer retention. The more clarity you offer your client, the more likely you are to end the disagreement amicably.

When explaining why a request can’t be met, point to specific aspects of the client’s request that are misaligned with what’s in their contract. This gives the client more clarity into what you can and cannot do. Plus, it emphasizes the fact that your denial is due to business needs, not your personal feelings. 

5. Remove Emotion from the Equation

When dealing with pushy clients, it’s easy to feel frustrated, angry, or insulted. But it’s important to remember that the matter probably isn’t personal for your client; it doesn’t have to be personal for you, either.  

When speaking with the difficult client, take a mental step back. Think of yourselves not as two individuals having a disagreement, but as two business representatives trying to work out the most mutually beneficial business deal. Speak in a calm tone, explain the situation with professional precision, and avoid getting into arguments.

There’s little you can do if your client behaves rudely. But if you make an effort to avoid retaliating in kind, you can prevent the conflict from getting worse. 

6. Consider Matching Their Request 

In some situations, you may be able to get some concessions from the client that make their request a little fairer. Just be sure you don’t insult them in the process.

“If the client asks for something outrageous,” Shortpress’s Sam McKeith suggests, “it can sometimes pay off to deflect with something equally as impossible.” 

Say a client asks for a massive discount. You could say that discount is available if they lock into a two-year contract or if they refer you to their own clients. This way, you can turn an extreme request into an opportunity for new business. 

7. Keep the End Goal in Mind 

Clients can often have you running around in circles as you try to meet their every whim. What they forget is that their own actions are delaying completion of their project. 

It’s your responsibility to keep the end goal in focus. Avoid letting them sidetrack you with irrelevant requests. Remind your client what you’re there for, and emphasize that it’s in their best interest to focus your joint energies on that end goal. 

8. If All Else Fails, End the Partnership

“Firing” a client can and should be a last resort. After all, they’re the one who initially hired you. But a client relationship that isn’t mutually beneficial isn’t worth maintaining. 

Remember that your company is in the business of making money, not providing charity to your clients. If an overbearing client is costing more in terms of manpower and morale than what they pay you, it may be time to end the relationship. 

Keep opportunity costs in mind. Your team could better use its time serving the clients that value their relationship with you. Your efforts could improve retention, generate more upsells, and create a healthier business in the long run. 

In most cases, though, consulting your contract, listening to your client, and communicating openly is enough to ease client challenges. Either way, professionalism and honesty go a long way toward encouraging clients to better respect your time. 

How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

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How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

As Americans return to work, many are losing their 9-to-5 freedom. No longer can they book appointments whenever they please thanks to the flexibility of remote work prompted by COVID-19. Appointment-based businesses must know when and how to adjust their own schedules as work practices revert to the old norm. Here’s what you can do to handle your appointment schedule when schedules change:

Manage Walk-Ins Wisely

Walk-ins can be both a blessing and a curse for appointment-based businesses. On the one hand, walk-ins represent welcome revenue on slow days when appointments are hard to come by. On the other hand, turning prospective customers away due to high volume is always a bummer. The best approach is to allow a set number of walk-ins per day or per hour and to work everything else through appointments.

Some of your customers might not know their availability until after they clock out. This may prompt them to stop by in an attempt to squeeze into your schedule. Instead of playing the odds, use their desire to your advantage. Send out notifications to your customers informing them of available appointment slots throughout the day. This way they’ll know beforehand whether you’re full to the brim or whether there’s a slot they can book right then and there using their device. 

Adjust Your Business Hours

When your regular customer base returns to a 9-to-5 schedule, your own business hours might see a decline in appointment volume. To cater to changing needs, consider adjusting your business hours to accommodate schedule changes. This could involve opening up a little earlier and staying open a couple extra hours to give everyone an opportunity to stop by.

Before making any changes, gauge the interest customers would have in amended store hours. If you’ve been developing a personal relationship with them, you can ask directly. Otherwise, send a survey asking for input or do a week-long trial run to see whether the new hours are popular. 

Be sure to get your employee work schedules straightened out beforehand, though. You’ll need to know that you have people willing to fill the new time slots. 

Go Virtual

If the nature of your business allows it, try incorporating virtual appointments into your services. This allows customers to book appointments and phone in even while they’re at the office, filling your 9-to-5 slots when physical appointments are infeasible. The convenience of virtual appointments will also benefit stay-at-home parents who struggle with dragging the kids around for errands.

While we’re still a long way from virtual haircuts, plenty of appointment-based businesses can pull off virtual appointments. Healthcare providers can check in on patients’ treatment plans, for example, while counselors only need to speak with their clients to make an impact. 

When deciding to go virtual, make sure to do it right. Invest in proper sound equipment, solid internet service, and robust videoconferencing technology for a high-quality appointment experience. Ready yourself for virtual appointments by doing extra preparation in advance and brushing up on online etiquette

Take Advantage of Customers’ Availability

Even as your customers return to their desk jobs, you can still take advantage of certain times to lure them in. The most reliable is the lunch hour, when employees might grab a quicker-than-usual bite to eat so they can fit in an appointment before clocking back in. Capitalizing on these brief moments of availability will give your business a nice boost of revenue each day.

Take a page out of the restaurant industry’s book. To get workers to stop by for lunch, they offer specials available only during certain times of day. Any appointment-based business can use this tactic to give customers an incentive to book a lunchtime slot. For example, a car detailer can offer a free exterior wash for any customer who brings in their ride between noon and 2 p.m.

Bring Your Business to the Customers

Back in the olden days, doctors would travel to private homes to care for their patients. Bringing back this old trend mould allows busy professionals stuck at work until 5 p.m. to book more appointments with you. 

Remember our car detailer? They could travel to their customer’s place of business and clean out their car in the parking lot. This way the service is still being performed without the customer having to take time off work or sacrifice part of their evenings or weekends. Any appointment-based business with enough creativity can pull this off as long as there’s demand. 

Adjust Your Late and Cancellation Policies

What happens if a customer can’t make it to their appointment because their boss asked them to stay late? Take a look at your late and cancellation policies to determine how best to accommodate these types of scenarios. Some leniency on your part will encourage customers to try — and try again — to visit your business and develop loyalty to your brand.

Of course, there will always be times when your late and cancellation policies must be enforced. Repeat offenders shouldn’t be given the same benefit of the doubt as loyal customers who have to cancel last-minute due to unforeseen circumstances. 

As a business owner you’ll always have to make adjustments on the fly when circumstances change — and the workplace upheaval caused by COVID-19 is certainly one of those circumstances. As the 9-to-5 norm is re-established, work to give your customers the service they deserve, and you’ll always come out on top. 

How to Share the Holiday Spirit With Your Customers

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How to Share the Holiday Spirit With Your Customers

It’s the season of giving, and no one has given more to your business than your faithful customers. Why not start a new holiday tradition of giving them thanks?

Determine who your long-term customers are so they can have first dibs on the perks and benefits you plan to give out. Then, use your remaining resources to bring as many other customers into the fold as you can.

Here are some holiday sharing ideas you can implement to give back to your customers this Christmas:

Offer Holiday Discounts

Deck the halls with savings to show gratitude and to bring in new business. Nothing gets customers more excited than holiday savings, especially when they were already planning on visiting your office.

If you don’t want to hand out discounts to anyone who walks through the door, you can add a simple requirement for customers to cash in. Consider asking customers to show they follow your social media pages or to refer their friends in order to qualify for a discount. 

Send Gift Baskets

When new customers sign up for their first appointment, you likely record their personal information, including their residential address. You can use this information to your benefit by putting together a surprise gift basket to send to their doorstep.

This will be especially effective for your customers who still have concerns over COVID-19. Despite the safety precautions you’re taking, they will feel more comfortable in their homes. Sending them a small gift basket shows that you miss them and look forward to their return once the pandemic blows over.

Cash in on Loyalty

Your online appointment software should track your most frequent customers and the number of visits they’ve made throughout the year. Using this data, you can set benchmarks for loyalty rewards.

For example, you might decide to give customers who’ve made monthly appointments, or visited 12 times in the year, a $10 gift card. Perhaps you send customers who’ve 25 appointments a $25 gift card. Doing so shows new customers that you reward loyalty while giving thanks to your regulars.

Donate 

The holidays are the perfect time for companies to give back through charitable donations. While businesses don’t have pockets as deep as they would like due to the tumult of 2020, remember that other communities were hit just as hard.

Add a twist to your donations this year: When a customer does business with you, invite them to select a charity or cause to which you’ll donate. This makes their visit, as well as the associated donation, more personal to them.

Throw a Holiday Party

As long as you’re following social distancing guidelines, a holiday party is a fun way to give back to your faithful customers. Games, food, and prizes for customers and employees make for a fun year-end event.

Send out a holiday email to all of your customers inviting them to the event. Do this with enough time in advance for them to be able to commit, and to get a headcount to ensure yours is a COVID-safe gathering

Still uncertain about public gatherings? You can also hold an outdoor event, like a Christmas fun run. Donate entry fees to local charities, or to fund a food drive. 

Do a Customer Spotlight

Use your social media to showcase your favorite and most loyal customers. Not only does this demonstrate your appreciation for them, but it makes them feel proud to do business with you.

Want to go above and beyond? With each customer spotlight, you can offer another reward, like a free checkup. This will incentivize the customer to take part in the spotlight and come back for another appointment.

Social media is a natural ally of word-of-mouth marketing. Post about your holiday events, and encourage customers to spread the word.

Form a Partnership

Is there another brand like yours that your customers just can’t live without? Form a partnership to add value for your and your potential partner’s customers.

For example, let’s say you operate a massage therapy practice. Your regular customers love to go to you to relax, especially after getting in a hard workout at the gym. If so, partner with local fitness facilities. Perhaps membership holders can get a discounted price on appointments with you and vice versa. 

Orchestrate a Contest

If your resources are spread thin thanks to COVID-19, concentrate your efforts to give back in a single activity. A holiday contest can boost customer engagement while showing your intentions to give back, all while limiting the dollar cost of your campaign.

Entries can be taken either online or through physical appointments. Contest prizes can be purchased, but you should also see if a sponsor of yours would provide an in-kind donation or two. Regardless, make sure it’s something that your customers will actually want. 

Giving back is what the holidays are all about. Do your part. Support your customers this season, and you both will feel the joy of Christmas.

9 Gadgets to Warm Up Your Waiting Room

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How to Handle Appointment Scheduling When Schedules Change

While some people love winter, no one enjoys being cold. Customers who are freezing in your waiting room won’t be very happy during their visit. And if they’re not happy with their visit, they aren’t likely to come back. 

Although it might sound like a small consideration, it means a lot to your customers: Keep your waiting room warm and toasty. If your HVAC system isn’t up to the task, these gadgets can go the distance:

1. Smart Thermostat

The No.1 problem with keeping a waiting room warm is the constant opening and closing of doors. Each new customer brings with them a chilly breeze, preventing those already in the room from getting comfortable. You can solve this dilemma with a smart thermostat. 

A smart thermostat sense uses predictive technology to crank up or down the heat. Yours might signal to your HVAC unit that it should preheat the office at 9 a.m. to account for how frequently your front door opens. To save money, you can lower the office temperature when people aren’t there, perhaps from 5 p.m. until the next morning. 

2. Space Heater

Remember how your family kept that back bedroom warm in the winter? A small space heater can make even the chilliest of offices comfortable.

Space heaters come in many shapes, sizes, and price ranges. Do your research to find the right one for your waiting room. Smaller waiting rooms can get away with smaller heaters. Rooms that are larger or draftier, or have doors that are constantly opening and closing, may need a larger model. 

3. Electric Fireplace

Why not take the power of a space heater and add some holiday flair? An electric fireplace provides a cozy atmosphere that creates psychological comfort as well as actual heat. 

The one drawback to an electric fireplace is that it requires more setup than a standard space heater. You can’t just plug a fireplace into the nearest outlet and call it good. 

Look for a place where a fireplace would be appealing. If you buy a wall-mounted unit, pay for professional installation. Not only will doing so save you a lot of work, but it will reduce the risk of fire. 

4. Hot Chocolate Machine

Some days are so cold you need to warm yourself from the inside out. When layers of clothes and space heaters just won’t cut it, a mug of hot chocolate will do the trick. This delicious solution can liven up any waiting room. 

When installing a hot chocolate machine in your lobby, be sure to keep COVID-19 in mind. Use disposable cups. Clean the area as frequently as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. 

5. Draft Stoppers

Even when your company’s doors are closed, chilly air can still slip through the cracks. Stopping those winter winds will keep everything inside warm while cutting your heating bills down to size.

Best of all, draft stoppers are easy to install. A simple door skirt takes only five nails and five minutes to attach. A crack-sealing foam takes all of 30 seconds to spray. Give stoppers and filled cracks a fresh coat of paint to improve their visual appeal. 

6. Heating Pads

Many businesses provide little treats for their customers, like a doctor’s office with a jar full of lollipops. Who’s stopping you from doing the same with hand and feet warmers? Little personal heating pads would make a great addition to your waiting room for those customers who just can’t seem to warm up.

One difference between heating pads and treats is that the latter doesn’t need a warning sign. Encourage customers to be cautious with heating pads, especially on direct skin. Provide towels for them to wrap heating pads in. 

As with any shared office item, be sure to clean heating pads and towels after use. Look for ones that are machine washable to make this easy. 

7. Heated Massagers

A waiting room with a massage chair is an instant winner. Plus, back and feet massagers often come with a heating setting to melt away stress and sore muscles. 

Providing enough massage equipment for a full waiting room can be a tough bill to foot. Consider providing a few and placing a time limit on how long each customer is allowed to use it. That way, every customer gets a chance to de-stress and warm up. 

8. Drying Rack

Snow, hail, and freezing rain leave customers not just cold, but wet as well. Don’t make customers sit in their wet clothes. Provide a rack near the door so they can hang coats and gloves up to dry.

Unlike the massage chair, this is an inexpensive upgrade. If you want to do something unique, offer a shoe-drying station where customers can put their cold, wet feet until their name is called.  

9. Face Masks

This two-for-one solution might already be in place. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many businesses are requiring all customers to wear masks. While their goal is to reduce viral transmission, face masks also provide warmth.

To feed two birds with one scone, provide masks at the entrance of your business for all visitors. Doing so will keep everyone healthy and warm up noses that have been nipped by Jack Frost.

A warm customer is a happy one. Be careful not to bake them, but do make them as comfortable as you can. That way, as soon as they leave your business, they’ll want to go back. 

What to Do When People Show Up Late to Their Appointment

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Try as you might to get customers to arrive on time to their appointments, you’ll always end up with a few stragglers. How you handle these inconveniences says a lot about your culture and customer service. 

Do you let people show up late repeatedly? Do you tear into them for it? Neither are the right approach. Here’s how to handle delays effectively but tactfully:

Ask About the Cause

Confront late customers about what caused them to be late. Was there more traffic than anticipated? Did they simply forget? 

Questions are a soft way to get your message across. Plus, they help you discover trends that cause customers to be late. That way, you can address them across your customer base. 

For example, if you have several customers forget their appointment times in a given month, start sending out more or improved reminder messages. If customers are late because they can’t find your business, add clearer directions to your website and check your location on Google.

Take Care of Timely Customers

Interspersed with your late arrivals will be customers who show up on time. Reward those who adhere to the schedule by serving them promptly. Otherwise, they may feel punished for another customer’s tardiness — and think the tardy customer has been rewarded for their lateness.

Don’t be afraid to swap appointment times. This benefits the customer who showed up on time while still giving the late customer a spot in line. That way, you’re not missing out on revenue or letting bad behavior go uncorrected. 

Give a Fair Warning

No business can afford to deal with chronic tardiness. When you have a customer arrive late, give them an honest warning. This will inform them that repeated tardiness won’t be tolerated. 

Before you do this, make sure you have a late policy in place. An existing policy will hold weight; an in-the-moment approach won’t. Go through the details of your policy together so there’s no question as to whether a late customer understands it. 

The bottom line is, you can’t enforce a rule that doesn’t exist. Establish a policy that’s firm enough to be convincing, but not so strict that it scares customers away.

Issue a Penalty

For late customers to take your policy seriously, it needs to be tied to consequences. You could charge late fees, but a better approach might be to force late arrivals to reschedule. That way, they don’t disrupt your schedule and can’t refuse to pay the price. 

Be firm but fair when issuing a penalty. People who are only late once every couple of months deserve some leniency, but customers who inconvenience your business every time do not.

Remember that you also have a right to refuse service to problem customers. If it’s costing you money to maintain a relationship with a customer who is always late, it may be time to cut ties with them.

Keep Things Moving

A rule of thumb for appointment-based businesses is that customers will respect your time if you respect theirs. If your wait times are long and showing up on time for an appointment does no good, you can’t expect customers to adhere to a strict schedule.

Even when customers show up late, do your best to keep things moving. Show customers that you value their time by being prompt and apologizing for any delays. Look for ways to reduce wait times and improve efficiency so you can hold customers to a higher standard.

Help Them Find a Time That Works

If a customer can’t seem to make a certain time slot work, offer ones that might. They may, in fact, suggest this themselves.

Rescheduling on site ensures that a return appointment is made. Not only does doing so net you recurring revenue, but it’s good customer service. Walking them through available times and inputting information yourself comes across like a favor. 

Cut Appointments Short

If a customer is five minutes late, consider ending their appointment five minutes early. Not only is it fair, but it keeps late arrivals from pushing back other appointments. 

Let’s say you’re a dentist and a patient arrives a half hour late. You have a full waiting room but still want to take care of your customer. You might do a quick clean and then book them another checkup sooner than you otherwise would. 

Send Them Off With a Reminder

Not every late customer is at fault. Neither you nor they can control traffic patterns or stop family emergencies. But you can send customers off with a reminder to leave home a little earlier for their next appointment. 

If your late policy uses a “strikes” system, do this in writing. That way, you can enforce a consequence next time without worrying about the customer claiming they were never warned. 

The reality is, you’ll never completely eliminate late arrivals. But don’t let “good” be the enemy of “perfect.” Help your customers be on time, and many of them will discover that being late doesn’t benefit anyone. 

9 Courtesies Every Customer Will Appreciate

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Getting customers to make return appointments is just as important as attracting them in the first place. Just look at the numbers: It can cost up to five times more to acquire a new customer compared to retaining one you already have. 

The question now is, how do you keep customers coming back? The way you treat them during appointments plays a big role. Here are nine appointment etiquette tips you can use to improve your customer retention:

1. Keep Appointments On Time

Businesses always stress the need for customers to arrive on time to their appointments. Remember, this is a two-way street:

Do your best to keep overtime appointments to a minimum. If a customer shows up early and is forced to wait later than their appointment time, they’ll wonder why they bothered to arrive when they did. 

Appointments run long for all sorts of different reasons. Perhaps your default appointment duration is too short. Maybe it’s time to hire another employee. Poor communication between the front- and back-office staff could be to blame.

If appointments do run long, don’t rush your customers. Simply do your best to keep things moving, apologize for their wait, and make it right for next time.

2. Remember Names and Personal Details

Your customers are more than just statistics and dollar signs. Make an effort to connect with them as soon as they walk in your door. 

A simple way to do this is by remembering their names. Referring to customers by name breaks down emotional barriers they may have. 

If need be, pull up their chart in advance to refresh your memory. Record personal tidbits they tell you, such as their job or their hobbies, so you can better connect on subsequent visits. And remember, a friendly smile goes a long way. 

3. Engage With Every Customer

A friendly “hello” is not enough to keep a customer coming back. Engage in small talk with every customer.

Don’t expect customers to be the ones to strike up the conversation. Have talking points in your back pocket, such as what’s going on around town or the backstory behind a piece of art on your wall. 

Just as important as engaging with customers is knowing when to hold back. Don’t be rude, but do realize some customers prefer peace and quiet. Read their body language to know whether or not they want to continue the conversation.

4. Be Casual but Professional

Customer relationships, no matter how strong, are different than friendships. While casual conversation can help them feel at ease, don’t make the mistake of confusing casual with unprofessional.

Remember, you represent your company. Act unprofessionally, and they’ll opt to go elsewhere.

Never gossip about your employees or other customers. Don’t act rude or childish, even if you’re having a bad day. Steer clear of conversations about religion and politics, even if you know they agree with you. 

5. Send Reminders

Life gets busy, especially in 2020. Even if a customer has booked an appointment, there’s a chance they’ve forgotten about it. 

The day of the appointment, send them a reminder email or text. Invite them to respond with questions, change their appointment, or hop on the phone. 

While you don’t want to discourage anyone from attending their appointment, most people want to uphold their commitments. Even if a customer does need to cancel, they’ll be more likely to come back if you handle the process efficiently and with grace. 

6. Keep a Clean Space

Nobody wants to sit in a filthy waiting room or use a crusty old bathroom. Keep your office space neat and tidy, and it won’t scare customers away.

Go the extra mile: Once your space is spic and span, you can add amenities, such as a kids’ play area or a coffee bar. When in doubt, ask your customers what they need to be comfortable while they wait.

7. Focus on the Job

No matter how friendly you are, the truth is that your customers do business with you because you get the job done. In customers’ minds, quality service always beats bells and whistles.

Check in at least quarterly with every team member to ensure that they understand their role. Double down on your training processes, even for veteran employees. 

While your employees are on the clock, make sure they’re focused on their work. Post guidelines about inappropriate uses of company time, such as personal cell phone use. Implement consequences for repeat offenders. 

8. Ask for Feedback

Ask your customers: How was their experience? What did they like about it, and what could you have done better?

Even if someone is blown away by your service, they’ll appreciate your thirst to improve. And someone who’s totally dissatisfied may be brought back by a promise to act on their feedback. 

What’s important is that you actually make changes your customers suggest. Feedback shouldn’t be a formality. If you can’t implement something, explain why and thank the customer for their input. 

9. Be Transparent

Be honest and overly communicative with your customers. If you ask for their personal information, let them know why you need it. If they don’t actually need a service they think they do, tell them that. 

Beware that customers can be unforgiving. If they feel that you weren’t fully transparent with them, they may not give you a chance to make it right. The bottom line is, not all customers will come back for more. But if you practice these courtesies, you’ll be surprised at just how many of them do.

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