Human Connect in a small business

Let me tell you a small story of a customer experience of a friend when she dealt with a home baker in Delhi, which is a small business and received some good reviews on social media. She called up the home baker requesting for a special birthday cake for a family member. Even though she had a few ideas on the kind of cake, she still wanted some inputs and help from the expert baker (apparently a baking expert as per their social media handles). During the call, the owner was completely distracted and did not really pay heed to her request and questions, so instead advised the customer to continue the conversation on Whats app because she was too busy to talk, before one could even react the phone was disconnected . Seriously?? Do you tell customers do not talk to me but whats app me to order a customized cake and mention your requirements. One might say that my friend could have simply taken her requirement elsewhere. But well, she chose to stay on with this baker because of the rave product reviews. While clenching her teeth, she started typing the requirements on whats app. After typing it, the baker simply said ‘ you know, Just go with our popular chocolate cake and it fits your bill exactly.’ Errr… she was hoping that bakers are supposed to be creative and enthusiastic about a customizing an order, giving options for a customer and making them feel really happy. But nope, not this one, the baker simply wanted to make things easier for herself and make mass chocolate cakes rather than put in some thought and work into a new type of cake for a new customer. She ordered that anyway, because of lack of time and as laziness! The final nail in the coffin was when she was made to wait outside the shop to collect her order and her request to meet the owner, is declined because ‘Nope, the owner is busy to meet people, so just pay for the cake and get going.’ This is the exact sequence of events that happened to my friend. My first reaction to her was ‘you are a fool to tolerate such an unprofessional behaviour, when there are so many choices in the market.’

Keeping aside what my friend should or should not have done, the point that I am trying to make here is where did all the good old fashioned customer service, customer is King or even a simple human touch etc go? In this instance, the baker has not only lost one but more customers. How? because like it or not, word of mouth, especially a bad experience with a product or service spreads like wildfire. Somewhere down the line, it will have an impact on your business and not in a good way. Below are some of my observations-:

1. Needs identification: A customer needs to be given a patient ear whether via phone, in person or text. The customer has come to you for a solution to his/her problem, so you need to genuinely show concern and help them out. In fact, business should go one step ahead and identify any other need that might have been overlooked by the customer. Like in my friend’s case, the owner who is a one-person show did not care to listent to her. If you are swamped with work, hire people who can listen to your customers and help.

2. Needs go unfulfilled: If a customer feels that their needs are not being met and that you are simply trying to thrust your ‘popular’ or ‘high priced’ product, then you are going to lose that customer for sure. In my friend’s case, if I were in her place I would have gone to some other baker who would have given me what I want rather than what the baker wants. The business should at least tell me that what I want cannot be done, so go try somewhere else. A customer would appreciate honesty rather than swindling him/her.

3. Word of mouth spreads like a wildfire: As a business owner, we all know that a bad experience is splashed all across social media and of course we tell all our near and dear ones to never patronize the place. I for one, would never approach that baker for anything and would tell this story to people I know.

4. Decline of Repeat purchase: My friend made that one purchase and swore never to go back again. There you go, lost a customer forever. Good and honest customer service keeps people coming back for more and they would not mind paying extra for your products or service because they feel valued. The cost to retain a customer is lesser than attracting a new one. In my friend’s case, had the baker invested time, believe me my friend would have been a loyal customer and referred a few more. It is a win-win situation!

5. Human connection: I seriously think the new generation of business owners need a course on emotional intelligence and how to interact with people. If a customer of mine wanted to meet me, I would definately stop everything I am doing so that I can meet them, smile, make them feel good and thank them for being my customer. As a small business owner, I have an advantage to give that human touch my service or product which is getting tougher with the rise in online shopping.

Lastly, treat every customer like the most valued customer and more importantly treat people with respect. I am sure if my friend was a big shot celebrity, the baker would have personally delivered the cake to her doorstep. If you are serious about growing your business, these little things do matter and ultimately, if you don’t pay attention to them you will lose out. The choices are galore and competitors are just waiting to latch on to your lost customers. The human connect is and will always be a differentiating factor

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