When Life Gives You Lemons: Sometimes Negative Feedback Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

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Customer ComplaintsYou know what they say: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Actually, sometimes I get pretty tired of the things “they” say. The Lemonade Way of Life is a pretty Pollyanna view to take when running a business, especially when the lemons life has handed you come in the form of negative customer feedback. It can seem difficult to turn those negatives into a positive.

Good news: There are LOTS of other things to do with lemonade beyond grabbing your pitcher and sugar bowl. Lemons are great for cleaning up kitchen messes and removing odors. It can also cure a sore throat and even create natural blond hair highlights.

All that is to say: Dealing with negative feedback actually can be a boon to your business, if you handle it correctly. But handling these situations well takes grace and nuance, and there are a few things you should keep in mind first.

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Become Indispensable and Watch Your Business Grow

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Success depends on having a growing number of customers and in today’s world where competitors abound and choices of who to buy from are plentiful, businesses have to work harder than ever to attract and keep customers coming back.  As Entrepreneur magazine agrees, “Making your company indispensable is a vital key to marketing success.” In other words, business owners across all sectors need to make building customer loyalty and creating lasting and meaningful relationships with their best customers a top priority.  


By starting with people who’ve bought from you before, you’ve already broken the ice and identified they have a need for a service or product you provide.  The more time you invest in getting to know your customers, their buying patterns, and preferences, the more insights and tools you’ll have to help you create a meaningful and strategic reward incentive program that will bring them back, again and again.  

 

In fact, as Business Week recently reported, studies show that, “68% of customers leave a business relationship because of a perceived attitude of indifference on the part of the company.”  

 

Here are just a few examples of how you can offer special perks to entice your best customers to buy from you again:

Airlines commonly reward their frequent buyers using special customer perks or rewards such as early boarding privileges, fewer baggage limitations, and the ability to upgrade at the last minute to more premium seats. They’ve also gathered important data about their customer base which enables airlines to further distinguish not only who is buying on a regular basis but paying more than average such as business and first class ticket buyers.  This distinction earns even higher rewards such as membership into elite airport clubs and special onboard treatment.

 

Another way to endear customers to you is by providing free services or by allowing them to earn promotional “points” or incentive rewards for every purchase they make.  Designed to encourage repeat purchases, customers accumulate points that can later be cashed in for merchandise or something they value such as special status or recognition, price discounts, or other desirable products and services.

 

You can also make sure your best customers feel valued by ensuring they receive exceptional service every time they make a purchase or interact with your business.  Top service will motivate your patrons to be loyal over time – not because other options don’t exist but because they enjoy the relationship you’ve cultivated and nurtured with them better than those they have with other companies. 

 

 

By rewarding your best customers with best-in-class service and perks they value, you will ensure they feel special and have the motivation and incentive they need to return again and again.

Getting Repeat Business and Keeping It

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I’m not surprised when I drive by a fast food franchise and I see a sign for a new food item plastered on their building.  They usually are illustrated with the additional phrase “For a limited time only” or “While supplies last.”  These delectable additions to the menu seem to draw customers in by the droves, too.

Recently, McDonald’s brought back the McRib Sandwich to the hoots and howls of thousands around the country.  At work, it was hailed as a notable holiday and about a dozen staffers (albeit mostly men) flocked out of our office for a McRib-a-thon.

So, if these mini-campaigns get folks coming into establishments with great frequency and urgency, why don’t they just keep these items on the menu to begin with?

It all comes down to attracting new customers and increasing visits from your current ones. Customer retention programs are nothing new, but you’ll need some fresh thinking.

By altering your product line with a limited-time item, you’re offering an opportunity for current (and perhaps lapsed) customers to renew their interest in your business. Marketing and public relations campaigns can be easily built around these events which profile the flexibility of your offerings. These presentations get etched in a consumer’s mind, prompting them to be more alert to everything else you have to offer.

But wait, if you don’t run a restaurant, what does this mean to you? How do you offer a special burger if you’re selling widgets? Well discounts and sales are the cornerstone activity that can attract attention, but there are a lot of different ways to accomplish business life beyond value.

Think about an approach in terms of a limited-time opportunity.  Bundle your items, implement a BOGO campaign, create a sweepstakes, or take on a sought-after item that’s related to but out of your company’s realm. For instance, last Christmas a swimming pool distributor in suburban Chicago was giving away a remote controlled “air shark” with the purchase of any pool. While it might be a small item in your mind, the dealer moved more than 100 pools in that period before he ran out of “sharks.” That’s three times what he anticipated.

Sure, the economy is the biggest culprit in all of this. But it you can think creatively about repackaging the products you’re selling, even just for a short period, you’ll be getting new folks in the door and bringing your old friends back to the register.

While I passed on the McRib, they got me with that darn Shamrock Shake!

Getting Your Customers To Spend More

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Being in this “dining deals” business makes me hyper aware of all the other deals around me.  Some folks in similar shoes might turn a blind eye to those customer promotional campaigns, seeing that they surround themselves with these deals every day at work.  However, I must be the exception.  I flock to these hot offerings and I’m usually game for the deal.

Actually, as much as I’m calling myself the exception, against the general consumer public, I’m the rule.  Why? Cause shoppers love deals!  It doesn’t matter the offering; I’m checking it out:

“Save 75% on Your Next Purchase!”
“Buy One, Get Two Free!”
“Spend $50, Get a FREE Gift Card”
“Hey John, Buy This Item and We’ll Give You Something More!”

Okay, maybe the last pitch is a stretch, but I know what these retailers are up to.  They are in the business of selling, and giving consumers something additional to encourage an initial sale is incredibly motivating.  People will line up to get a free pair of premium socks with a shoe purchase; a free sports band when you snag an iPod; or free shipping with orders more than $100.

Getting your customers to spend more requires giving them a valid reason to do so.

It’s likely you’re already fully aware of how to run a merchandising schedule that implements seasonal sales. What you might want to do is diversify what the sale is by adding an additional percentage off or premium gift. Many of our Incentive & Loyalty Solution clients use Restaurant.com Gift Cards for this very purpose.

If you’re skeptical, try a rewards incentive program for a limited run and see what the results are. Look at what your competitors are doing to find the niche you might fill with a special lucrative offer.  You might just be surprised what good fortune a twist on a sale brings to you and your business.

Above all else, your customers will spend more when they trust your brand.  Be clear, genuine and simple in your sale offerings.  If you prey on their confidence, you won’t just lose the sale – you’ll lose the customer, perhaps forever.

Your Customer Base: Who Do You Motivate and Who Do You Leave Alone?

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I’m a member of almost every frequent flier program. While I do have preferred airlines, one company that has fallen off my itineraries of late sent me an offer for a free ticket. Why are they rewarding my lack of travel on their planes?

The answer is simple: they want me back.  As much as they want to offer their most loyal travelers the opportunity to enjoy complimentary flights, they’re looking to reignite a relationship with those that have fallen by the wayside.  What better way to do that than a free trip?

Any organization in today’s economy that’s looking at sustainability is not going to be able to get around customer segmentation. Who are your heavy buyers? Who has lapsed? Who offers us the longest lifetime value?

Your future lies in these answers and how well you’ve been able to segment your customers into different groups based on their behavior. You’ll need a good deal of strategic thought into how often you interact with these folks, how you motivate them to interact with your brand, and who falls to the back of the line.

At the end of the day, you can’t treat all of your customers in the same way; there must be a value proposition to recognize those who go to great lengths to use your company. But by no means does this mean you should ignore those infrequent, casual customers. In fact, there’s a great deal of logic in motivating lapsed customers with a special offer.  So, where do you start?

Offer all of your customers an opportunity to join a loyalty system or program that rewards their purchases and allows you to track their lifetime value.  By giving everyone the opportunity from the start, you’re already biasing a future interaction with your business for the better.

Additionally, segment your audience on their frequency of purchase – who is buying the most over the course of a month, quarter or year. Pilot special incentives with subsets of each group and measure their involvement in these campaigns. Then, based on the success of those efforts, you can plan larger-scale campaigns. Record your actions so that over time, you’ve got a history of your work against varying groups.

You’re not going to win everyone over with your offers. But with a little strategy, some time and a good incentive, you’ll be taking greater control of your future success.

Building Customer Relationship Marketing with Social Media Engagement

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Looking for ways to improve your customer relationship marketing? To excel in bringing new customers to your business, you and your employees must learn to effectively take your leads and turn them into clients. It’s a pretty simple formula, but where many businesses lose their overall effectiveness is by not engaging and following up with their customers.

The most important area where a marketing promotion strategy comes into play is when a company successfully engages prospects and takes them from potential clients and turns them into loyal fans of the business. Loyal fans are the best cheerleaders for your company and will often bring in countless numbers of new customers and clients through their word of mouth referrals.

Engaging your prospects and keeping present customers wanting to purchase from you involves providing superior customer service with consistent follow up after the sale. Creating interesting conversations on your company blog or social media site will update clients on the latest information about your product or service, new releases, customer testimonials and reviews. You can also use social media sites as a platform for contests, shared stories, loyalty programs and so much more that leads to active participation by customers and followers of your brand.

Social media engagement is actually where a sale turns into effective customer experience management. How you engage and keep customers involved with your company is a key component of successfully using Facebook, Twitter and other venues to grow relationships with your followers. A potential solution to creating excitement and interest is using incentive awards such as Restaurant.com Gift Cards to reward customer loyalty and win over new clients. Offer them as prizes for online contests or buy one, get gift card free promotions.

Give our team a call today at 877.833.2352 to learn how you can effectively use our incentive program to improve customer relationships and build your brand both online and in the real world.

Keep Clients Coming Back For More

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The pursuit of new customers is a never ending cycle that starts from the moment a business opens its doors until long after it closes each night. While it can often be a tedious and time consuming process, it usually pays off in the end with increased sales and profits. With all the time and resources you put into new customer acquisition, it is important to not waste all your efforts in attracting new customers by turning them into a one-time only purchase.

The best method to dramatically increase sales for your business is to take customers that have already purchased from you and have them buy again. Repeat business and developing long term relationships with clients gives your company successful staying power. Focusing sales efforts on past customers is much easier and less expensive than starting over with obtaining a new one. Past buyers of your products or services have already heard your selling story, experienced using your product and are much more likely to buy from you again as long as they are happy with their initial experience.

Think of past customers as a field of warm prospects just waiting for the harvest. Your sales and customer service staff build client loyalty through how they handle each person’s experience with your company. When your sales force asks for a repeat sale, existing clients are more likely to bring their business back to your company if each contact they had with your business was a good one.

Restaurant.com Gift Cards can help build your customer loyalty program with your existing clients. Giving them just a little extra gift for doing business with you can go a long way in differentiating your business from competitors and keep them coming back again and again. Contact one of our representatives today to learn how to successfully implement customer incentives to encourage repeat sales.

What Amount Should You Allocate for Incentive Programs

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Some companies ask us how much they should be spending on their business incentive programs. However, it is not for us to decide. There are several things you’ll need to take into account before you come up with a budget for the program.

Three factors, generally decide the amount you’ll need to spend on your incentive program:

1.  Number of participants: This factor is pretty self-explanatory. The larger the number of participants your program, the more you’ll need to spend. For instance, a company targeting a consumer base in the millions cannot afford to operate on a budget of a few hundred dollars or even a couple of thousand for that matter.

2.  Length of the program: The longer you run your program, the more you’ll have to spend to keep people aware and the enthusiasm going.

3.  Expected results: Realistically establish your expectations and then decide on a budget.

Define a goal, decide the amount you wish to allocate towards achieving that goal and then get in touch with Restaurant.com for the best results that a gift card program can get you. Not only are our gift card solutions effective, they are also very economically viable. Fill in the Request information form for more details or visit our website.

Grow Business Exponentially With Customer Referrals

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If you want to see your business grow exponentially, then it is time to make a conscious and concerted effort to get referrals from existing clients. As one of the simplest methods for obtaining new clients, it is important to train and focus your sales team’s efforts on asking for referrals each time they make contact with customers.

If a salesperson is cold calling to build up a prospect list, it never hurts to ask for referrals from those he encounters and builds rapport with. Perhaps the prospect is warm to the idea of pursuing a business relationship with your company but might not be ready at that particular point to make a purchase. Because they see value in your products and services and know others that could benefit from your services right now, your salesperson can grow sales just by asking for referrals from the potential customer.

When a new sale is made, your sales representative needs to make sure to ask for a referral right after the contract is signed or product delivered. At this point, customer engagement is at its peak. The client believes in your product and most likely has friends or business associates that they know will benefit from your services as well.

Seeking help from your clients to find new clients is a natural way to build business and solidify vital business relationships. A great way to reward word of mouth advertising efforts and referrals by your existing clientele is by offering customer incentives for their efforts.

Restaurant.com Gift Cards will add value to your client relationship, and if you give them as gifts when clients refer others to your business, you will see customer relationships and sales grow quickly. Submit our request information form online to have one of our representatives contact you about our incentive and loyalty solutions.

Spread The Word: How To Publicize Your Incentive Program

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So, you’ve decided to start an incentive program? Great! You have defined your goal, your audience and your budget? Great! The gift rewards have also been chosen? Great! You are raring to go, so let’s start! Wait a minute. Let’s pedal back a bit. Before you officially start off your incentive program, how are you planning to inform your target group about it?
Communication with the target group is very important for the success of any incentive program.

Here are some commonly used modes of communication:
1.  Letters: While they might seem outdated, people are more caught by letters these days, so they might actually open them and you can use them to inform the participants when you launch the program.

2.  Emails: Emails are a good way to keep your incentive program at the forefront of your participants’ mind. This is especially important if your program is a long one spanning several months.

3.  Social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn and other social networking sites can be easily used to keep your target group abreast with the happenings of the program.

4.  Mass media: You can harness mass media including television and print media if your incentive program targets a wide range of audiences.

 

Remember, that irrespective of which mode of communication you choose, communication by itself is very important if you want your incentive program to succeed.

We hope you’ll pick Restaurant.com Gift Cards for your reward program, just as many other companies have before and continue to do so. To get more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.