What Customer Experience Perks Might You Be Missing?

Having a great product or service, and a strong business model is naturally a fantastic starting point on the road to success. However, when all’s said and done, it is your customers that truly dictate whether your brand will succeed or fail. As such, it is vital to ensure that not only are you delivering what you advertise, but that it is accompanied by great service, and a stellar customer experience.

This can go beyond the expected responsiveness, accountability, and recognition that is generally expected of businesses. In fact, to stand out and truly win the appreciation of your audience, it helps to go the extra mile and offer additional perks to those who support your business. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Recommended reading: How To Improve Customer Experience When You Provide Services Online.

Loyalty Schemes

Many brands introduce loyalty and referral programs to reward those customers who not only support the business, but do so over a prolonged period, or bring other customers to the business. Rewards can take many forms, including products, discounts, or often, points that can be used towards future purchases.

The other benefit of this perk is that to participate, users are generally required to sign up on your website, or via an application. This means you gain valuable lead data, and potentially the opportunity to reach out to that individual with email marketing or push notifications.

The provision of meaningful rewards also acts as a form of exclusivity marketing, which strengthens the relationship between your brand and its customers, and reinforces the sense that your brand cares about their needs.

Customer Input

Allowing your customers to have a genuine impact on the decisions your brand makes can be very valuable. After all, they love your products, and they want to become part of the journey. Pay attention to their feedback, and give them to opportunity to offer suggestions, vote on future products, and provide opinions on design ideas.

A great example of this is Squishable; they have an ongoing voting system for future toys, so customers can vote for the designs they would like to see made next. Not only does this make their customers feel valued, it also increases the chance of future purchases, as many of those who vote for a winning product will also return to buy it once it has been made.

Personalized Accounts

Once someone signs up to your account, it is important to make it meaningful. If nothing changes, then it can feel a little disappointing. 75% of customers like brands to use personalization and you can use it to give your customers a more unique shopping experience; something as simple as a personalized greeting when they sign in can help to build familiarity with customers, and make them feel more connected to your brand.

Over time the data you collect about their buying habits and preferences will enable you to deliver more targeted marketing communications and recommendations, which will ultimate deliver a more valuable and impactful customer experience.

Personalized accounts also make it easier for customers to track their order history, learn about products related to their favorites, and to manage loyalty schemes and referrals. This ease of use is incredibly valuable as accessibility is essential if you want customers to stick around and explore your website.

Exclusive Content

Everyone enjoys a little exclusivity, which is why perks that are only available to specific groups are often so popular. Consider having an area of your website that is only available to those who sign up. They get the benefit of seeing content that is inaccessible to others, and you gain a new subscriber.

The same applies to your other marketing efforts. Time-limited discounts, and exclusive offers can be included in your adverts, marketing emails, and similar media, giving individuals the chance to capitalize on a deal that others may never hear about.

You can even encourage the use of user-generated content, and the formation of smaller communities within your audience, via forums or Facebook Groups. This can foster fruitful discussion between like-minded individuals, and inspire others to interact with your brand upon seeing the positivity generated within these groups.

Follow-Up Messages

Having an automated email system for handling purchases and keeping customers informed is a popular choice. It saves a lot of time and ensures that customers know what’s going on with their order, when to expect it, and whether their payment has been processed correctly.

However, there is more you can do with this facet of your business. Why not follow up with an email that expresses gratitude for their purchase, or even offers an incentive, such as a discount, to make a future purchase?

Similarly, you can follow up with former customers to encourage them to return to your website. If used sparingly, and with the inclusion of some useful content or a great offer, this can be a powerful re-engagement and retention strategy. By reaching out in a meaningful way, you make customers feel appreciated, and add a personal touch to your marketing efforts.

Customer experience thank you

There is no single winning strategy for optimizing the customer experience. In fact, the best way to score points with your customers is to do something a little different. Find out what sort of perks will appeal the most to your core demographics, and build your ideas around this knowledge. Just remember to add your own personal spin, so you are able to offer something that feels exclusive and unique.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to provide great perks for your customers. Something as simple as a personalized thank you note can mean a lot, and may even earn you some free advertising, if customers decide to share them on social media.

Whatever you decide to do, make it memorable and meaningful, and you will soon see the benefits of your commitment to providing a positive experience to your customers.

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Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she tackles how brands can use marketing tools to make a greater connection with their customers.

Business Record Keeping For Entrepreneurs

No one finds accounts and business record keeping very fun. Unless you’re an accountant, record keeping will probably feel tedious, complicated and time consuming. A recent survey of small business owners found it was the second biggest time-wasting annoyance they have – after email.

But, we also know just how important it is to keep records too. If you lose key records, or don’t ever store them, it may well come back to haunt you. If you can’t prove certain expenses you might have to pay the IRS (or the tax service in your country) more in taxes, or could even end up with a fine if you fail an audit.

Record keeping is therefore sensible. So, what kinds of records do you need to keep?

Records That Entrepreneurs Should Keep

Any small business must keep the following two types of common records:

1. Income
You must keep a record of all income (profits and losses) the business generates. At the most basic, this should be kept in a spreadsheet, detailing how much the income was, what date it was logged and who the client was (there are also many accounting tools out there that make this process a lot easier).

You would also be wise to keep a record of all the invoices you’ve sent your customers, as proof of business. It’s wise to separate your invoices into separate folders for your different customers, and update these each time you complete a piece of work.

2. Receipts
You need to keep a copy of all your receipts, so you can accurately claim expenses on your annual tax return. This includes all bills related to your property, spending on equipment, goods or even lunch when you’re meeting clients to discuss business.

By keeping a record of all your income and receipts, you know that, once it comes to paying your tax, you will be able to easily access all the information you need.
At a minimum, you need to keep these records for at least three years, although in some cases it’s wise to keep them longer (read more on the IRS’s website here).

Why Should Entrepreneurs Keep Records?

Besides basic obligations for when you file your taxes, there are several other major benefits of keeping all your records. These include:

  • View business progress
    By keeping records of income, you can view the business’s financial health over time. Hopefully, you’ll be able to plot a continual upward chart of income and profits – but it will also tell you if there are any problems.
  • Identify sources of income
    The greater the variety of services you offer, and the more customers you have, it can be hard to work out where money actually comes from.
    For instance, if you have 20 products and 60 customers, it can be difficult to think strategically and decide which products or services bring you most value – and which customers are the most important. However, if you keep consistent records, you might decide that 10 of your products bring so little income that you may as well stop offering them, and focus instead on the higher paying work.
  • Remember deductible expenses
    Remember that table you bought for the office 11 months ago? Or the lunch you had with a new client last June? Many business owners short-change themselves by forgetting to state all the expenses they could claim on their tax return. Keeping all your records makes it ess likely you’ll forget, so you can claim the tax back on expenses.
  • Prove your finances to banks or investors
    If you go to a bank for a loan, they will expect to see proof of your cash flow and financial stability. Records help you prove that your business is financially sound.

How Can Your Business Track Records?

Many small businesses use some form of accounting software to log all their transactions, and this helps them work out their tax bills. Alternatively, that kind of technology might not be right for your business, and simply keeping all your financial data in a series of spreadsheets will be enough.

Whatever approach you choose, you also need to keep other documents – such as invoices – in a central place, and most firms now opt for a customer relationship manager (CRM) where they can accurately track all information they hold on customers, and all the services those customers paid for.

Once your record keeping practices are in place, you’ll be able to focus more of your attention on growing your business, and less time on paper work!

Are you pricing your online services right?

Many entrepreneurs say that one of their biggest early mistakes when launching their business was pricing their offering too low. When you’re starting out, it can be tempting to try and draw new customers in with low prices. But, this can be a deadly mistake, meaning you never earn enough to get yourself off the ground.

But when you’re selling an intangible service, it’s often very difficult to work out how much it should cost. There’s no secret formula here, but the following tips can help you make a good estimate.

Work Out Your Hourly Rate

Your hourly rate can be an effective way of charging for services. To estimate your hourly rate, you need to decide what you want the business to turn over each year.

If your target is $100,000, you need to account for all your business expenses, including salaries, overheads and tax. Then, decide how many hours you will work each week, and minus any holiday.

This calculation should help you work out roughly what your hourly rate will be. Try not to be overly optimistic here, and remember that as a solopreneur you will often spend at least a few hours every week on non-productive work, like invoicing and accounts.

Fixed Price

Charging a fixed price for your service has positives and negatives. If you end up taking longer than expected to do the work, you might be short-changed. On the other hand, as you get more experience, you will be able to complete the job a lot faster, making the business more profitable.

Competitor Prices

You shouldn’t focus too much on your competitors’ pricing (after all, you want customers to see you as unique, not low cost), but it’s worth keeping in mind roughly what others in your space charge for similar services. If, for instance, your competitors all raise their prices, you could be doing yourself a disservice by staying cheap.

Perceived Value

In the end, people will pay what they feel is a fair price. You therefore need to do some market research to get an idea of what people are really willing to pay for your kind of service and what the market can take on.