If I had a penny for every time I’d heard or read the phrase “we care about our customers” and then be ripped off and left feeling thoroughly un-cared for, well you probably know the rest of the phrase. Admittedly, I work in marketing, which makes me off-the-scale when it comes to cynicism when faced with any marketing technique.
However, thanks to the internet, most consumers are becoming far savvier these days, which means that even if they don’t work in marketing you have to try that little bit harder. Perhaps it’s greater exposure to all kinds of clever marketing tricks or treats that means many no longer believe a word you say. Sometimes, often, it’s better to show than to tell.
Real world businesses, as opposed to the growing online world sector, have some distinct advantages over that virtual world. It’s far easier to show your customers that you care and to gain their trust (this is one thing that any internet retailer would be prepared to sell their soul for). Bars, shops and cafes all have the simple advantage that they get to meet their customers face to face and can make an impact on them in a more direct way. One of the oldest tricks in the marketing book has been adapted to the internet world in the form of twitter and other social networks, to get a conversation going. While innovative new ‘feedback’ solutions such as Twitter can have the real world business feeling left out, there’s really no need. The humble suggestion box, often overlooked, is the original form of Twitter-style feedback and it can still work extremely effectively.
The Suggestion Box – but surely that’s so yesterday
Yes, it is. Very, very, very yesterday. It’s been around for eons; even before actual suggestion boxes were invented it came in the form of a customer saying ‘have you thought of …”. It works on two levels as well. It’s a useful tool for finding out what you’re doing right (or not, as the case may be) and what you could be doing better or what additional services your clientele would like. This latter is important, especially in our restrictive economic climate where any chance to grow should be grabbed with both hands. However the suggestion box can also operate as a marketing tool; a subtle one, but a good one.
Showing you care
Yes, we’re back to that old chestnut the customer service charter and those wild claims that you care what you customer’s think. If you have to write this fact down for all to see there’s a strong chance that you don’t; if people can’t see something in action then no amount of finely crafted well written promises will convince them. The suggestion box may be a little old fashioned but it suggests that you’re interested, that you welcome input and that you are trying. It’s very (subtle) presence says something positive about your attitude and your business and can give people something they love; the chance to stick their oar in.
Two heads are well known for being better than one, although both medical history and mythology do somewhat argue against this idea. However, taking the idea at face value, if two are better than what about ten, fifteen, two hundred and fifty? Many business owners are kept very busy just managing things on a day to day basis and finding time to innovate, or simply come up with ideas, can be put to one side. Two alternatives offer themselves up; call in an in-expensive consultant such as Mary Portas, or a free one like all of your customers. Regulars in particular often like to feel involved in their favourite haunt and the opportunity to shape it offers them the chance to take part, and can be a great source of ideas for you.
A suggestion box can offer a simple route to a range of practical ways to innovate and grow in your business; it can also work to make customers feel involved and, best of all, loved. It’s a simple tool and one small investment that no business should consider being without.