Today’s businesses often follow the trend of providing digital offers to draw in new customers. Reaching out to new and existing customers with promotional offerings is a great way to bring in business … but it is a better way to damage your business if you are not prepared for its volume and impact.


Think about the customer when you turn on promotions to increase your sales. Unless you are looking for a one-time sale only, you must think about the long-term customer experience. Do you have time to waste getting a business to call you back? Then don’t make your customer “wait” to reach you!


Recent experience with online and “real world” businesses has been indicative of how seemingly few businesses understand that the customer experience (how easy it is to do business with you, from the first contact to getting the purchased product or service) will decide which businesses succeed and which ones will close their doors. In any economy—but especially in a struggling economy—you cannot afford to make the buying process an obstacle course for the would-be customer to navigate.


Capacity to Serve and Deliver: What’s Yours? Do you know how many incoming calls your business can handle? What about e-mail inquiries? How long does it take for you to respond? What about scheduling? How complex have you made the scheduling process: Does it take a single five-minute call to reach you and book an appointment? Can your customers order from you or book appointments 24/7?


Most client companies experience customer frustration because of communication issues. If you are not available when you say you will be, don’t respond quickly to return phone calls or emails, or make the customer wait too long to receive a product, chances are that customer will not return… if they make a purchase in the first place. Not to mention how key it is to neither overpromise nor underdeliver, which will have an even greater impact on customer acquisition and retention.


Businesses that go virtual to promote and provide special deals face an additional customer issue: the perception of 24/7 availability. Your new customer who is buying in the virtual world likes convenience, technology, and a customer experience that gives them options as to when and how they communicate with your business. Make a virtual sale and the customer usually has the reasonable expectation that doing business with you in other aspects, including timely responsiveness, will be more 21st century than 20th century. With websites, SaaS (software as a service), and online tools that are providing lower cost alternatives to systems that require big financial commitments upfront, fewer customers are willing to deal with the inconvenience of making multiple attempts to do business with you!


There are many companies making subscription-based tools available to the small business. You can get everything from electronic conferencing services (GoToMeeting, WebEx, etc.) to accounting (QuickBooks Online) to appointment scheduling (GenBook) for monthly or annual fees. For those doing digital deals and needing to increase capacity and accuracy of appointment scheduling, juggle resources, and provide 24/7 access to reach your business, tools like GenBook could potentially make all the difference. In the real and virtual worlds, customers want to be able to do business with you when it is convenient for them. They may not be able to come in and get a haircut at 2 am, but it is becoming the expectation that at 2 am they could schedule an appointment to get a haircut.


Finding the right tools at the right price to increase customer satisfaction and keep costs under control may just be the difference between successfully capturing that first time customer that comes in via an online promotion, or simply being the “deal of a lifetime” in which you get the customer once and then pass them onto your competition, who is doing things that make it easier to do business with them.


Don’t lose your customers by putting up barriers between them and you. Make it easy for them to connect with you in the real world and virtually. The happier the customer is from first contact to receiving the “goods,” the happier you will be when you look at your financial results.


Author: Lea A. Strickland, MBA CMA CFM CBM GMC

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