By Zohaib Akhlaq

Whether you have successfully been running your business for quite some time or you are thinking of starting a new one, there are always strategies that can help you improve your business by minimizing the risk and maximizing the success rate. Here are the five most valuable lessons that you can integrate in your strategy for reaping the best results possible.

1. Know Your Audience

The first step to creating a positive customer experience is to knowing, who your customer base is. Without customer feedback you are doomed to make mistakes and not even realize it.

One way to key in on consumer needs is through the use of social media. Having a social media presence is great for marketing but it is also great for research. Sites like Facebook and Twitter give customers a voice. Many consumers have taken to using these services as a way to spread opinion about businesses. Don’t let their opinions fall on deaf ears, they are a valuable resource in building a loyal customer base.

2. Develop Relationships

With so much competition it can be hard to stand out. One way of bringing in repeat customers and reaching out to new customers is to build a personal connection with customers.

Making sure your team is also more than just courteous but genuinely friendly and interested in clientele is paramount in leaving a good impression. When your team knows a customer by name and knows how to cater to their personal needs it facilitates a fluid transaction and repeat patronage. Don’t get bogged down in details. Understand that customers are people too and kindness goes a long way to improving customer-merchant relationships.

3. Fulfill Expectations

Advertising is important. It gets customers in your store. But advertising is nothing if it isn’t backed up by reality. Overselling your products and deceiving your customers isn’t the best way to grow your business.

Honesty should be applied in all parts of your advertising. From signage in your store to your “about us” page on your website, you should represent your business honestly. There is nothing worst for a customer than expecting a deal and having the rug pulled out from under them.

As you continue to meet expectations of your customers your reputation will gain notoriety. Make sure to track customer support using social media and customer reviews as mentioned in step 1.

4. Reduce Wait Times

There is nothing worse than a long line. In the past ten years, time has become more valuable. Americans today work longer, more varied hours. With fewer non-working hours customers have placed a much greater value on their free time. With any business there are many ways a transaction is slowed.

It is important to understand how many employees are needed to properly handle customer traffic. Understaffing is one of the biggest reasons for slow service. As a business owner it is important to track average wait times in terms of how many employees are on the clock. Tracking this data can be difficult and time consuming so it is best to use Point of Sales systems or Customer Management Systems that can do it for you.

The payment process can be another bottleneck for service. Switching between different payment types can be cumbersome for employees and confusing for customers. Businesses can streamline these interactions by training staff to have a standard procedure for certain interactions. When employees know what to expect they are more equipped to speed up transactions. It is also important to make any customer interfaces (such as credit card machines) as simple and recognizable as possible.

The more roadblocks and gateways a customer has during the purchase process the more likely they will not buy or not return.

5. Don’t Imitate

Competition is steep. Today’s business market is a battlefield filled with merchants vying for customers. It is easy to look at a major competitor and imitate their business model. Although this can be beneficial at times it will never take your business to the next level. To bring your business to the forefront of the market it is important to innovate.

Many business owners are intimidated by change. The old adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is the path of least resistance that will ultimately leave your business behind your competitors. Technology is developing at a rapid pace and is beginning to revolutionize the marketplace. “Innovation” is the hot buzzword of the past decade for a reason.