29th January 2009

Innovate to get consumers to spend

With all of the horror stories of recession and retrenchments going around, it's no wonder conversations are regularly turning to how many businesses will survive the next year or two.

As mentioned in the last edition of Lending News, the scholars and commentators are undecided on what the future will hold. All we know is someone will be right. Anecdotal reports spell doom and gloom. Suburban shopping centres are the quietest they've been in years. Businesses are preparing for life on a knife-edge.

It's true that the economy is slowing and caution has replaced excess. But it's worth remembering that the economy is not grinding to a halt. Plenty of consumers still have money in their pockets. They're just choosing not to spend it.

So how do you get consumers to spend?

Get innovative around customer service.

Now more than ever, businesses should be thinking about how to impress customers and win their loyalty. Developing some sort of relationship between the business owner/employee and the customer works every time.

So how do you do it?

Here are some tips:

1. Welcome the customer - Shop assistants or staff seem to think a quick hello when a customer walks into the business or calls on the phone, is their job done. It's not. Follow up by asking the customer whether they've been in or used the company before. If not -

2. Tell your story - Explain why you started the business, what's behind the name of the business, why you sell what you do. Every product should have a story - if a customer shows an interest in a product, for example, explain why that one is the best of its kind, perhaps where it came from.

3. Make sure your staff tell your story - There's nothing worse than a disinterested employee. They are the face of your business. If your employees know your story and they think it's special they will want to tell it.

4. Sweeten the deal - It's all well and good to build a rapport with customers, but give them a sweetener that will see them convert their interest into a sale. For example, offer them a discount on two of your products, or offer to make an appointment for them at a time more convenient to them, out of your usual hours.

You may not see the value in improving customer service. But if you truly want to give your business the best chance when times are tough, go the extra mile. After all, how much does customer service cost? Nothing.

Best regards
Iain Pepper


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Iain Pepper
Head of Lending

Iain Pepper is a Vice-President and the Head of Lending for the La Trobe Group.Read full profile here.

La Trobe is one of Australia's leading independent specialist mortgage Financiers. Its business includes residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, and investment services operating one of Australia's largest Mortgage Funds under AFSL 222213. It employs over 145 staff and has raised over AUD$10Billion to assist over 100,000 customers since inception in 1952.

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