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The Value of Trendwatching

Today’s trends show us how to get started now to redefine great customer service for 2015 and beyond.

By Marshall Dirks, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, Proven Winners®

Marshall Dirks, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, Proven Winners®

Every year, top marketing organizations report the trends they see, and while many of those are proved wrong, many also are proved right. 

I regularly track general marketing trends for our industry, and can say that it’s surprising how many of these forecasts really do pinpoint changes in the way our industry operates and how consumers view our products. Anyone who sells in this industry needs to understand what trends the experts see ahead, and how they will affect the industry.

2009 Trends Revisited

I looked back at the trends noted in 2009 and found that several have had a major role in shaping the industry as we know it today. Remember, these trends were forecast soon after the 2008 recession. It was a time of extreme change and uncertainty. Those “old” trends included elements that are very much part of our day-to-day lives now:

  • Urban living — Trends predicted new interest in outdoor gardens, containers, farmers’ markets and products for those living in urban areas.
  • Real-time reviews — Examples we see today include Yelp, Twitter, instant photos of restaurant food, and blogs.
  • Fluxury — Everyday people determine what “luxury” is. Examples today include the popularity of recycled designs and shabby chic. In many cases, anything expensive has become “luxurious.”
  • Tracking & alerting — Onstar and Hertz GPS services are examples of this trend, providing customers with services they want while also collecting data. Text and other mobile alerts for shoppers are other forms of this practice.
  • Embedded generosity — This year’s Icebucket Challenge epitomizes the trend, capturing the imagination and involvement of millions of people.

5 Trends to Redefine Customer Service

Making a customer “feel the love” may be as simple as asking good questions about their gardening needs or finding the right solution to fit them.  Open-ended questions may offer even more information useful to building a long-term customer relationship. Image courtesy of Shutterstock, Inc.

In the same way, 2014’s trends help us anticipate the future and start making changes now.

When I look at today’s trends, they point to five practices that will redefine great customer service in 2015 and beyond. 

1. Feeling loved and connected — Studies show that customers who describe “great” service equate it with feeling loved. It’s more than new technology or delivery by drone — it’s about making a personal connection that the customer feels.

How do we do that?  Just a few great examples are reaching out personally, through face-to-face visits, personal thank you notes, eblasts that are addressed directly to recipients’ names and nametags that show employees’ years of service.

Are you listening to your customers and showing how you respond to their ideas and problems? Can you do something for them to help improve a situation or overcome a limitation? Examples of this include Forever 21’s emergency clothes trunk for travelers with lost bags or Westin Hotel’s running clothes and gear available for borrowing. By promoting this type of response to customer needs, you will go a long way to connecting and building loyalty.

2. Real-time info, on demand — These programs give customers expanded knowledge and services — when they want them. An example now in place is Fiat’s Live Store, which serves as an “online dealership” with experts giving live audio chats, plus real-time video inside or out of vehicles. Live chats seem to be popping up everywhere to offer immediate assistance and answer questions. Can you help your customers this way?

3. Deliver the goods — and more!  Surprise customers with more than they’re expecting.  This could be as simple as adding a packet of candy to an order, or as fancy as Goosecraft Jackets’ practice of hiring delivery couriers to wait while customers try on jackets, returning them directly if they don’t fit, and saving the customers the trouble. 

Taking an extra step and delivering more than expected can be customized to your own business and customers, yet goes the extra mile to add the personal touch for customers.

4. Develop a sixth sense — What information are you missing about your customers? The consumer market is constantly changing and a growing number of people prefer easy gardening solutions, buying online and proactive vendors who educate and anticipate their needs. You can find out more about them by asking open-ended questions like “Tell me about your business or garden,” or “What surprised you about this last season?” Their answers may fill in some knowledge gaps and give you new ideas and opportunities.

5. Reward desired behavior — This never goes out of style! Some establishments are rewarding customers for positive behavior (like not using a phone in a restaurant). But traditional discounts, rewards and thank yous still please customers and grow their loyalty. Recognize those who should be rewarded for their business and make it a point to talk up those rewards.  

All of these practices will help you connect better with customers and keep an eye open for opportunities to grow your business and adapt to the times. 

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