As a frequent consumer (I won’t say just how frequent!), I can say from my vast shopping experience that there’s nothing worse than when a company makes it difficult to buy something from them. If customers have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get correct information, answers to their questions or to make a purchase, they will likely jump right on through those hoops, straight on over to your competitors. So, make sure that it’s easy for customers to give you money by doing the following:

Train your staff properly.

We’ve all had those nightmare customer service situations where we’re passed back and forth between several agents or have a huge email chain and after much time and energy is spent, still, no one can answer your question or resolve your issue. A colleague recently had this happen as she was inquiring about a five-figure event. After multiple emails and phone calls, her basic questions weren’t able to be answered and inquiries weren’t being followed up on, so she decided to go elsewhere.

This is obviously a huge loss for the company for just this one event, but it has even bigger repercussions of future customer loss, as they miss out on the exposure from event attendees at their venue, as well as when she conveys her bad experience to others. And, in the age of social media, if she takes her bad experience online, that can have a worldwide negative impact on the business.

To avoid this, train your staff about your business! It sounds simple, but if your staff doesn’t really understand the products or services that you offer and all that they are operating off of is a stock template, you are just going to frustrate potential customers and drive them to your competitors. Systems are important, but empower your employees and give them the flexibility to quickly and correctly answer your customers directly and resolve any potential issues during that first contact. And, make sure that following up is a company-wide protocol. Passing customers from department to department (or not responding at all!) is a surefire way to lose them.

Keep your website up to date.

There is nothing worse than going to a website to find old, incomplete or incorrect information. In this day and age, there is no excuse to not make your product/service information easily available to your customers via your website. Make sure that it is updated regularly, that all information is correct and consistent with your marketing materials and that it is easy to navigate with clear calls to action. Frequently check your forms and contact pages, as well, to make sure that everything is working properly.

If you do this, it will free up your customer service to deal with real customer service issues that arise and allow your customers that are just seeking information to avoid the customer service rigmarole altogether.

Also, if you have a web store, check it frequently from the front and back end to make sure that it is working as it should be, that inventory is tracking properly and that nothing is falling through the cracks. I’ve personally had many of my orders goes through, only to find out that the item I bought is out-of-stock. I’ve even had to notify the company to refund me, rather than them be proactive about it, which is a huge no-no and will sour the customer from ever making future purchases.

Collect (and use!) real customer feedback.

Nobody likes change, particularly your actual customers that are accustomed to your current business practices. But, change is essential for any successful business. So, make that change as painless as possible for your customer base by getting their feedback, including them in the process and being upfront about it.

Often, your staff, as well as the people that you hire to implement a new technology, update your shopping cart or program aren’t actually your customers and don’t interface with your business in the same way that a customer would. So, be mindful of your customer base when making modifications and include customer feedback into the process at all steps- before, during and after any changes are implemented. Otherwise, your new technologies, enhancements and improvements may actually inconvenience your customers, make things more difficult and cause them to go elsewhere.