In a time long ago, there was a business, you may have heard of it, called Blockbuster Video. I worked there as a Shift Leader when I was younger, and it was a glorious time. Customers would wrap around the store despite often obscene Iowa weather conditions; risking their lives to rent the latest Nicolas Cage release. We had a relative monopoly on home movie viewing, and business was booming.

Before we knew it, Netflix and Redbox entered the market and things took a turn. Customers now had choices that involved movies or video games being conveniently shipped to them or located at a “box” just down the street. All this at similar or lower prices than what Blockbuster was offering. Even better? Late fees didn’t cost customers their last paycheck.

Blockbuster customers needed more convenience and flexibility, and they were ignored until it was too late. Enter Redbox. What was once a glut of unused Coinstar machines was now an army of conveniently located, ultra-low-priced DVD and video game dispensing robots. Blockbuster shifted to a reactive pricing strategy and was too late to innovate. The rest is history.

To run a thriving business, you need to not only meet or exceed clients’ expectations, but also anticipate them. But how do you even know what your customers’ expectations are? Your customers’ expectations are probably changing just as rapidly as improvements in technology. It can get overwhelming very quickly. But fear not, as I have created this handy guide to save you from the fate of becoming the next cautionary tale.

1. Customers Want Clear Pricing

If you don’t currently show prices on your website, take a look at your bounce rates in Analytics and see how that’s working out for you. People use the internet to shop around and compare. If your competitors show prices, that means you may not even be in the running. If your competitors don’t show prices, you just found an easy way to put your business at the front of the pack.

Make sure to think beyond the Google & Bing search engine results page when gauging the competition.  Even the typically hard to price home services industry is seeing some competition from Amazon Home Services, where customers can easily see prices for services like home cleaning, nest installation, pressure washing, and more.

Another benefit of showing prices on your website is the ability to integrate the prices into your advertising strategy as differentiators.

2. Customers Want Fair Pricing

Fees. Nobody likes fees. They imply that there is a choice involved in upgrading a service or product. Things can go awry with fees when they are not a choice or when people are charged for something often considered to be included with a purchase.

Fees are the easiest way to rack up shopping cart bounce rates or bad reviews. If a customer asks for an extra side of ranch, in their mind, your salad’s original recipe is dry, and they are trying to remedy the situation with additional dressing. Take this as valuable feedback. Don’t make the situation worse by charging an additional $.50 fee for the dressing. If you get enough requests, adjust the recipe and the base price of the salad. Again, pay attention to your analytics.

Some Guidelines When Working with Fees:

Be reasonable, don’t be petty.

  • Example: Charge extra for double meat, don’t charge extra for a side of dressing.

Don’t charge additional fees for mandatory items or services. Adjust your base price instead.

  • Example: Disposal of oil is mandatory with the oil change, so roll that into the price.

If your clients wind up with a bill full of fees, consider pre-priced packages to make shopping easier.

  • Example: Instead of charging for carpet + install + furniture moving + pad, price it out per room.

3. Customers Want a Good Reason to Hand Over Their Personal Info

My college website design professor used a dating analogy to illustrate this conundrum. With dating, if one person in the relationship wants to take things slow and get to know their date, while the other person immediately jumps to talking about marriage and babies, it’s going to send up a bunch of red flags. This is how your customers feel when you ask for a bunch of personal information from them before they get a chance to even decide how they feel about your products or services. It triggers unnecessary red flags. Common pitfalls to avoid include:

  • Pop ups on a website that request personal information before being allowed to view the information necessary in making a purchase decision.
  • Asking for personal information from customers when they call your business “in case the call gets dropped” before asking about why they are calling.
  • Aggressive call to actions on items or services that typically require a longer decision funnel. Instead of BUY NOW, try a less threatening “Schedule A Demo” or “Schedule A Tour.”
  • Asking for more info than what is absolutely necessary on form fills.
  • Minimal website content in hopes of getting customers on the phone instead.

4. Customers Want to Make an Appointment & Give You Their Money

If a tree falls in the woods but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? When someone calls in to your business, are they able to talk to someone? If they visit your e-commerce website, are they able to complete a purchase? If you’re spending money on marketing but no one is there to answer the phone, or a customer can’t complete a desired action, it’s time to re-evaluate. People are busy, they are going to drop you like a hot potato for your competitor if you’re not there when they need you.

Do you have a brick and mortar business? Well, long lines and lack of parking are also a bummer. These are common complaints I see on Yelp. Make sure you’re staffed appropriately and that you either have some designated parking spots or clear directions on your website on where your customers can find easy parking.

5. Put Yourself in Your Competitors’ Shoes

Think about any weak spots your competitors could capitalize on. Is your website slow? Are there too many steps in the “conversion funnel” that cause people to leave your site? Are you too hands on (or off) with your customers? Is your customer service uninformed or slow to react? Your competitors opened their business with a competitive advantage in mind, and it may have been to exploit a pain point in your business if you were established first.

If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, an excellent place to check is your reviews. While some negative reviews may be unreasonable or circumstantial, consider if there is anything that can be altered in your messaging and communication to set clear expectations. Don’t shy away from using this as an opportunity to convey the value of your products or services.

Bonus Tip: Get A Secret Shopper

Once you’re confident that you’ve tackled Tips 1-5, it’s time to call up a best friend or auntie. Better yet, a sibling if you have one. Whoever is most comfortable giving you brutally honest feedback. Have them complete the “buying cycle” from start to finish and provide you with the same feedback they’d give a stranger’s business on a long-winded Yelp review. A handy list of secret shopping questions can be found here.

The Big Picture

There are all different kinds of people in the world, and these tips will help your business to appeal to everyone. Even if you happen to have a relative monopoly in your area, bad reviews can still deter paying customers, and just because you are the only game in town now doesn’t mean that it will be that way forever. Utilizing this checklist is a great way to future-proof your business.

Plus, it feels fantastic to run a business that customers rave about. At Zion & Zion, we take great pride in delivering stellar results for our clients. We go above and beyond traditional marketing by looking at the big picture—case studies, seasonal trends, you name it! That’s why we find our clients often referring other businesses to us. If you need help getting your business noticed by the right customers, give Zion & Zion a call.