PORTLAND — A new advocacy group wants to make sure that when customers leave a local business, they will be pleased enough with their experience to spread the word.
Or, if they’re unhappy, to give the merchant their feedback, and another chance to come away with a much better impression.
It’s a vision Bruce Wildes of Cumberland, chief executive of Local Marketing Community, has for locally owned and independent merchants in the communities around Maine’s largest city: to improve customer retention and give businesses an immediate means of receiving, and responding to, customer feedback.
The LMC of Greater Portland was launched about two months ago and hopes to have hundreds of participating merchants by the end of the year.
“It’s an ecosystem of customers and merchants, supporting each other to do more business with the local shops,” Wildes said last week.
Merchants who become part of the LMC give customers a card that offers a benefit for providing feedback. For example, Maine Running Co., at 563 Forest Ave. in Portland, asks customers to give 60 seconds of their time and in return get $10 off their next purchase of at least $100.
Customers can complete the survey on a smartphone or computer, and are immediately e-mailed a validation code to be entered on the feedback card, allowing them to redeem the benefit next time they visit the business. Customers who give positive feedback have the option of referring other customers to join the LMC, and they can also opt to receive offers from other merchants that are part of the LMC.
“There are tools with the system to create a stronger relationship with that satisfied customer so that they become a more valuable, loyal customer to the merchant,” Wildes said.
If a customer gives negative feedback, the merchant is immediately notified, in order to respond to and address the customer’s concern. The response shows the customer that the merchant cares, and may give the business another chance to please the customer.
An LMC advertisement points out the importance of making a dissatisfied customer ultimately happy, noting that between 54 and 70 percent of clients return if their complaints are resolved, and that 92 percent return if their complaints are quickly resolved.
After logging onto the feedback page, lmcfeedback.com/portland, customers are asked four questions: to rate on a scale of one to 10 the likelihood that they would recommend the business they visited to a friend or colleague, and explain the reasoning behind that rating; the name of the business they visited; the customers’ e-mail address to that they can be e-mailed the coupon verification code; and whether they wish to be e-mailed offers from local Portland businesses.
Those who answer “yes” to the fourth question will receive an e-mail each week with offers from all LMC-participating Portland businesses.