Engaging in daily deal promotions can be a great way to advertise and expose new customers to your business. Coupon-based promotion websites, such as LivingSocial, Groupon and a growing number of others typically own monster e-mail lists of online bargain hunters poised to consider your product or services. And anyone who buys a coupon becomes your qualified lead and a potential long-term customer.
But before you sign on, ask yourself whether you’re ready for a crush of people to come in and kick your tires for a discount. If you’re not careful, your coupon-redeeming public could cause your brand to sink, not flourish.
The success of your first foray into daily deal coupons often comes down to your business operations. Have you recently trained and tested your staff in customer service–particularly at a rushed, high-volume scale? Do you have a phone script for answering frequently asked questions?
I recently encountered one unprepared company that I patronized after purchasing a deal through LivingSocial. Let’s call them XYZ Cleaning Services. The company’s coupon offered four hours of cleaning for $87. The timing was perfect, since I’d just decided to replace my existing cleaning service. I bought the coupon at the end of the summer, and it was set to expire in early December. The first week of December I remembered I hadn’t used my coupon, so I called a few times to make an appointment. When I finally reached someone, they said they were swamped during the holidays but would honor my coupon in the New Year.
In mid-January, I tried again. I called seven or eight times before finally reaching someone who informed me, “We’re no longer honoring that deal, but we’ll give you a $55 credit toward a cleaning service.” XYZ’s “credit” was less than the amount I had paid for the coupon! When I protested by recounting my ridiculous number of attempts in scheduling an appointment, she replied, “We tried to reach you, too, but we had to cut this off somewhere. So this is what I am offering you.”
I asked her to confirm that she wanted to handle our transaction in this manner. “Yes!” she said. So I declined the $55 credit: Based on this interaction, I didn’t want anything to do with this company. Then I posted an online review of my experiences with XYZ Cleaning Services. Not surprisingly, another reviewer had made the same complaint. My guess: XYZ’s daily deal didn’t exactly build their customer base the way they’d envisioned.
Don’t make the same mistakes. Here are four ways you can prepare for a daily deal that successfully builds your brand.
1. Anticipate success. Realistically assess how much business your current staff and systems can handle. Hire additional workers or place “reserves” on call to handle additional demand.
2. Engage an answering service or call center. As soon as your deal reaches site subscribers, your phone will start to ring. Interested customers will call asking questions, trying to schedule appointments, and seeking details on location, hours and so on.
3. Conduct customer-service training. In advance, properly train any and all staff who may interact with customers. Make sure they realize the importance of their customer service roles. Your deal may get customers in the door, but following through with a good experience provides your best chance to convert them into loyal long-term patrons.
4. Prepare a fulfillment contingency plan. When it comes to expiration, expect the unexpected: What happens if you can’t accommodate customer demand? If customers are unable to redeem coupons before the expiration because of your lack of availability or out-of-stock merchandise, will you offer a credit or extend the expiration? Outline a plan for dealing with such scenarios.
Remember: Consider the money you pay these sites part of your monthly marketing budget, but don’t let it cost you money and your reputation by not preparing for new customers. They love to tell their stories—good and bad!
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady, is one of America’s leading small-business experts. Forbes Magazine named her the No. 1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog and is the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FedEx.
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