Customers are the lifeblood of every business. Businesses exist purely based on the sales and services they provide their customers. Understanding customers, why they do what they do – and buy what they buy! – starts with understanding a few basic customer types. While putting people into strict categories is difficult, and often inadvisable, getting to know a couple of stereotypes will help establish strategies to deal with them as well.
5 General Customer Types:
Every store has at least one regular – whether it’s a cafe, supermarket, or retail shop. Regular customers are the ones who return to the store on a consistent basis. In the hospitality industry – cafes, restaurants, etc. – these customers tend to have a standard order, a favourite place to sit, and make it a habit to swing by at the same time each week. They’re predictable, and value predictability – they’re also a business’ bread and butter clientele. They’re most likely to recommend your business to others, and bring their friends and acquaintances to your establishment.
The Hands-off Customer
These customer types are often considered the easiest to service. They come to a store because they’re looking for something specific; they know what they want, what it should cost, and have come to a particular place looking for it. In sales speak, these customers are 90% through the buyer’s journey and don’t necessarily require any hands-on customer service. Asking if they require any assistance or if they’re interested in specials is usually met with a polite “No, thank you.”
The Unpleasable Customer
Everyone who has worked in any customer-facing position knows these customers. These are the eternal complainers, the ones who are simply impossible to please. Even if your business has exactly what they want they will find something that does not meet their standards or expectations. They require extra – often exclusive – attention, and often ask for the supervisor or manager. Truth be told, the only way to manage these customers is to do the best you can, and be forever courteous. Careful handling of this type of customer may not lead to sterling recommendations or any customer advocacy, but it can stop them from complaining to their friends and family – one wrong step with this stereotype and your business could suffer a negative hit of publicity!
The Window Shopper
“Were you after anything particular today?”
“No, thank you. I’m just browsing.”
This little conversation is a common occurrence in most retail outlets, and even in the occasional cafe or restaurant. The Window Shopper comes in two general categories:
- The Researcher: looking for something but isn’t entirely sure what it is yet – or if your business is the right place to get it.
- The Browser: literally just looking without any intention to buy anything.
Neither type is a waste of time in any regard and should be considered as a potential customer – maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually.
The unicorn of all customers: the one who comes in regularly, gushes positivity about your establishment, and just won’t shut up about how amazing your business is when they’re talking with their friends. This perfect, ideal customer fits your dream client exactly; they’re the sort of person you hope will walk in through the door, they’re the one you strive to reach. For example, if you sell minivans, your unicorn might be a soccer mom with a big budget and six kids – oh, and the reason why she’s buying a van is because she’s carpooling with the other mothers at school, to whom she will avidly recommend your van. In marketing terms, she is the ideal customer persona. Unicorns are mythical – they don’t really exist; no matter what industry you are in – but it’s important to understand that they are a dream, a target, however impossible to strive for. The purpose of knowing what your unicorn looks like is to strive to turn every single one of your customers into your ideal customer through great customer service.
By understanding customers, businesses can learn to grow in the right direction to meet their customer expectations, train their customer service representatives, and develop better communication tactics to deal with particular elements of their customer base. While this list generalizes customer types, it’s important to realize that there are certain elements of each stereotype at play in each individual customer.