How to Green Your Customer Interactions — And Save Money
Practicing sustainability when interacting with your customers lets them know they are purchasing from an environmentally responsible company. It can also improve your customer experience, provide them with the ability to make more informed product choices, and remove inefficiencies from the purchasing process, all of which can increase customer loyalty and build your reputation as a socially responsible business.
So how can you bring sustainability to your customer relations? Here are just a few ideas from the Green Business Bureau:
- Go paperless, and only provide printed bills, receipts, and invoices upon request. You can give clients the option to receive all of these electronically, and an email address provided at the point of sale can also be a great way to stay in touch with clients on new products, promotions, and other company news. (Apple’s EasyPay system is an excellent example of this technology in action.) Even product instructions can be offered electronically, whether emailed to a customer during the purchasing process or available online at your website. As a bonus, both will give you even further marketing exposure to these clients.
- Frustrating packaging had been one of Amazon’s largest consumer complaints, leading the company to change its packaging practices. For your business, choose reused and recycled (and reusable and recyclable) materials, and use only the minimum amount needed to protect the product during shipping or for retail display. Overdoing your packaging leaves the consumer with waste they don’t want, and it also hurts your bottom line.
- For products that need to be shipped, avoid air freight, which has the highest carbon footprint of any transportation method. Use ground-based transportation instead to keep carbon emissions minimized. The EPA Smartway Program lists many shipping partners that have promoted higher fuel efficiency in their fleet as a part of reducing their shipping footprint. Even major shipping companies like UPS have begun offering carbon-neutral shipping options, giving your business a great turn-key solution for greening your shipping. Also consider offering carbon offsets to customers at the point of sale for any delivery footprint that may be incurred.
- Look for ways to green your product offerings. Whether you reexamine your supply chain to work towards greener components or ingredients in existing products, or you add new products with established green credentials, consumers have a growing demand for green products. If it makes sense to shift your manufacturing process or your product sourcing to meet that trend, customers will respond to your efforts. Use the EPA Database of Environmental Information for Products and Services to investigate materials in your supply chain. Consider seeking the appropriate third-party certification for eco-friendly items in your product line (after determining whether the cost and time required for certification makes sense), but be sure to let customers know about any green changes you make.
- Make sure to market eco-friendly practices or product qualities in other ways as well. Ensure product information is available during the shopping experience, and that it includes any green characteristics, certifications, and manufacturing processes. Similarly, make sure company sustainability efforts are made easily available online or at your business location. Placing signs at your register, or even using a QRC window decal that links to information about your sustainability initiatives, will give your customers stronger confidence in your status as an eco-conscious company.
Your relationship with your customers can really set the tone for the rest of your business operations. Bringing sustainability to your customer interactions can give you a marketing edge that attracts additional customers, maintains current customer loyalty, and gives you even more tools to build your brand and your marketing campaigns. Going green with your company can make sense in a lot of ways: A sustainable customer experience is one of the most visible, with benefits for both you and your community of clients.
What are you doing to make the customer experience easier and more sustainable?