Whether your company is a brick and mortar or has an online business presence, finding ways to grow your business that will stand the test of time is an integral part of establishing a company that will be able to endure in the industry in which you are competing.
As a small business, you especially need to be aware of how customers are being treated through all stages of the buying process so that they are not enticed to shop with the bigger shops based on the old adage that “bigger is always better.” Instead, focus on how you can better manage in terms of process and customer services.
You first need to keep in mind online business review sites. It is not just about a customer telling their family or a small circle of friends about their experience with your product or service, it is about multiplying that group by hundreds who may see these reviews.
So, it is worth the time and money as a small business to explore ways in which you can maximize your outcomes. Here are several ways to begin the process:
Create an Automatic Follow-up Procedure
There is nothing more insulting to a customer then never hearing from a company again. This can give the impression that you don’t care about ever doing business with that customer again. It also says to the customer that there is a lack of a structured business organization on your part if you do not follow through with any post-sale communications. There are several ways to keep in touch with customers that will potentially generate repeat business and also develop a client relationship.
For online ordering, simply create an autoresponder system that will immediately thank customers for buying your product or service. From there, give them updates on their item with shipping and tracking information. Most customers appreciate that they are given the opportunity to be a part of the buying process every step of the way. It also shows that you care about what happens to their purchase even after it has left the warehouse.
Be a Good Listener
There is a no better way to build a client relationship than through listening to what they are telling you they want, they need, and are expecting you to deliver to them as a consumer of your products and/or services. When they are unhappy and need to just vent about their frustrations, then let them. Sometimes, you can’t make a problem go away, but you can make sure that it will not be repeated for that customer or any customer in the future.
You need to look at the situation as a learning experience and tell the customer that you appreciate their feedback even though it may be difficult to hear it. You also can offer options to make the customer whole like refunds, credits, or suggest what they would prefer and explore how viable that option may be. Most, if not in all cases, the customer relationship grows stronger just by listening to them.
Treat Your Customers as Individuals
Many people are aware of company responses that sound like the same scripted response that everyone receives. Although many customers may not necessarily find this off-putting, there are others who find it insulting and will only consider doing business with companies that send them responses that have been generated from real, live people who are reviewing their customer service needs on an individual basis. This includes personalizing emails with customer names.
If possible, try to customize your policies to suit their needs. Even go as far as to make a computerized list of client birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events and offer them a discount on those special days. This not only tells the client that you see their needs as unique, but they will appreciate the personalized customer service they receive, be more likely to give you repeat business, and they will probably tell others that your company offers this customized service which can be a rare commodity in the business world today.
Create FAQ Page
Many customers will not consider purchasing from a business, especially a small business if they are unsure of the purchase process, the features of a product or service, or what policies are in place for issues that may arise. You have to work on anticipating what questions these potential buyers may have and set up a dedicated tab on your website to answer them as thoroughly and concisely as possible. This also gives you the opportunity to avert any issues before they happen if a customers’ question can be answered before the purchase process even begins. It is also a place that a customer can go to get an answer immediately when they do have a problem instead of having to wait for a response.
Most large businesses don’t respond to customers for at least five business days; that means if a customer contacts them on a Saturday, they may not hear from the company until the following Friday. By then, they have potentially returned the item and moved on to purchase it from another company. Try to avoid this by setting up an FAQ page to answer the most commonly-asked consumer questions about your products and services.
Ask for Customer Feedback and Use It!
Often you will see signs at businesses that say “give us your feedback” tacked up on a wall. For an online business, it may be part of an email that is sent out post-purchase. For many customers, this seems like an automated response and not very personal. But it can be made more personal by evaluating the type of feedback forum that customers participate in. Sending out more personalized emails that have actual surveys tells a customer you might really look at their feedback and use it.
Also, make a point of following up in a timely manner with them either via email or other mail correspondence with a note that tells them what you changed based on the comments that you received, especially if it was based on one of their suggestions. They will not only be amazed that you care enough to improve your services, but they will share this positive information with other potential customers.
Starting with these few easy improvements to your business, you should see some immediate and ever-increasing positive effects to your bottom line for years to come.