Pop quiz: What is the one thing you need in order to have a small business? Answer: Customers!
Okay, that was kind of a trick question. Gotcha! The point is -- you don’t have a business without customers. These are the people you help, serve, assist, and provide goods for. Without them, your business is just an idea.
Getting customers is one thing. Keeping them is something entirely different. And burning this candle at both ends is something you need to be doing in order to see growth for your business, no matter what kind of business it is. Here are four things to do to get new customers and better engage the ones you already have.
Responding to customers must be a priority. Compliments and complaints, when it comes to customer service, are created equal. Respond to both with equal speed, concern, and gratitude. You won’t make everyone happy but you can make an effort to make everyone feel respected. And do it fast!
Whether it’s by email, Facebook message, phone call, or tweet, responding to complaints and compliments within 24 hours should be your norm. There are ways to automatically respond to messages, particularly via social media, using programs like HootSuite. Of course, not all response to your customers or interested parties should be done with automation. Regularly engage personally to your commenters. This is one of the things that makes small businesses stand out among the rest.
When customers feel like they can reach you, you hear them, and you respond quickly with kindness and thoughtfulness, they will keep coming back.
Most small businesses can’t really be called “local” anymore. You likely serve customers and clients from around the country, if not around the world. “Local” is wherever your computer and smartphone can take you. More accurately, small businesses and solopreneurs own and operate “personal” businesses. It’s the personal touches that people crave. They get the feeling of “local” service without sacrificing quality or efficiency. Shifting your focus to think of your business as “personal” is a great start. You don’t own a “local” small business; you own a “personal” small business.
I love shopping some “personal” small businesses because they seem to nail this. I love it when I order something online and receive a handwritten message from the person who packed it. One time it was the owner of the company. I remember them and I continue to shop with them. This doesn’t always have to happen but when it does it sticks to the customer. They remember that.
Support Your Employees
Whether you have one or one hundred employees, each of them should be equipped to serve. Supporting your employees is more than just making sure they know how to do their job. Of course, that’s where it starts, but employees are much more engaged and valuable when they know WHY they do what they do.
Help each employee understand the big picture – who you are, what you do, and why you do it – and they are instantly more connected to the goal. Perhaps they are just a janitor sweeping up cupcake crumbs at the end of the day, but they will go out of their way to get every last crumb when they know why a clean environment is important to the big picture.
Also, make sure they are equipped to be the face of your business and that they are someone you would WANT to be the face of your business. Ask your team members what they need to do their job. Ask them if there is anything they don’t understand. Make sure they feel safe talking to you about any questions or concerns. And build them up with equal instruction and encouragement.
Provide Quality Service
I started working young and the one thing I most often heard from employers, managers, and customers was that I was always smiling and always friendly. Honestly, it works. So remember to smile. Really… I can’t tell you how many people I’ve done business with who don’t ever smile.
And don’t just smile (that’d be creepy), look them in the eye, listen when they speak, and respond to what they say (don’t just recite what you want them to hear). Remember that to get and keep customers, you must make their needs your needs. You help them carry their burden, whether you’re a jewelry designer creating a custom necklace for a customer’s dear friend or a Virtual Assistant entering inventory records for a new client.
Bottom line: Their business is valuable to you so make yourself valuable to them.
New Tool Highlight: Hootsuite
When you think of Hootsuite, you may only think of social media marketing. Well, stop it. Because it is also a well-integrated tool that allows you to handle customer service concerns across platforms seamlessly, in real time, and with greater efficiency. Hootsuite says that they “Improve your reputation while protecting your brand on social media by tracking messages and mentions.” By tracking those messages and mentions, they also allow you to respond to those comments, quickly, through a single dashboard.