by David Meyer
Small businesses are the foundation of the U.S. economy, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all retail and industrial purchase transactions. As a small business owner, you may remember the times of getting to know every customer by name and carving out a location-focused niche in the marketplace that you could claim as your own. For most of us, those days are gone. As the business world continues to quickly evolve, your customers can buy from anyone, anywhere, with the tap of a smartphone.
The good news is that these online business tools and technologies are available to your small business as well, allowing you to compete with some of your largest competitors and to expand your customer base by selling your products across town, throughout the country, and even around the world. But with this growth comes other challenges. Over 70 percent of customers say that customer service still matters and influences their purchase decisions.
How can you continue to develop and deliver outstanding products and services while providing personalized, small-business-style customer service that you take pride in offering and that your customers expect?
Business should always be personal.
Start by being fully present for your customers. Especially in today’s evolving virtual business marketplace, you won’t always have the time to personally greet your audience. But you have many digital resources to make them feel as if you are. This means creating a consistent brand message that puts customers first in a way where they quickly see how your product or service solves their problems.
On your website, make it easy for buyers to quickly find what they are looking for and, just as importantly, be sure that they have all the information they need to make a purchase decision during every point of their buyer journey. This type of online customer service can be as effective as personally leading a customer through your store location to find the perfect item for their needs.
When a purchase is made, thank buyers online in the same way as you do when they are in-person at your business location. This can be as simple as an automated email message that shows your appreciation, confirms their purchase and includes delivery information. Customers feel good about businesses and services that offer them a personalized message of thanks and give them more reasons to keep coming back for more.
Entice your online customers with discounts for subscribing to a monthly email newsletter and reach out to them through your social media channels with friendly, informational, and consistent content that helps to put a face on your business. Build your brand personality with blog posts that clearly show you understand your customers’ problems and have the solutions to solve them.
Develop a well-defined customer service philosophy and train your team to ensure everyone is on the same page in how they treat and work with customers. Make your customer service team highly accessible to prospective buyers by offering online chat on your website, a customer care hotline to field phone calls, and encourage brand followers to contact you through your social media channels, as well.
Finally, if customers appreciate the service your brand has delivered, encourage them to give you positive reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, and Bing. This will virtually spread the word about your small business, provide potential customers with ‘social proof’ of your quality, and (bonus) has the effect of alerting search engines that your business is popular and can raise your online search rankings to attract more website visitors.
Yes, it’s getting harder to interact with all of your customers face-to-face. But today’s savvy online shoppers have new expectations and following these tips can help to put a positive face on your company and give your brand followers a good feeling about doing business with you. In every possible way, business should be personal. This is how brand loyalty – and your small business itself – can continue to grow and thrive.
David Meyer is the Chief Marketing Officer at Spoke Marketing. Spoke Marketing (www.spokemarketing.com) provides fully-integrated marketing and sales programs that define and activate the customer buyer journey.