Maintaining and growing a customer base is never easy, but it's essential to your business's survival.
A business is made or broken by how it interacts with its customers. And while retaining a customer is its own unique challenge, a business only has one shot at getting a new customer.
Long gone are the days when consumers would turn to the Yellow Pages and make their pick from just a handful of businesses available. In this day and age where people can find a service for just about anything they need through their smartphone, customer service is of paramount importance.
A good portion of the communication that you have with your customers is either going to be providing or receiving information. How this information is presented, received, and utilized is what will either drive your business upward or send it spiraling down into irrelevance. To answer questions your customers might have, a company needs to address how it delivers information from the start to the end of every business transaction.
Consider these strategies and practices for addressing customer communication in your business.
Make your website a resource of information
If some SEO strategy has brought potential new customers to your website, congrats, that's a big part of the battle. Now you just have to keep them there for more than 15 seconds. Why 15 seconds? That's the bounce rate at which point consumers either decide to investigate a little further or move on with their search.
As for why visitors may leave your website, well, that could be a host of reasons from something as simple as a poor and difficult-to-use layout to a slow loading page. Once consumers are on your website, that is the time to offer them a wealth of information that can answer any queries they might have and hopefully persuade them to do business.
Providing the right information on a business website doesn't have to be complex but it's amazing how many businesses miss the obvious. Customers shouldn't have to search beyond the home page to find out what your business is about, how contact can be made and what services or products are offered.
That's simply the basics though. You may want to consider offering how-to guides or tips and other resources of information that customers could find valuable. For example, Swift Reg, a company that specializes in private number plates for cars has FAQs to address common customer questions.
The more valuable you can make your business website to your customers with relevant information, the more likely it is to overcome the 15-second obstacle.
Offer information that's accessible via multiple channels
If your customers only have one option for getting in contact with your business, then your business could very well suffer. For decades, the telephone was the dominant way customers in the 20th century would contact a business. While customer service via the telephone certainly is still very prevalent it's not everyone's go-to method.
When analyzing how your business provides and receives information from customers, a business today should also pay attention to three areas:
- Social media
Texting is a simple and convenient way to send out automated messages to your customers without bothering them with a phone call. According to one study, 9 out of 10 customers want the option of being able to text with a business. While nobody wants to be bombarded with relentless text messages from a company, giving customers the option to text for appointment confirmations and other communications is an invaluable customer service practice.
Recent statistics estimate that 79% of U.S. consumers and 67% of consumers in the U.K. are active on social media. People turn to social media for not just entertainment but information; if your business can provide the info potential customers need, then you're ahead of the game. Social media accounts should regularly provide customers with useful and relevant information and act both as a marketing and customer service tool.
Email may have taken a backseat to business/customer communications in recent years with the rise of social media, but it shouldn't be ignored. Emailing with customers allows a business to provide more information than is typically possible with a text message and most social media channels. Finding a way to entice customers to open those emails is a challenge, but we'll touch on that in a second.
Personalizing the information can go a long way
Whichever channel you happen to be communicating with your customers through, make an extra effort to personalize the information delivered. If your business is small and the customer pool is small enough where you can personalize your emails rather than sending out a mass chain email, by all means, do it. It will add a touch of personal connection that is all too lacking in business nowadays.
That said, many businesses have thousands of customers, and there's only so much that can be done to personalize communication. Still, every communication should begin by learning and knowing the names of customers. If they're a repeat customer, you should be able to draw upon past services or products they used and incorporate those into any future communication when necessary.
As ideal as using chatbots is for efficiency reasons, using them should via your social media, website or through phone/text should be done carefully. It's telling that 70% of consumers are more likely to go with a business that provides a more personal touch with their customer service. See the connection?
This isn't to say that technology doesn't have its place in personalizing how you interact with customers. Phone systems nowadays can sync up with customer relationship management software (CRM) and pull upon customer purchase histories to better provide continued business support.
The most important thing businesses can do to add a touch of personalization to the customer experience is simply to treat customers like people. Listen to what they need and work to answer questions and find a solution that meets their needs.
Stay in touch
Let's say you go out on a first date with somebody, you think it goes relatively well and it ends with the other person saying they'd like to meet up again. Then what? Well, if nobody reaches out then there's never going to be a second date.
Every relationship is dependent upon good communication and staying in touch with existing customers is one of the most efficient ways to drive continued business. Following up with customers can be done in numerous ways and at various times, but there are some tried and true methods.
If you've recently completed a service for a customer, say you're in the IT business and upgraded a company's entire computer system, make an effort to connect a week or so later to check that they're happy with the service. It might seem like a no-brainer but can go a long way in establishing customer trust.
It's also a good idea to keep in contact with customers to let them know about new products, services, or changes within your respected industry that could be relevant to them. This could be something as simple as a seasonal email to inform them of new products your business is rolling out. Going the extra mile to personalize your follow-up communication can help keep established customers as well as sway those who might be on the fence.
Maintaining and growing a customer base is never going to be easy, but it's an essential component that every business must master if it's going to survive. The information that you present to your customers and how you go about communicating with them is ultimately what will allow you to provide them with what they need.