Successful SME business operators strive to achieve a personal relationship with their customers. The level of engagement you have with potential and existing customers is an important factor in your journey towards a large customer base as a well-established business.
In the latest MYOB Business Monitor, a regular survey of over 1,000 Australian SMEs, 36 per cent of business owners said they intend to increase their customer retention and/or acquisition strategies this financial year. A key element to achieving success with these strategies is to build better customer relationships. Here are some rules of engagement:
#1 Listen, take action
Communication is the foundation for robust relationships. Take every opportunity to gain feedback on how your products, services or communication channels and content can be improved. Acknowledge, act on and follow up any feedback (if relevant). Hotels do this well, where they send you a feedback form via email after your stay. You can also encourage feedback from customers via your website and on social media. With your customers now finding it easier than ever to talk to you, it’s even more important that you show them you’re listening. Not only do people respect a businessperson that will listen and respond, you’ll find their feedback can be valuable market intelligence.
#2 Give thanks
A simple ‘thank you’ sends a powerful message of appreciation – and people like to feel special. Some businesses will send a note of thanks, small gifts or vouchers to new clients to thank them for their business. An unexpected gift or thank you note will stand out and make it a memorable customer experience. Positive above-expectations interactions with your business will begin to build brand loyalty and encourage them to return. They may even pay a higher price for goods when they know their custom is valued.
#3 If you make a mistake, take responsibility
How you manage any problems or difficulties is part of any relationship. If your business makes a mistake, or your customer or client isn’t entirely happy with the product or service you offer, make sure you front up, acknowledge and apologise for the mistake, and correct it right away. Customers understand that staff members are only human and that mistakes can happen. Research shows that at least 70 per cent of customers are more loyal to a business if a complaint was quickly rectified to their satisfaction than they were before the issue arose.
#4 Become a trusted source of information
Offer valuable information that your customers find interesting and useful. If a customer knows that your business is a worthwhile source of information (whether sharing the latest news, offers or other details relevant to their needs), they will likely consider your business to be credible. They will also perceive you to be a valuable, reliable resource. The next time they require information, they will likely turn to you for advice. The more times they interact with your business, the better your chance of making a sale. Letting your customer know you have their best interest at heart builds trust and a trusting customer is far more likely to convert into a repeat customer.
Building long-lasting relationships means contact can’t just be one-off; look for opportunities to engage with them regularly. One example is an informative monthly newsletter that provides an update on the business, information on new discounts, gift ideas and helpful tips and tricks for using your products/services. Another is keeping customers informed about industry news they might be interested in, via social media avenues such as Twitter or Facebook.
Every customer is vital to a small business, so listen to their requirements, offer warm and friendly service, and concentrate on the finer aspects of customer relations, ensuring that their needs are fulfilled.
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