By Conrad Wredberg
Being a small business has its advantages. You’re agile, you don’t have to go to committee to make things happen, and you’re extremely in tune with your customers. Keeping close contact and forging relationships with them come naturally. But as your business grows, maintaining those good customer relationships can become a little more challenging.
As their customer base expands, many small businesses struggle with consistent communications and customer service. For example, it gets harder to know all your customers on a first-name basis and to always have someone readily available to address their needs in a timely manner. This can cause problems, including customer churn. In a recent study on customer loyalty, 79 percent of respondents indicated they would take their business to a competitor within a week of experiencing poor customer service.
Today there are tools that can help your growing business stay better connected to customers and provide them with a more positive, professional experience. Here are a few:
Social Media isn’t just for big enterprises.
Ninety-six percent of small businesses surveyed by Social Media Examiner use social media marketing to directly engage and interact with customers. Through social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can share news and updates, start conversations, gain insight into customer preferences and further your brand. There are also multiple social media apps, like Hootsuite and Buffer, that can help you plan, manage and even automate your social media activities.
Surveys aren’t as difficult as you might think.
There are countless online tools like SurveyMonkey that make the process of surveying your customers easy and affordable. Surveys aren’t just a great way to uncover valuable information—they also show customers you care and that you want and value their opinion. Use surveys to gauge performance, learn more about your customers and their interests, or to gain feedback on new products or services.
Telephone communication…we’ve come a long way, baby.
As your business grows, routing calls to the right personnel, ensuring calls are always answered consistently, and increasing customer response times are essential. Reliable, high-quality phone service can immediately increase efficiency and boost productivity while ensuring a positive customer experience. Many small businesses are finding particular value in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as a lower-cost alternative to conventional phone technology. Tech.co reports that small businesses that switch to VoIP reduce the cost of their local calls by up to 40 percent. In particular, look for a VoIP solution that provides “big business” features scalable to the needs and budgets of smaller organizations.
Email newsletters, when done right, can help you sell and connect.
Email newsletters are an effective way to engage your customers much like you would in person. But to work, they need to be personable, professional and provide valuable content that truly resonates. Newsletters that primarily push products fall flat. There are numerous email marketing services, such as MailChimp, that are great for helping small businesses easily create newsletter campaigns and then track the results and manage subscribers.
With all the excitement and challenges of a growing business, it can be easy to lose sight of who and what got you to this point. It’s true what they say—it costs much less to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. The good news is that the right tools and technology can help you stay better connected to customers and keep their satisfaction high even as your customer base expands.
Conrad Wredberg is the vice president of product management for magicJack for BUSINESS, a provider of easy-to-use, highly reliable and cost effective Internet phone systems for small businesses. He has over 20 years of experience developing software and systems and is well respected as an analytical and forward-thinking leader who cuts through the ‘fog’ to develop clear, workable solutions for even the most complex business problems. Twitter: @magicJackBiz