In the age of Amazon and other giants, maintaining a competitive edge as a small business comes with more than a few challenges. The good news is that people love small businesses. In fact, public approval of small businesses has gone from 87% in 2013 to 92% in 2015, while public approval of large businesses, on the other hand, was only at 67 % in 2015 (Source: Public Affairs Council). One of the reasons consumers love small businesses so much is that they are attentive and customer-oriented establishments. That’s why it’s important for you to work your greatest assets: customer communication and personalized service. Here are some tips on how to communicate with your customers to build stronger relationships.
When a customer engages with your brand for the first time, it’s your chance to make a good first impression. Put care and thought into making this welcome a heartfelt and memorable one. Then company Stride (now ProsperWorks), for example, sends a friendly, branded hand-written note to every new customer (Source: Groove).
Just because a customer has opted into a deal, signed up for your blog, or filled out a form doesn’t mean their interest is going to last—you’ve got to stay in touch with your customers. Make sure you’re keeping tabs on customer activity to know when it’s time to contact them and see what they need.
Zapier is the master at this with their emails that are specifically for subscribers who haven’t used their product after signing up. Messages are from the company’s CEO and offer suggestions and guidance to customers on how to use their product (Source: SaaSBrand).
Most importantly, the communication is two-way with customers being invited to reply to the message with any questions. If the customer doesn’t respond right away, don’t bombard them with continuous follow-up emails or you’ll risk coming off as desperate for their business or spammy.
When a customer makes a purchase from you, they’re just as excited as you are, and are likely to be most receptive to your emails and other forms of communication. In fact, confirmation email click-through rates tend to be about five times higher than bulk emails (Source: ConversionXL). Communicate more than just a purchase confirmation through these emails; offer tips, suggestions, and other useful information for getting started with their new product or service.
Customers like to know when their purchase is going to arrive and smart small businesses use texting to keep their customers updated (Source: Text Magic). Why? Emails aren’t always opened and sometimes end up in the spam box. Texts, on the other hand, are nearly always opened, and quickly— within three minutes of being sent. Letting a customer know that their package is on the way, delayed or delivered through text puts their mind at rest and will score you big points in terms of customer service.
One of the most important factors in customer support is allowing customers to communicate with you on the channel of their choice. Omnichannel customer support service has been gaining speed as customers become used to engaging with brands from pitch to purchase in a variety of ways:
• Social media: Customers who leave customer service messages on social media expect that their messages will be answered in a short period of time. For small businesses, this can be an extra challenge, but do what you can to keep up with these customer requests as they can be a great way to rake in the positive reviews.
• Text Messaging: Text is easy and convenient for customers. Everyone texts and most cell phone owners have their phones with them all the time. Engaging with a client about a customer support issue via text allows them to take care of their problem while still going about their day since it doesn’t tie them to a voice call or live chat conversation.
• Live Chat: Live chat is helpful for answering customer queries in real time. When a customer reaches out via live chat, it’s usually because the situation is urgent and they want to resolve it ASAP.
When engaging with customers in a support context, be calm, helpful and professional and also show sympathy with their situation. Take them through the steps and periodically confirm that they’re able to understand and/or follow your instructions.
In the age of accessible data, you should have enough information about your customers to know their preferences. When you offer promotional sales or products, make sure you show that you’ve done your research by suggesting products they might like based on their purchase history.
Blanket promotions that customers can’t take advantage of are a waste of your marketing ammunition and can sound like spam. There are a number of ways to connect with your customers with personalized offers:
• When a customer clicks on a product on your website, social media page or app, they’re likely doing research on this product because they’re interested in buying it. Your marketing campaign on that page, such as a slide-in offer or call to action button, should offer promotions on those or similar products.
• Geo-location. When a customer is in range of your store, send them an offer they can’t refuse based on their purchase history to get them to stop in. This is a great example of location-based marketing.
Succesful communication with your customers builds trust, strengthens your brand image, and keeps customers coming back. Use these tips to nail down successful communication in your onboarding messages, check-ins, purchase confirmations, delivery statuses, support channels, and offers.