As a small business owner, customer experience management should be a tenant of your business philosophy. Here are some tools to create lifelong customers.
Customer experience management is among the most important tasks you, as a small business owner, should address. When your customers have a favorable experience purchasing, using or even returning your product, your business wins. When a customer’s experience is unfavorable, there’s a risk he or she will share this negative impression with friends, family members and others, thereby poisoning an impression of your business among those who’ve never even encountered it. That’s a risk no business, big or small, can afford to take.
To ensure the best outcomes, here are key customer experience management tips to incorporate into your operations:
Hire the Right Employees
In a physical or retail setting, the quality of employees you hire is perhaps the most important element of a positive customer experience. Dedicated, customer-focused employees are the best possible brand ambassadors your small business can have. “Pay your employees well and treat them with respect to ensure their commitment to your success,” advises business author Drew Hendricks. “You need them, and you need the best they can offer.”
Emphasize Listening Skills
Train employees to excel in active listening skills. Dissatisfied customers want most of all to know that an employee hears them out, before jumping in to offer solutions. This includes discussing the customer’s issue in plain, easy-to-comprehend language (no specialized jargon, please!) and addressing each interaction with courtesy and respect. This type of experience builds trust, the most fundamental element of customer satisfaction.
Maintain a User-Friendly, Informative Website
Whether as your sole vehicle for sales or as an adjunct to a bricks-and-mortar setting, your business website must be easy to use, appealing to look at and comprehensive in its descriptions of your product or service. Also, the site must be optimized for mobile use, so prospective customers can have a positive experience through the use of their mobile devices. A customer who can easily review and purchase your offering through their phone or tablet will be a satisfied customer.
You can’t really be sure of your customers’ experience unless you ask them about it. Invite their feedback in person or through personalized emails. A face-to-face encounter with the business owner is sure to impress customers in your store, particularly if you ask for their comments about the business. Also, request customer feedback on your website and social media pages. Unless a topic is very sensitive, be transparent with your replies (social media loves a spirited back-and-forth exchange). Just be prepared to respond in a timely manner, so customers understand their feedback and inquiries are important to you.
Invest in Customer Support
Even small businesses should invest in customer-support options. If your budget permits, offer phone-based 24/7 customer support. Better yet, include a live-chat option so customers can get answers without having to pick up the phone. Another great customer-support idea? Text-enable your customer support services so you can satisfy customers accustomed to texting as a way of life. It’s a great marketing tool as well, notes mobile engagement expert Steve French, since “text-enabling customer service and support can help companies best target the Millennial generation and improve overall customer satisfaction.”
Promote Customer Service as a Differentiator
Providing superior customer experience management breeds its own success. As evidence accumulates of your company’s dedication to putting customers first, don’t be shy about promoting this as part of your small business marketing efforts. Ask for customer testimonials and then place these prominently on your website, in social media posts and in newsletters. Prospective customers are persuaded to try a new business based on what they see and hear about other customers’ positive experiences.
Small businesses have a built-in advantage over some of their larger competitors. People expect to be treated as a “number” by the big companies, so they often make the conscious choice to shop at a small-business alternative, where they’ll likely get better service. When you fulfill this expectation, you take a big step towards creating a customer for life.