This is the first of two articles written by Tony Young about keeping your customers satisfied.
As a general rule, word-of-mouth customer experiences can sometimes travel faster than any cost-driven marketing campaign and can affect the reputation of a business. Here’s how to keep customers happy.
SMEs have the opportunity to engage with their customer base more effectively than larger organisations; more opportunity for one-to-one customer experiences, greater amount of empathy, and quicker turnaround on disputes which lessens the impact on the business’ bottom line. SMEs have better opportunities to engage with their customers as there is less opportunity for a complaint or request to get lost. There is also the opportunity for a business owner to be able to speak with its consumer base directly.
Who are your customers?
A loyal customer can account for up to 20% of your customer or client pool, which equates to almost half of the business’ sales. These customers are considered the bread and butter of the company because they relate to the brand, make regular purchases, have consistent spending behaviours and are more likely to spread the word of good customer service to their family, friends and peers than any other buyers.
There are four others types of customers which may be involved with the sales and services of your business, but all have varying needs. Discount customers hit the spending ground running only if there is an opportunity for a bargain or reduced price. Tracing their expenditure is considerably easier than other types of customers but their spending loyalty is tied to discounts and can only be seen in bursts. Impulsive customers are usually armed with credit and have no real need for a particular item at the time, rather they have the need to spend their money over the necessity for a particular brand or consumer experience.
Similarly, wandering customers have no specific product in mind but are contented to see what is on offer. They are usually not as informed as other customers about a product or business as they engage in sporadic spending. Need-based customers have a vision of what they need and usually go on a specific mission to find it, whether it is a gluten-free wedding cake or the services of a left-handed guitar tutor. Their spending behaviours are niche but can complement SME businesses who have tailored services and products.
Direct Customer Engagement
Outside the ‘on-site’ customer engagement involved with product and service exchange there are different platforms a business owner can use to engage with existing and new customers. Social media and mobile applications are one of the fastest ways to interact with new consumers in front of more traditional forms of direct marketing, such as newsletters and email. Here are some examples:
- Social Media
- Mobile Messaging & Apps
- Newsletters & RSS
- Printed Collateral
Social media has an unquestionable presence in the world of small business and its advent in recent years has sometimes proven more effective than traditional and trusted marketing campaigns when engaging with customers. In Australia more than 50% of small businesses are now using this platform to interact with their consumers to maintain an on-going dialogue which is approachable, informative, and instantaneous.
Social media has proven to be a very effective two-way experience for those needing product or service clarification but do not want to phone or email the business for this information. For this reason, more consumers have been using Twitter to interact with businesses as the communication is set in real time and the customer/business exchange is not limited to office hours:
Mobile applications are also a very effective way of leveraging small business consumer bases. It can also be quite lucrative if it works for your business but if you are thinking about this as a direct marketing approach for customer engagement, seek out the advice of a developer first. The average cost for building and implementing a mobile application for an average-sized business is around $6,000, so it is therefore wise to scrutinise your decision and whether it is an appropriate tool for your business.
Traditional approaches to customer engagement
Before the naughties era businesses enlisted the help of more tangible marketing campaigns in order to engage with their customers. The internet has now changed how many SMEs operate. Most of what is marketing – as seen by the eye of the consumer – is online and non-tangible. Websites, RSS feeds, blogs, classified listings and social media now account for a large percentage of small business marketing. As important as it is to move with the times, a sidenote must be left for those customers who still rely on old-fashioned approaches (flyers and leaflets) to engage with businesses. Think of the over 65, pre-Baby Boomer consumers who may not have the internet. These are the types of consumers who are more than likely to pick up the phone and call a business to ask a question rather than source information from elsewhere. With this in mind, think about the age groups of your consumers who interact with your business when trying to reach out with direct marketing campaigns.
Continued next week in Getting customer satisfaction – Part 2.