If there’s one thing that small business can take comfort in is the idea that bigger isn’t always better. There’s a really good reason why some of those good old mom-and-pop shops still stand today despite the presence of bigger chains that pop up like crazy and threaten the small players.
There’s something comforting about the familiar and personal touch. This applies even if you’re a small tech venture. There’s no reason why you can’t provide a friendly face to your customers and thus inspire trust and loyalty.
Here are some ideas on how you could build better relationships with your customers:
1. Personalize interactions
Having someone call you by name is probably the best experience you can have with a business or an organization. It just makes you feel at home. Forget about misspelt names on Starbucks cups. We’re talking about that local diner feel, wherein your servers greet you with a smile and ask you if you’d want your “usual.”
For a digital product, small changes to your user interface – such as using the nickname to label an account (e.g. “Mike’s Account”) – makes such a difference. Amazon is such an expert at personalization. Notice how there’s plenty of personalized details that persist, aside from calling you by name. These include showing you the last items you browsed, showing you items on your wish list, and suggestions based on your previous purchases.
Letting users customize and personalize settings that persist across sessions (like if they log in using a different computer or device) are things they will truly appreciate.
2. Give customers a sense of security
With all the news surrounding data breaches and stolen records, it could be a challenge for small businesses to win customers’ trust, especially when they provide personal and financial information. As more users become more conscious about security, “little” things like not enabling SSL (wherein you site just uses http and not https) can drive prospects away. That shows that you aren’t willing to make the investment to encrypt data transfers for your users.
There is also always an increasing risk of cyberattacks against sites and services that gather customer data. This not only results in lost productivity and damages, but it also means losing customers in the process. Here’s an expert tip from industry leaders: Don’t scrimp on protection. Solutions like Incapsula’s web application firewall and Let’s Encrypt’s SSL scripts range from free to premium, but you can give customers better assurance of their data’s security and integrity.
You can even create a small campaign about improving your security. You can privately announce to your existing customers that you are implementing security measures on your website or services because you care about their data.
3. Respond to issues promptly
It is rare or even impossible to have a perfect batting record when you’re dealing with people. There will be people who will find something wrong with your product or be dissatisfied with your service (even if it’s their fault).
What separates the best businesses are the way they respond to customer issues. It might be surprising, but customers may actually forgive initial frustrations if you are able to fix the issues quickly. The data even suggests that smaller companies are quicker to respond.
So be sure to have a support channel open, and have systems in place so your support team or staff can quickly respond. If your product or service is through an app, you can even embed a “call now” link that automatically dials you support hotline to help users connect with you easily. Avoid canned responses, too. Hear them out, be patient and polite, and speak about their concerns. Provide honest explanations and abide by reasonable timelines to get back to them.
4. Provide value added services
A great way to win loyalty is to keep on giving. Customers feel that they get more than their money’s worth when you provide value added services. And this isn’t about discount coupons or anything with monetary value.
You can provide a free tool, widget, or app exclusive to your users. Or perhaps you can send out a newsletter or give them access to a blog with helpful content. Useful content is an excellent marketing tool that you can package as a service.
If you are working on a subscription model, you can even provide complementary short-term extensions, such as 7-day or 14-day periods for your users to continue enjoying the product before they get charged for renewals.
Keep in mind that strong customer relationships aid not only in customer retention, but also in increasing the chances of referrals, as well. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth and testimonials. Even blunders can be forgivable if you are swift to respond and minimize the time and effort that customers take to have their issues resolved. So why not try out ways to grow customer trust and loyalty?
Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com
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