Customer service advice for small businesses

If you’re a small business such as a dentist, medical specialist, auto shop, hairstylist, or veterinarian, you know how important each customer is to your bottom line. You can’t afford to lose a customer or patient due to a bad experience, and many of your customers might come to you specifically because they want the “white glove” customer support you can give them.

Every small business should strive to provide best-in-class customer support to its clients. The business that can make its customers feel special is the one who will foster loyalty and return visits. Additionally, your reputation – both online and via word-of-mouth marketing – will improve.

A Starter Guide: Customer Service Advice for Small Businesses 

Treat every client like they’re you’re only client… to a point

For any business, quality customer service and support are vital in keeping customers happy and willing to recommend you to their family, colleagues, and friends. If you strive to treat every client like they’re your only client, it’s a win-win. Just make sure you’re not neglecting other clients. Some advice:

  • If you can, assign a Customer Success Representative to each client, and try to have this be the point of contact for that client. Establishing a consistent representative for your business can help make your customer feel more comfortable and understood.
  • Avoid canned responses, and when possible, tailor your communications directly to your client, making sure to keep their preferred communication method and channel in mind.

Set boundaries and expectations… make sure you’re on the same page

If you’re going to grow your business, you need to recognize that some customers are better for your business than others. What this means is that as long as you show respect for your customers and treat them well, they will (and should) respect you and how you run your business. This is the customer that will help you grow, and the kind you want to keep coming back. If you don’t set boundaries with your customers, they can end up creating unneeded stress and consuming valuable time. Some advice:

  • You don’t need to be a 24/7 business if that doesn’t fit within your business model. It’s important that you run your business on your own terms and establish a clear day-to-day schedule with your customers. If you continue making exceptions, your customers might understandably not even know when you are truly open, and continue to expect “after hours” service.
  • Keep your business listings online up-to-date and send out text and/or email communications to your customers when you have modified or changing hours.

Handle things promptly… remember who your audience is

When you’re dealing with anything on social media, it’s critical to always respond quickly and in a professional manner. According to some studies, over 67 percent of Internet users are on social networks, and this means that you need to develop strong relationships with your customers on and offline. Think of it like a relationship: if one side thinks the other isn’t communicating, listening, or engaging, then a breakup might be on the horizon. Remember…

  • On social media, silence leads to losing customers – no response, or a slow response, can be read as apathy or coldness by customers
  • You don’t need to respond seconds after a post, but you should respond. Some incentive? A Harris study showed that 18 percent of people who posted negative reviews and received a reply went on to become loyal customers. And 70 percent reversed the content, either by deleting the negative comment or posting a follow-up positive one. 

It never hurts to ask… for referrals and testimonials 

If you’ve been in business for more than a few months, you probably know that referrals are one the most effective ways to grow your business and attract new, loyal customers. However, you also may HATE asking for referrals, or just not know how. Don’t assume that your customers will just talk about your business, and your great customer service. Remember: the more you ask for referrals, the more you’ll get. Here are some tips:

  • Make asking for a referral part of your routine. With some systems, like Demandforce, you can automatically send a referral follow-up to customers who have just visited your business. These are great ways to not only collect feedback on how you’re doing, but also allow your customers to review you and post those reviews online. Remember that most people like to help out others, especially if it’s not a complicated process.
  • Combine asking for referrals with requesting testimonials – consider creating testimonial cards that you can pass out at your front desk, so that someone can write one and then either drop it in the mail, or email you back. You can also send a targeted email requesting a testimonial or feedback from customers who have rated you highly in a review.

Looking for more advice on how to provide best-in-class customer service? It’s always a good idea to improve your communications, and Demandforce can help. Contact us today to see a demo. We believe in stellar customer service as well! Every Demandforce customer is paired with a Customer Success Manager, who will help you set up and optimize any and all Demandforce features to best suit your business and business goals. Call us at (888) 272-7821, or visit demandforce.com.

 

How to improve your customer onboarding experience

What is onboarding?

Customer onboarding is a term used to describe the process that your customers experience at the beginning of their customer journey with your business, and if you think that as a professional, you don’t have to consider onboarding, think again! The beginning of your customer journey is one of the most important, especially in regards to fostering future engagement and retention.

Why is onboarding important?

First impressions matter, and this is the foundational idea behind having a strong onboarding process. The first one-on-one experience your customer has with your services sets the tone for their entire relationship with your business. If it’s stressful, confusing, or convoluted, you could risk losing their business and develop a negative reputation.

Especially if you acquire a new prospect via a special promotion, discount, or free trial, if you want to limit the number of drop-offs immediately after this special ends, a strong onboarding experience is key.

How to build a strong onboarding experience for your customers

The goal of customer onboarding is not only to reduce churn, but also to showcase the long-term value of sticking with your business as opposed to a competitors. A good onboarding experience will:

  • Build trust between you and your customer
  • Guide your customer through any initial forms or required registration
  • Create engagement with you
  • Set expectations for the future
  • Impress them

Some aspects you an utilize in your onboarding process

Here are some suggestions we have for you to try in your onboarding process.

Customize your welcome

Adding a specific person’s name to even the first welcome email you send them goes a long way to setting the tone for the relationship you’ll have with them during their entire customer lifecycle. Sending custom emails and notifications to them is simple with many online marketing platforms, and can increase long-term retention and customer satisfaction.

Assign an individual representative

Assigning an individual representative to each customer is not only something simple your business can do, but it adds a personal touch to your relationship, and gives your customer a point of contact they can connect with in the future (which often makes them more willing to connect with you!). Even if you have the same representative act as the main point of contact, letting each customer know that they can call in and ask for someone by name goes a long way in onboarding that customer.

Set check-in milestones 

The first time you meet with your customer, set some milestones for the future, and let them know that there will be certain moments where you’ll check in with them, to see how they’re doing, whether they need to come in again for another appointment, or if they’re all good for the time being. Establishing this during the onboarding process plants the seed early in your customer’s mind that you will be in touch later, and thus – they will be more likely to engage with you in the future.

Showcase success stories

All customers enjoy knowing that others have come before them, and enjoyed their experience. So if you can, during the onboarding process, showcase some success stories you have had in the past, so that you not only highlight the positives of a long-term relationship with your business, but you set your customer’s mind at ease: they have made the right choice to choose you.

These are just a few ways you can work to improve your customer onboarding experience so that you set the right tone for your customers in the first days of their time with you. Remember, excellent customer onboarding not only keeps your customers happy, but it keeps them coming back and referring you to their friends and colleagues.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Sending Your First Email Campaign

One of the most powerful features of Demandforce (and one our customers like the most) is our ability to create custom emails for your customers.

Did you know?

Demandforce customers who use custom email campaigns see a 30% open rate* on their emails.

*Based on a subset of 2016 Demandforce data.

78% of Demandforce dental practices** send email campaigns to their patients.

70% of Demandforce auto shops** send email campaigns to their customers.

*Based on 2016 Demandforce data.

Why email campaigns are important

Emails can be used to build loyalty and trust around your business, and has one of the highest ROI’s of any marketing you’ll send. For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you get $38 in return!

With a platform like Demandforce, you can easily send and customize one-click email campaigns to your customers. Demandforce offers a variety of ready-made templates to help you connect and communicate with your current base.

Here are just a few of the emails you can send:

  • Promotions and special offers
  • Industry-specific ready-made newsletters
  • Holiday and birthday greetings
  • Referral campaigns
  • Special event invitations and business milestones
  • Customer appreciation
  • Recommended services and recall reminders

A step-by-step guide to sending your first email campaign

If you’re ready to create your first email promotion and you’re a Demandforce customer, you should definitely check out this article to get detailed instructions on how to set up your promotion or newsletter. Here we’ll cover a broader outline of the steps.

  • Pick your promotion – think about what you want to gain from sending this promotion. What is your goal? Are you trying to attract more customers? Are you celebrating a specific upcoming event, holiday, or milestone? Are you launching a referral or customer appreciation campaign?

HINT: if you’re searching for ideas, check out the CAMPAIGNS tab in Demandforce, for suggestions and examples of our ready-made templates.

  • Customize the content – In order to foster a strong relationship with your customers, you need to make sure you’re sending them the right message, at the right time. Don’t send out a generic or sloppy-looking email. Not only will you see low conversions, but you also risk spurring opt-outs and losing repeat business.
  • Select your audience – Now that you’ve created copy that speaks to a certain audience, make sure you’re sending your promotion to that audience. If you’re using Demandforce, you can do this easily. You can even choose to CREATE YOUR OWN CRITERIA and define your audience using customer data pulled directly from your CMS. Once you’ve defined your list, you can review it and even remove individual customers from the send, if you so choose.
  • Schedule delivery – Pick the time and date to send your promotion. You can choose to send it immediately, or schedule it for the future. Demandforce customers can even set recurring campaigns.
  • Track your results – It’s not enough to just send your email, you need to track your results so you can learn from what you send out! If you’ve sent a campaign out through Demandforce, you can view data such as: the total sent, the total opened, and the clicks. This is all easily accessed within the Demandforce dashboard.

Have more questions about how to send your first email campaign? If you’re a Demandforce customer, visit our Help Center for dozens of helpful articles. If you’re new to Demandforce and want to learn how you can save time and attract new customers with custom, targeted email campaigns, visit www.demandforce.com or call us at (800) 220-1136.

Do Your Customers Love You? (Infographic)

In honor of Valentine’s Day this week, we wanted to share this fitting infographic with you.

As a small business owner, customer loyalty and retention are crucial to maintaining a healthy and successful business that is ready to grow when you are. If your customers aren’t happy, your business won’t thrive. But how do you know if your customers love you, and what can you do to keep them happy and coming back?

Follow this infographic, and be honest about your answers, to see the state of your current customer relationship.

However strong your relationship is, you can always improve it! Demandforce offers customer and patient communications solutions designed to help you stay connected with your base, and engaged. Through the use of powerful automation processes like automated appointment reminders, two-way text, custom email campaigns, and online review management – Demandforce can help you always send relevant and timely messages to your customers. To set up a time to see a personalized demo, click here.

domycustomersloveme

Setting up a one-click oil change reminder campaign for your auto shop

Demandforce is a platform that syncs with your current management system to help you automate your customer communications, and simplify the way you connect and engage with everyone who comes to your auto shop.

Don’t spend time sitting in front of your computer, setting up reminders or sending emails to every customer who’ve seen that week. With Demandforce, you can set up automated messages to send out to certain segments of your customer base to remind them to…

  • Set up an appointment for standard maintenance
  • Think about recommended shop services
  • Refer a friend to your shop
  • Post a review after an appointment

One of the easiest ways to get customers to come back to your shop is by sending them an oil change reminder, which you can do directly from your Demandforce platform. You can find the oil change reminder campaign under the One-Click Email Campaigns.

If you choose to send this campaign out to your customers, you can choose to send it to customers who have received an oil change with you within the last 12 months, and this campaign will run once a week, at most 6 times a year. You can choose to exclude customers who…

  • Have a future appointment scheduled
  • Have visited within the last 45 days
  • Have not visited you for an oil change in over 24 months

Segmenting your campaign like this is important so that your customers receive the right message, at the right time – and they don’t decide to opt out of a message because it’s irrelevant or received too often.

For a full step-by-step of how to set up a one-click oil change reminder for your auto shop, click here.

Our Top 5 Favorite Customer Appreciation Ideas

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget the power of a simple “Thank You” – but as small business owners, we should always find ways to show our customers and patients we care. As Thanksgiving and the holidays approach, the team at Demandforce thought that now was the perfect time to reflect on what we’re thankful for, and compile a list of our Top 5 Favorite Customer Appreciation Ideas.

Some of these ideas cost money, while some can be done for a nominal price, or none at all. Before you brush off spending money on customer appreciation, remember this: it costs less to cultivate a customer relationship and retain that customer than it does to find entirely new ones… so sometimes the price is worth it.

Our customers count. So show them you care with these Top 5 Customer Appreciation ideas.

Send a handwritten note or card

Sending a handwritten note or card can foster friendship and goodwill from your customers, and doesn’t cost you much at all! You can print cards from Staples or several online card printing sites, and then send them on their way.

Give a freebie

Sending a gift to your client from a gift basket to a personalized branded knick-knack can not only express your gratitude, but also cement your business in the minds (and hearts) of your clients. A gift can be personalized to show your connection with them, or it can represent your business in some way. Some ideas are: logoed mugs, keychains, or bottle openers. It could be a notebook, or even something like a free muffin that week for customers.

Offer an upgrade

Everyone loves feeling like they’re getting more, and that’s the idea behind the upgrade offer. This works well if you’re a technology business, or can offer a different tier of service to your customers for free, or for a discounted price. You can offer a coupon or entire price cut as a thank you gift, and you might even get more sign-ups for your premier levels.

Say thank you via video on social media

You don’t need to be a videographer or stellar actor to shoot a video on your smartphone and upload it to social media, or send it out in a dedicated email. This is a great way to thank you customers with a 30-second shout-out, or thank you statement that you can share on your website, on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can tag the customers you want to show it to, and it doesn’t cost a dime!

Host a Customer Appreciation Night

The holidays are always a good time to host a party or celebration, so if you have the budget, you can always host a customer appreciation event and invite your VIP customers to it as a Thank You. This is not only a great way to bond with and spend time with your clients outside the work environment, but it also gives your client the opportunity to network, and allows them to see the diverse group that you work with. A customer appreciation night doesn’t need to be a huge event; it can range from a casual get-together at your local coffee shop or a networking event at a rented restaurant. You can introduce upcoming upgrades or products, hold a raffle, or even provide hors d’oeuvres and drinks for a cocktail party feel.

Plus, if you’re looking for a way to connect with your customers, or get the word out about any events you’re hosting, or send your photo to your base, you can use the customizable email campaigns that Demandforce offers, and then you can also track open rates and engagement as well! If you don’t know what Demandforce is, you can schedule a personal demo with a Demandforce expert, who will take you through the steps on how you can market better to your customers!

The Secret to Confirming More Appointments

If you’re a dental office, medical office, or small business like a salon or spa, you know that confirming appointments with your customers and patients is a must. If you don’t set up appointments, or hear back from customers with confirmations, you not only lose control of your daily schedule, you also could lose important revenue.

What is your current process for confirming appointments? How many times do you reach out to customers and patients after they’ve booked, and how do you communicate with them when you do?

Some secrets to increasing your all-important appointment confirmation ratio:

Set an advance reminder to send out 14 days before a scheduled appointment

Sometimes people just forget their appointments, so sending out an appointment reminder allows them to make a mental note and add it to their calendar (or check to make sure it’s still on their calendar!)

Ask your customers and patients whether they prefer email or text communication, and walk them through how to respond

This is important because in an increasingly digital world, many people are on their phones more than at their desks. Sometimes people prefer text, other times they’d rather get an email reminder.

Stagger your appointment confirmations

This is important because you want to create a touch-point for your customers or patients across communication methods. Our Customer Success team recommends emailing 3 days prior to the appointment, texting 2 days, and laving a voice message 1-day prior. This of course is only for if you still haven’t received a confirmation of that appointment from your customer.

If you’re worried about setting this all up yourself, Demandforce can help! Our system provides a simple way to automate your appointment reminders and encourage more confirmations. You can track who has confirmed, who has yet to respond – and even set up a staggered reminder schedule.

If you’re a current Demandforce customer and you want a refresher, you can contact your Customer Care Manager and take a helpful walkthrough. Or contact Demandforce at (866) 507-7016 or www.demandforce.com, and we’ll show you a demo of the software!

Stay tuned for more advice like this, and have a Happy Wednesday!