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.

 

The top marketing trends of 2016

Wow, what a year! As 2016 comes to a close, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the top marketing trends of 2016, and how they relate to your business.

Mobile email and mobile first

Mobile marketing saw a continued steady growth in implementation and use. It’s no surprise that more people are on-the-go and on their phones, and so marketing that is tailored to not only be mobile-friendly, but mobile first, did much better in 2016. 

Social media: not a strategy, but a channel

This was the year that saw a shift in how social media has traditionally been viewed. Social media is not a strategy, but instead a channel, one of many your business should utilize to support its broader campaigns. This is often why social media marketing as a tactic is often more effective than if it’s utilized as a campaign on its own.

Marketing automation

With better UI came a way to create easier multi-channel touch campaigns, and 2016 saw the merging of email marketing and marketing automation. More time was spent on marketing automations, and less on scheduled campaigns and email broadcasts. As it becomes easier to import third-party data to enhance a company’s information about its customers; and as technology continues to improve, marketing automation will become a foundation of future marketing campaigns and strategies.

Hyper-personalization and relationship marketing

This was the year of hyper-personalization and a trend towards relationship marketing versus the hard sell. Again, technology advancements in deliverability, testing, live content, remarketing options, and analytics helped create new ways to connect (and stay connected) with customers and prospects. Many businesses chose to focus on relationship marketing, which meant changing their marketing strategy to be longer-term in focus—building stronger loyalty and long-term customer engagement, rather than quick, short-term customer acquisition and individual sales goals. This helped many businesses develop strong, emotional connections to their brands that drive word-of-mouth promotions and lead generation. Relationship marketing and hyper-personalization go hand-in-hand, as the ability to know how to market to your customers comes from knowing more about them – through data.

Modular templates and interactivity for emails

An interesting marketing trend of 2016 was the choice of many major brands to begin a shift away from one-off, complex and unique emails for every campaign to choosing a more modular template design—one where you can have several different versions of an email from the same template. This saves time and creates a familiar brand identity for your customers, as they begin identifying a certain look to your company or service. Added to this was a rise in animation and interactivity in emails, as marketers sought to keep content fresh, unique, and engaging.

More visual content

Today’s world is one filled with so many different things competing for the attention and eye of your customer. This goes for emails and marketing as well. Your customers need more than plain text to engage. They want valuable content that not only educates, but entertains them as well. That’s where visual content can help. People remember visuals 6x more than plain text, and platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are great forums for visual content.