Once upon a time, small businesses had to think small. Mom and pops were the mice of the business world, scrambling for crumbs and scratching out an existence in their niche market, hoping that the big guys didn't open next door.
One core problem facing smaller companies' growth are the lack the resources. That's true today as it was 50 years ago. Without capital, small businesses are limited in many important facets needed to facilitate growth.
Without resources, small businesses have to choose between how best to invest their dollars. If you have only so much budgeted to grow; where do you put it? Marketing? Infrastructure? Customer support?
Customer Retention: The Case for Investing in Customer Service
There's a case to be made for investing in marketing, technology and infrastructure, but in this post, we're going to focus on why putting aside budget to improve customer service is your safest bet. Given that as much as 71% of customers would end a relationship with a company because of poor customer service, it makes sense to build out your customer service, whatever that may look like.
With armies of customer support staff and vast pools of resources at their disposal, huge companies are more capable of delivering top-notch customer service, and many have the customer retention rates to prove it.
However, with the arrival of the ubiquitous communication tool which came to be known as ‘the internet’, things began to change very, very rapidly.
Now, two decades later, the internet has grown into a worldwide network of easily-accessible information, low-cost online tools, and free web applications, those small businesses which were once in danger of being crushed underfoot have leveraged the power of the internet to even the playing field.
The Internet was not only in critical in gaining new customers, but made retaining customers easier for the smaller guys. Thanks to the World Wide Web, things are only going to improve.
Keeping in Touch (But Keep Your Distance)
The client/business relationship is a unique one. On the one hand, it’s important to recognize that any relationship will falter if neglected. After all, if you’re not actively swimming against the current, you are by default being pushed downstream. However, you don’t want to overdo things. Customers instinctively know that there are key differences between social and business relationships, and those businesses that cross the line and attempt to become ‘friends’ with their clientele risk alienating them.
Small businesses have classically had a certain amount of difficulty walking this line—with either their lack of resources preventing them from being able to follow up individual customer leads, or their over-eagerness to connect with their audience leading them to over communicate with too much attention.
The internet has changed that by providing an inexpensive and non intrusive way for small businesses to connect with their patrons. Email is the current preferred method, letting the customer know that you are available for direct communication should they desire it. But, as we move forward, email becomes only the tip of the iceberg. Small businesses can now level the playing field even further by availing themselves of today's best Internet and communication technologies.
Five Technologies and Techniques for Improving Customer Retention
We’ve all heard the statistic: It costs 6–7 times more to find a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. As such, customer retention should be one of the driving forces behind your business technology. But what technologies are the best suited to help achieve this goal? We’ve compiled a list of seven of our favorites that can help you improve customer retention and loyalty, without sucking up vast amounts of time, resources, and money in the process:
1. Mobile Presence
In January of 2014, for the first time in history, more people used smartphones and tablets to access the internet than personal computers.
With customer-focus drifting away from desktop and laptop access, no business can afford not to have a first-rate mobile presence. Why is that? Well, regular websites don't render correctly on mobile devices, and websites designed to be operated with the click of a mouse don’t translate well onto a touchscreen interface. So, when mobile users land on these desktop-specific sites, they typically become frustrated and move on to greener pastures.
By upgrading a site to a responsive web design, which allows it to render correctly and effectively across all devices, businesses are able to cast a wider net, as well as keep customers as they switch between devices. Likewise, by creating a second, duplicate site that is optimized for mobile use, and then including a plugin on the original site that recognizes mobile users and automatically redirects them to the mobile version of the site, businesses can make the transition feel absolutely seamless. When people know they can access a site on the go, they're more likely to keep coming back for more.
2. Social Media
These days, customer loyalty hinges on engaging in conversations. The modern client would rather discover for themselves—through helpful blog posts and reliable facts—the benefits of a product or service, rather than have those benefits shouted at them through a commercial; pummeling people with aggressive marketing pitches just doesn't work anymore.
Social media was perfectly designed to incite and guide these conversations. In fact, 97% of marketers participate in social media marketing. However, 85% of those marketers feel confused as to which social media marketing tools are the best. Fortunately, social CRM software is readily available and takes a lot of the guesswork out of making the most of social media, by making it possible to easily manage data points around single customers, and to tailor social output to more directly target a chosen demographic.
3. Omni-Channel Support
Given the number of devices and routes that customers can now use to engage with a business, it is becoming important for organizations to offer a seamless experience regardless of the channel being used. Large companies such as Amazon have taken up this call, and now offer a number of customer support channels to ensure that users get the help they need, exactly when they need it.
There's no reason small businesses can't do likewise. 67% of online shoppers admit to having made recent purchases via multiple channels, so this kind of support is quickly becoming less of a luxury, and more of an expectation. The right software will automatically filter users into the optimal channels, where they can receive prompt, effective support, no matter what path they used to find it.
No customer is an island - the modern customer expects to be able to connect with everyone involved in the buying process, from the the CEO, to the vendors, to the other customers who’ve also experienced the products or services being offered. In essence, the customer is no longer content to be an individual; they now want to be part of a community.
The Community Cloud is a platform designed to connect those within the organization and those with whom they do business together in various online communities. Those involved in these communities also gain the benefits of being able to access all relevant data, content, and business processes.
A community makes it possible for businesses large and small to actively engage with their customers, understand their needs, and address any issues that might negatively affect retention.
5. Loyalty Programs
If your customers come back, find a way to reward them. 54% of consumers say they'd consider increasing the amount of business they do with a company in exchange for loyalty rewards, and 46 percent say they already have. Facts don’t lie; loyalty programs work. If customers know that they will be able to earn valuable rewards in addition to the already beneficial relationship that they have with your company, then they’ll have no reason to want to take their business elsewhere.
A Net for Customer Retention
The internet—and by extension, the various technologies that have grown to take advantage of it for business purposes—has made it possible for even small businesses to stop being mice, and to instead run with the big dogs. Of course, all of the customer retention tech in the world won’t do anyone any good if it doesn’t get used. Decreasing customer churn rate by 5% can increase profits by as much as 95% long term, so, if your small business finds itself stuck in the gutter, consider making a change or two.
After all, the 1990s gifted small businesses the Internet; it’s up to us to take advantage of it. Learn more about how Communities are crucial to business success, no matter the size of your company. Download the FREE E-Book now: