3 Ways Customer Experiences Help Small Businesses
When it comes to social media and business in general, the cheapest thing that you can do is to give your customer a good experience. Small businesses have an advantage in this regard since they often know their customers personally.
As a small business you can’t hide from the responsibility of providing a great customer experience. You must take the long view of each prospect and customer relationship, whether they buy from you or not.
Don’t assume that just because a customer doesn’t express their displeasure that they’re happy with your product and service. As a business owner, you generally know when there’s a customer problem and it’s your responsibility to make good, not blame your staff. This means providing a replacement or refund. Be aware that a upset customer will tell a lot more people than a satisfied one, both face-to-face and on social media.
Therefore, think beyond a single purchase to the lifetime value of each relationship. This is particularly true of businesses that depend on repeat purchases and word of mouth like restaurants and hairdressers. The lifetime value of the relationship includes the people to whom they recommend your offering, both via word of mouth and social media. This has no cost to you but is worth gold to your business. Make sure you thank your customers!
Before buying, prospects and qualified leads seek product information, answers to their purchase-related questions, explanations that show them how to use your product, and ways to style product that you can provide.
Yet, regardless of how much information you provide, at some point in the purchase process, customers will check ratings and reviews. It’s not what you say about your offering, it’s what other customers say, the good, bad and ugly. Forrester research underscores this point. It shows that almost twice as many people check Amazon as Google because it provides all of the information customers seek.
Here are four major sources of ratings and reviews that consumers check:
- Amazon. It’s the granddaddy of ratings and reviews for the products this retail giant sells. Even more important they provide ratings on the reviewers. Many shoppers start here to get product information. The challenge for small retailers is that your prospects have Amazon’s app on their smartphone. You can compete by offering stellar service and great staff.
- Third party review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. This is where people check to find out what the public thinks. As a business owner, you need to monitor these interactions and respond where appropriate. Know that customers have their own way of determining what’s good and bad. A hotel with a bar that’s active until 4:00 am doesn’t work for grandpa but may be just what a thirty year old jetsetter wants.
- Social media. Think beyond the comments on your social media profile pages. Consider photographs shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. These can be difficult to track since they aren’t always tagged. Further, your prospects can just give their colleagues a quick shout out for a recommendation or last minute check on their purchase decision. Chances are you’re not going to influence these sales.
- Your website (or your competitors). Understand that if you’re going to offer ratings and reviews, you must be willing to accept the bad along with the good. Realize that your prospects are at least as smart as you are.
I’ve had clients who were afraid to post customer reviews and feedback for fear they would result in lower sales. They underestimated the power of customer reviews to qualify their products and services. Be sure to examine each review and to respond where appropriate. You can’t assume that an average rating is acceptable since it can include a few super negative reviews that need your attention.
Further, don’t underestimate the potential that if your website doesn’t provide ratings and reviews, prospects will look elsewhere to find them and once they’re gone they may not return!
My favorite example is the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam (Note: I’ve never stayed there.) They’ve turned their lemons into margaritas by making the claim: “proudly disappointing travellers for fourty years. Boasting levels of comfort comparable to a minimum-security prison.” It’s turned their budget sleeps into a must-stay magnet. It ranks smack dab in the middle of Amsterdam hotels on Trip Advisor with a broad array of reviews. While it’s not the place that I’d take my mother, it’s a great deal for students.
The bottom line is that satisfied customers save you money in three ways:
- They buy more from you. People who have a good experience with your business are more likely to buy from you again. As a marketer you can encourage this behavior by offering related product at purchase time or post purchase.
- They reduce your marketing costs. Selling to existing customers, also known as retention marketing, is cheaper than finding and persuading new prospects. You can market to these customers at a lower cost since you don’t need to pay for third party media. Additionally, they help sell their friends.
- They tell their family, friends, connections and strangers about your business. While most people think this occurs on social media, the reality is that face-to-face communications are more likely to result in action, according to research by Ed Keller. Nudge your customers to action in your post purchase email.
There’s no substitute for a great customer experience. It’s gold for your social media profile and for your business’s profitability.
How do you approach customer experiences and what impact has it had on your business?
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/obscurepixels/3837089945/