Next to our professional networks, relationships with our customers are a critical part of running a business. In fact, in the case of many small businesses, customer relations are THE most important aspect of the trade. Think about it—these are the people that keep your industry going. Without their business, yours may not exist. Without their positive experiences, you would be looking for other clients. Customer relations (a.k.a. customer service) are key to a successful business. But how do you navigate customer relations in the modern, technology-heavy socially-dry world?
Know Your Target & Anticipate Their Needs
In a society where the paradox of choice presides, customers are largely drive by emotion over logic. Knowing who your target customers are and how to effectively reach them is essential to making your business stand out.
First and foremost, do your research. Nail down the demographics you want to target and develop solutions for connecting with your audience. If you’ve spent time cultivating your professional network of peers, this process will be much easier. Use your resources to find out their most effective strategies and tailor these ideas to your clients. Sending out daily tweets into the world is all well and good, but if not one is being reached by your tweets, what are you really achieving? Make your efforts count.
Once you have a firm grasp on who you are reaching out to, strive to anticipate your customers’ needs. Whether this is a reminder of upcoming holiday sales (don’t we all sometimes forget about that gift for cousin so-and-so?) or of services you may offer that fit a client’s current personal life (“We also have matching address stamps to go with your recent order of Save the Date cards!”). Fulfilling a need before a customer even recognizes they have such a need is a hallmark of a successful business.
Be Client Friendly
Have you ever tried to return a horrific gift to a store and been blindsided by the return policy? Talk about frustrating! As a business owner, we never want to put our clients in a situation where their misunderstanding has created an undesirable situation. While impossible to completely prevent (hey, some people just refuse to read the fine print), it is our job to be proactive and provide clear, concise information concerning our policies and procedures. As with any relationship, confusion does not foster trust and warm feelings. If customers feel they do not understand your policies, they will likely take their patronage elsewhere. Lack of clarity is not beneficial to you, your clients, or your business.
An important and often overlooked part of being client friendly is providing an accessible method for feedback. Not only is this a way for clients to relate comments (positive and negative), it provides them with an outlet to address concerns. Not every customer will have a good experience every time for whatever reason. It is our job to help amend those negative experiences before they become a detriment to our business.
Having a method for customers to easily relay their feedback allows you to proactively keep your business strong.
Just like any aspect of business, tailoring customer relations to your needs may take time and effort. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to customer service, and what may work for one business may be a nightmare for yours. This is where your professional network can be a life-saver. Ask around and find out what has worked/not worked for others. Use your resources wisely. Although we are all separate businesses, we can all learn from each other and grow stronger in the process.