Guest Post from Amy Collett
In this country’s early days of retail commerce, the business owner’s customer was more often than not someone they knew in the community or, if they were newcomers, they didn’t remain strangers for long. Shopkeepers also opened their doors for community gatherings and socializing, further cementing the bond between the business and the customer. Family milestones, like children’s birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries, were rewarded with hardy congratulations and perhaps a free gift or small token.
It was the earliest days of building a brand by telling a story, however unintentional. Now, with online retail sales in the trillions of dollars, customer engagement bears little resemblance to those early days in the country store. It’s important, however, that business owners try to remember there’s a face, a family, and a wealth of humanity behind their e-commerce storefront. As a part of that understanding, you must also consider the accessibility challenges today’s unseen customers may face. To help you get a better visual, LedgerGurus shares some insight.
Piercing impersonal service with technology
It seems ironic that one can use technology—the very thing that brought us distant online business capabilities—to now personalize our customer engagement and relationships. That’s the beauty of technology; we can give the customer the convenience and accessibility they want and need but still, with some additional effort on the business owner’s part, better understand those needs and wants to customize your service and put a human face behind your business.
In yesterday’s country store, the shopkeeper could easily greet every customer with a smile and a welcoming handshake while asking how they could help find what they need. While you can’t completely replicate that experience online, you can present a somewhat personable facsimile: the chatbot.
Many chatbots are programmed to respond to common questions or to point customers to the correct place on the website. Some are more intelligent and “learn” as the conversation continues. Customizing them with your photo and conversational language personalizes the interactions. It’s important that if the customer doesn’t get the answer they need from the chatbot experience that they get connected to a live customer service representative. You can find plenty of options from both fee-based and free chatbot services.
One of the best ways to perfect your customer engagement is to make sure your sales team can communicate seamlessly, regardless of location, when there is a customer complaint or request. You can create a process map so your whole team can understand and identify where customers may be having issues in your chain of communication. Customer relationship management tools can help you navigate this communication and track the result. Having an automated “help desk” ticket mechanism also helps you organize the problems and the eventual resolution.
Social media is also a powerful way to engage with your customers. You can personalize your page and your communications which can help personify your brand. Start by adding your logo and your company’s slogan, if you have one. If you lack both, this can be remedied quickly by creating a new logo with a graphic logo design tool, which gives any newbie the chance to produce professional-grade results, and using a slogan generator like the one offered by Shopify. Be mindful about making sure your slogan sends the right message and is an extension of your inclusivity efforts. Once your branding is in place, you can make better use of your social media platforms.
In addition to comments, you can interact with your customers through private messages and other platform tools. Take advantage of the poll features social media platforms offer, as well as using other online survey tools, to gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ preferences and needs.
Making time for your customer
As a small business owner you are pulled in several different directions, so incorporate as many time-saving measures into your business operations as you can afford. Online accounting services like LedgerGurus make it easy to track inventory and sales. There are also several payment and payroll systems available for small businesses, and project management platforms organize your company’s team projects while affording you a one-stop place to view their progress.
If you’re getting bogged down in business details, consider how you can structure your company to reduce these burdens. For example, forming a limited liability company, or LLC may mean less paperwork for you and your bookkeeper. You can pay an attorney to do it if you don’t have the time, or work with an online formation service.
Showing the customer they count
We know that the online business experience removes the benefits of face-to-face communication, but with some focused effort, you can still demonstrate to your customers that they count, and they can count on you. Making sure your business is as inclusive as possible is one such consideration. The time you take to be inclusive of all of your customers is an important part of your brand’s story, and caring for your customer is one sure way to keep them.
This article is brought to you by LedgerGurus, your specialized accounting department (at a fraction the cost of an internal accounting department) that allows you to focus on what you do best. For more information about our services, contact us today!