The power of customer engagement for business growth

The traditional methods of building a strong bond with a customer still hold water; the process takes time, effort, and adaptability, built upon streamlined processes and strong organisation. An assertive and accomplished attitude with a rock-solid knowledge of products and a willingness to listen, remain vital age-old skills.

Modern digital technology has only changed the rules by cutting down on time: it has created a mutually beneficial customer-service relationship, where the SME can promote the brand and its values of trust and care, and the customer benefits from personalised information, discounts, products, and a feeling that their opinion matters.

So the SME should always be on the lookout for ways to improve its communication methods such as social media and email database, while an interactive, regularly updated website showcasing everything that is good about your company will get people talking.

There’s an old adage that three times as many people tell others about unhappy experiences as happy ones, and word-of-mouth is still vitally important for businesses, both online and offline.
Break this down into two strands:

1) Monitor your social media accounts, posting regular deals and discounts, and responding to any comments concerning your reputation, especially inaccuracies.

Pose questions, post offers online, encourage customers to interact – and if they do, do not ignore them. Re-tweeting photographs of happy customers using your products is simple and effective.

If an SME is asking for feedback, it behoves it to act upon any that is received. Do not just leave it at the ‘auto-response’ stage.

2) If you can meet people face-to-face, or at least take time out for a phone call, then do so. However if not there are other ways to  engage wit customers:

  • Show you care by actively solving a problem that a customer has identified and explaining – perhaps in person – how and why it occurred.
  • The old-fashioned letter of complaint seems quaint and anachronistic, but if it comes your way, act in an appropriate fashion.
  • Install a suggestion box at the shop front to harvest opinion and add names to your email database.
    If there’s a community event in town – including anything from networking to a Christmas fair – show your face.

The SME could experiment with building its own app through a company such as appsme. An app icon provides a constant brand reminder any time a person looks at their smartphone, while a loyalty scheme ticks the trinity of business aims of keeping existing customers, attracting new ones, and showing you care.

Similarly, opting into a voucher scheme allows the savvy company to plan ahead for discounts and offers, but also gives leeway for improvisation; for example, the restaurant that has no reservations on a given night sends out discount vouchers at 6pm to customers’ mobile phones. Keep the process of interactivity alive by asking for feedback afterwards, perhaps through a quick mobile survey.

Your employees should subscribe to the same values of customer care and engagement as you do, and an ability to gauge the correct method of communication; that could mean adept usage of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Google+, an email, or picking up a phone. Think about this when recruitment time arrives.

The ultimate aim of engagement is to prove that your SME listens. A customer may know your products, your services, your prices and your location, but he may not know you. Make the change.