How Building Customer Relationships Create Lasting Businesses
How you treat customers is how you succeed in the long term. Consider these customer relationships techniques for your own success.
A vibrant symbol of the American dream is enthusiastic small businesses, burgeoning across the nation every year. As British author, Simon Sinek, said, “Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”
As people start building on their cherished dreams through small and medium enterprises (SMEs), they blend into the lifeblood of the American economy. The Small Business Administration (SBA) of America defines a “small business” as an organization with less than 500 employees. Therefore, many startups in the U.S. are small businesses.
American leaders pay special attention to small businesses, recognizing their value to the country’s economy. As former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, once said, “Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States.”
Recently, Kim Spalding, Google’s Global Product Director, said that small businesses provide two-thirds of net new jobs and employ 47.3% of Americans, amounting to 59.9 million people.
What is as important is that businesses understand the critical need to be resilient, to adapt to the needs of the times. In fact, some of their key challenges have been updating customers on their day-to-day operations, adapting to new customer behavior, changing offerings and messages for relevance to meet new challenges, and utilizing budget-friendly tools, including video, to keep in touch with customers.
Resilience is indeed a boon to small businesses in the “new normal” of a pandemic, with 76% of them relying more on digital tools now than during pre-COVID times. Many businesses would have folded up, had they not learnt to engage with customers digitally.
Digital Presence When Face to Face Isn’t Possible
As Google’s Kim Spalding said, over a billion people use Google maps every month, to locate small businesses and get directions. Therefore, as a first priority, businesses need to ensure they have a website, as its formal introduction to customers.
During a time when online shopping is at historic highs, updating business information across all online channels, including the company website and online business profiles, including online maps and search engines, is critical.
With reduced hours and low customer interaction, businesses could also benefit by adding a donation or gift card link to their business profile, also informing customers how the money will be used. This transparency may nudge customers to be generous, who would otherwise be hesitant to give.
Leverage Contactless Options to Engage Customers
During a time where most social interactions have turned virtual, video is a great way for businesses to interact with regular and potential customers. Furthermore, technology can help in creating a virtual showroom in minutes, where customers can virtually walk down the aisles in a store. For instance, businesses can develop videos to showcase great features of their products and services, and even teach customers to engage in creative new ideas based off their products.
Many people, during these Covid times, are nervous to enter confined shopping spaces. Therefore, even if they are interested in a product by browsing online, they may decide to postpone buying because they would rather not risk getting infected. To overcome this issue, businesses could offer curbside pickup and contactless delivery. A recent survey of 1,092 consumers by Medallia Zingle, a technology company specializing in text messaging platforms, found that 54% of shoppers had changed their shopping habits since the pandemic, with limited in-person visits to the store, tending to favor delivery or curbside pickup.
87% want restaurants and other brands to continue to offer curbside pickup and other processes that limit the need for in-person visits. Moreover, a smooth, punctual, accurate and courteous curbside pickup service will increase customer appreciation, and more potential business in the future. The survey concludes that the pandemic’s impact on customers will last longer than the pandemic itself. In other words, these new practices may turn into consumer habits.
As a further distinction among shoppers, 36% of Gen Z respondents will more likely choose curbside pickup or delivery, against 31% of Millennials.
Communicate Safety Protocols
Another important focus during a pandemic, is “How safe is it to visit a business?” The survey found that 45% of participants are more likely to visit a place if it proactively communicates its health and safety protocols, while another 39% said that was somewhat important. Moreover, a recent study by Capgemini Research Institute operating in 40 countries, found, that 77% of consumers, post-pandemic, will be more attentive to health and safety.
This highlights the need for businesses to be upfront with customers on their strategies to keep customers safe. The old adage that “the customer is always right,” is a timeless test for businesses to engage in speedy problem solving. It can end up increasing customer loyalty and generating referrals. At the same time, it makes sense not to give false promises or unrealistic guarantees. Being honest and upfront about promises creates a happier, more committed customer base.
Especially during the pandemic, consumers expect speedy attention to their concerns. According to the survey, 45% of customers expect a response within a day, to their concerns over a health or safety issue at a store or restaurant. To this end, businesses need to be present for their customers at every level, treating them all with the same level of service, and paying close attention to their feedback.
Don’t Forget Employee and Vendor Relations
A critical fact that businesses tend to ignore is the need to hire employees with excellent people skills, and treat them the way they want employees to treat customers. Happy employees radiate positivity, and stimulate customer confidence and loyalty. It can be the one powerful weapon to cut through the noise of competition, and flock customers to a business.
In addition, how a business builds and manages vendor relationships can have a profound impact on how it operates. For example, an aftermarket car parts retailer may get their own products made oversees by an investment casting supplier. If the retailer is slow to pay the vendor they may not be able to properly stock their shelves with the products customers are searching for. This can lead to loss of customers to competitor stores.
Even during normal times, not all small businesses can survive competition. Research indicates that about two-thirds of U.S. small businesses survive for two years, while 50% of all small businesses last for five years. Only 33% are able to go on for 10 years or more.
Popular business coach, Brad sugars, aptly said,” Business is all about relationships. How well you build them determines how well they build your business.”