If you are a small business owner, you know that there are countless decisions to be made every day. The biggest question is how can you make your product or service stand out among the competition? Much of the success of a business relies on a superior product or service. But that is only part of the puzzle.
These days, taking a broader approach is becoming more effective. By focusing on creating a customer experience that is unique and memorable, small businesses can differentiate themselves from their competitors. Sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor make this necessary because customer feedback, whether good or bad, is readily available for all the public to read. A couple of reviews can either make or break a small business on social media. The question becomes how do you create an experience that is superior to the rest? You want one that is so good that the customer spreads their experience through word of mouth and keeps them coming back. Below are three strategies that can help create that special experience for your valued customers:
#1: Think Like Your Customers
The best way to get in touch with your customer base is to put yourself in their shoes. What kind of experience would I want to have with a company like mine? You want more than just a memorable experience, you want to create one that is so positive that they share it with their network. Think about times when you yourself have had a great customer experience and write down the things that stick out.
Here's an example: I always use the same house cleaning service. Despite all the competitors' coupons and ads from their competitors, I am loyal to them. After they come clean my house, the owner calls to make sure I am satisfied with the work. If there are any problems, he sends a crew out to do it again free of charge. He gives me tips on how I can clean my stainless steel appliances and get my sink to sparkle. These little extras are what keeps me coming back. I have recommended his service to dozens of people I know. The fact that he continues to invest in me as a customer is the key.
Taking yourself through each step of the customer process, try and think of what the experience is like. When do your customers first interact with you or your company? When does that stop? Figure out which of those moments are the most important to winning or losing customer loyalty. By extending the reach of the customer experience, you gain more opportunities for positive interaction. You can build brand loyalty and reap the benefits of investing time and resources into your customer's experience.
#2: Focus on Feedback
Hearing what is working and not working is the best improvement tool your company can have. By using the reviews you get on site such as Angie's List and Facebook, you can determine the best ways to fix and improve (or maintain) the experiences of your customers. The opinions that are written are generally reflective of what most of your customers think.
As a small business owner, it is important to respond to your customer's feedback so they feel like they have been heard. This is applicable to both positive and negative reviews. This gives you an opportunity to save a customer who might be jumping ship. By letting them know you appreciate their feedback and are actively trying to improve the situation, the customer may be impressed and want to stay. Conversely, responding to positive feedback encourages people to spread the word about your company and their experience even more.
Another thing you can do is ask your customers for direct feedback. If you aren't getting a lot of traction on social or review sites, consider distributing a customer survey to gain insights using services such as Google Survey. You can offer incentives to encourage participation. This strategy is a win-win: You get the data you need and your customers feel like they are valued by your company.
#3: Figure Out What Your Customers Are Looking For
If you know what your customers are looking for, you can provide it for them. Giving them educational material, answers and articles beyond your product offerings creates the feeling that you are looking out for your customers and not just trying to sell them something. Even if you offer suggestions of an alternative brand or service, customers will most likely come back to you for repeat purchases in the future.