Satisfying Customers is Key in Managing Small Business Brand Reputation
The market today is a rough place to be. New competitors are popping up daily in your niche trying to get a larger share of customers. Utilizing effective marketing strategies has never been more important. But while you are marketing for future customers, don’t forget about the ones you already have. They are a very important potential source of future business. Satisfied customers become repeat customers. Satisfied customers spread positive messages by word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth can either be spread simply by talking to others or carried over to the Internet to social networking sites and industry forums.
How do you keep your customers satisfied? You need to consistently deliver superior customer service. How your current customers feel they are being treated is their perception. Your customer’s perception of your company’s customer service might not necessarily be reflective of the perception you think you are giving. The perception is the reality – not the intention. It is therefore imperative, that you as the small business owner see your customer service through your customer’s eyes.
In order to better align your customer’s perceptions with your intentions, it is important to actively listen to them. What are their concerns? What are their needs that you might not be fulfilling? Remember that “the customer is always right” even when they are wrong. There will be times when you as a small business owner will be unable to please a customer, perhaps because their request is unreasonable. There are some customers who will just never be satisfied. As a business owner, you have to just accept the fact that you can’t make some people happy. However, as long as you handle their complaints respectfully and apologetically where appropriate, you will hopefully be able to thwart any negative publicity stemming from their dissatisfaction.
Careful monitoring of your brand’s reputation can avert long-term damage. There are many free social networking tracking tools, such as HowSociable and SocialMention, that can help you find what people are saying about your brand on the web. You can also type your company name into Google and see what pops up. If you find negative comments, respond to them respectfully with substantiative data to back up your response. Always remain professional, even in the face of adversity. Being aware of and managing your reputation will keep you in the driver’s seat and give you the control you need over your own reputation.
There are other proactive methods you can use to assess customer satisfaction rather than just monitoring what others say about your brand. Customer satisfaction surveys are an excellent way to get feedback, however, the response rate in general is rather low. A suggestion for increasing your response rate is to add an incentive to taking the survey such as a raffle, free gift or a discount on future products or services.
Take advantage of the Internet while managing your reputation and striving to maintain superior customer service status. Encourage interaction and conversation about your brand and industry niche on the social networking sites and forums where you participate. Monitor the conversations taking place about your brand on the web, manage the relationships you currently have with your customers and foster relationships with potential customers.
By managing your reputation and delivering superior customer service, you will be giving your brand the best chance at success.