Written by: Heidi Capodanno, Director of Customer Experience, Union Savings Bank
As a small business owner, creating a great customer experience is a big part of your business success. From interactions with your employees to your digital communications, every touchpoint is an opportunity to nurture your customer relationship. Are your customers dropping subtle hints that they’re just not that into you anymore?
Here are 6 signs that your customers might be losing interest, and tips for how to improve customer experience for your small business.
1. You notice a rise in unsubscribes from your e-mail list.
One of the best ways to keep in touch with your customers is to maintain an active and up-to-date email program. The data gathered from a small business email program can reveal lots of valuable information, like which products and services are most interesting to your recipients and which items customers are most likely to share with their family and friends.
Your email program can also reveal potential problems with your customer experience. If you notice a sudden or long-running increase in unsubscribes, it may point to a disconnect between your content and your customers. Take a look at your most opened and clicked through emails; what do they have in common? Maybe they used personalization to address your recipients by name, or perhaps they offered some insight that your readers valued. Also consider how many emails your customers receive, and how often. Your customers might just want some control over how often they hear from you. Consider adding an option that lets recipients tailor the frequency and types of emails they get from you, and you just might find that your subscriptions start to rise again.
2. Your customers gravitate toward (or away from) certain employees.
Have you ever found yourself waiting in line longer than necessary, just to check out with your favorite cashier? We all have favorite employees at the businesses we visit most often who make the day a bit brighter. As a small business owner, you might have such an employee working for you right now. You might also find that one of your employees has a less than stellar rapport with your customers. How can you maximize your great customer experience, and minimize the negative?
If you run a brick and mortar business, consider conducting a customer experience survey as customers leave. Ask them about their experience, if anyone made it better and what they would change during their next visit. There are also great survey tools available for free online such as Google Forms or Survey Monkey, enabling small businesses to reach customers when they have more time to answer questions. These tools have numerous templates to choose from that include customer experience-centric versions, complete with questions you can use as-is or modify to meet your needs.
A best practice is to simply observe your employees and their day-to-day interactions with customers. Provide regular customer experience training and reinforce great customer service when you see it with recognition and praise. Having a model for great customer experience can help inspire your less motivated employees to step up their game.
3. Customer referrals take a dive.
For a small business, referrals from satisfied customers can be a large part of your continued success. If you are accustomed to a steady flow of new customers sent to you by past clients but find that number to be shrinking month after month, you could have a customer experience issue on your hands. Are customers dissatisfied? Or have they simply not had a reason to return lately?
A great source of insight and potential customers is your network of customer advocates, those regulars who love your business. They are probably already doing a lot to help send new customers your way. Make that process even more appealing with a customer referral program that rewards both your advocates and their referrals with discounts and special offers. They’ll benefit from great perks, and you’ll benefit from a host of new customers who are getting a positive experience right off the bat.
4. Attendance at your events drops.
Organizing an event for your customers takes a lot of time, money and energy, so when just a handful of your fifty-person invite list shows up, it’s easy to get discouraged. Are your customers just not that into you?
That’s probably not the case. Consider a few factors like the time and location of your event. If it’s after business hours and your clientele is largely made of family-oriented professionals, you’re likely losing out to family dinners. Try adjusting the time of your next event, offering it as a breakfast or lunch-and-learn.
One way to expand your available space, not to mention tap into a whole new market, is to co-host an event with another business in your industry. For example, if you own a nail salon but don’t have a lot of room to host an event, reach out to a local hair studio or gym and co-host a mixer. Putting a new spin on your next event could be the perfect formula for great customer engagement.
Lastly, think about how you plan to invite your guests. Sharing events on social media can help you reach current and prospective customers, and enable them to share the event with their contacts.
5. Regular customers are not renewing their routine orders or scheduling their next visits.
Customers who place regular orders, schedule recurring appointments and make routine visits are essential to small businesses. If you find yourself seeing less of your regular customers, it could mean new competition – or it could indicate that your customer experience is slipping.
The best way to find out why your customers have changed their routine is to simply ask. Conduct a customer experience survey to determine possible causes. You might also want to consider incenting your regular customers with special discounts for their next order or visit. While you might be tempted to incent your customers to participate in your survey, be warned that it could result in less authentic feedback.
6. Customer service phone calls seem to be getting longer.
A great customer experience doesn’t end after the sale is made or even after the customer has walked out the door. It carries through any concerns or questions the customer may have, so your customer service team is an extremely important part of your business. And, depending on the size of your small business, that “team” could really be your entire workforce. If your employees are unsure how to help customers or aren’t familiar with customer service best practices, you could find your inbound calls growing longer, and your customers more dissatisfied.
Providing customer experience training to all of your employees is a smart way to ensure that you consistently provide a great customer experience. Hold in-person training sessions with your team where they can feel comfortable asking questions and acting out role-play scenarios. Daily or weekly huddles can also be a good way to inform your employees of any product or service changes or anticipated spikes in call volume or in-store visits. Finally, make sure that frequently asked questions and their answers are easily accessible to all of your employees, along with any other useful resources. Providing your employees with the tools they need is the key to improving your small business customer service.
Like with any relationship, the way your customers feel about your small business can evolve over time. Learning how to interpret your customers’ behavior can help you determine what needs to change in order to maintain a great customer experience. With the help of customer experience training for your employees, the occasional customer experience survey and careful attention to detail, you can ensure that your customers receive the best service possible every time they call or visit.