Small Business Communication Practices To Increase Brand Loyalty
Communication is the core of human relations, and it is also the most important part of your small business. “More important than profit?” You ask. Absolutely. Communication is the gateway to successful business. As we become increasingly more connected, business owners are wondering how to improve small business communication and increase customer loyalty.
Start with the obvious.
Let’s pretend you are looking to hire a sandwich shop to cater a last-minute business meeting. You call the number for Speedy Pete’s, a (fictional) sandwich shop with the slogan, “impossibly quick delivery”. The phone rings 6 times before anyone answers. Sigh. The cashier is not ready to take your order and asks you to hold. This isn’t off to a quick start, which is a sign of inconsistent brand communication. With so many other sandwich shops out there, you might shop around for a different caterer next time. Speedy Pete’s just lost your customer loyalty ticket. Every interaction with the customer is an opportunity to exercise brand messaging and overall philosophy. Before you implement a massive, complex content strategy, start with the everyday interactions to ensure every touchpoint for your customers is consistently on-brand.
The Inquiry Call
Whether you own a sandwich shop or an investment firm, you have potential customers who are curious about your services. When they call, they are searching for more information than what is available online. That kind of action on the customer’s part should not be wasted. If you currently let the phone go to voicemail, you may be missing out on valuable leads. Make sure your customers are received by a genuine human with the right answers. Business owners, if you are available to take the call, then take it. Receiving information straight from the source helps customers feel valued. If you prefer to take the calls anyway but you’re worried it will eat up all your time, build a custom call calendar into your emails (it’s a quick plug-in that can actually make your life much easier and your customers feel appreciated.) If you do have receptionist answer your call, equip them with enough information that they know how to generate a real relationship with the person. No one wants to be spoken to like it’s protocol.
We’re not talking about saying hello when they walk into your store (that greeting kind of goes without saying). We’re talking about the welcome into the brand–the moment your customer becomes part of something bigger. How do you greet someone that could potentially become a lifelong customer? We’ve seen a few successful practices:
- A handwritten note that accompanies their first purchase
- A welcome email with a special invitation from the owner when they subscribe to your email list.
- For contract clients, create an on-boarding experience that helps your customers feel like they are part of something bigger than a transaction.
However you choose to welcome your new customers, make it a brand experience.
A lot of your business will come from previous business, so take care of these relationships first. Keep the lines of communication open and include past clients in your brand’s story. From annual events and portfolio shout-outs to holiday cards and simply passing along an opportunity, treating previous clients like old friends will keep you in their mind for additional work.
Random Acts of Kindness
Is there anything more exciting than an out-of-the-blue gift? (In the context of this post, the answer is no). Take the time to give your customers random acts of kindness in the form of gifts, giveaways, invitations, and discounts. If you have ongoing clients, your random acts can be even more personal. Take them out for coffee, send them a birthday gift, or invite them to your holiday party.
Thanks to the instant gratification of social media, there’s no room for “within 24 hours” anymore. Customers expect responses as quickly as a face-to-face interaction. Take care of your customers and respond as soon as possible, even if you send a brief response assuring the customer you are looking into the issue. If the customer has to wait for you to gather all the information before responding, their frustration will raise to a boil and you will lose their business.
Implement Feedback ASAP
If you’re customers aren’t satisfied, then nothing else matters. This doesn’t mean you should rework your operations every time a customer has a complaint, but action should be taken (we don’t mean to be should-ers, but this is a should that shouldn’t be shrugged off.) Customers want to be heard as close to immediately as humanly possible, so respond to their feedback and take appropriate action. Customers are the source of your word of mouth marketing, and if they don’t feel like their voice matters, they won’t engage with your business. Don’t wait for direct messages either. Put on your detective hat you bought for Halloween that one time and read every review and comment you can find. Look for the way your customers talk about your business, and adjust to meet demand.
Communicating with your customers is an everyday job. If you want to increase customer loyalty and amplify your brand, start with the everyday connections between your brand and the customer. Communicating in your brand voice (even with the boring stuff) will result in consistent messaging that resonates with customers.