You want to make more money don’t you? No matter what business you are in or what industry you represent the majority of us have one goal - to provide a product or service to a customer in exchange financial remuneration. It may be an over simplification but the fundamental exchange of goods for cash is what makes our collective survival and sustainability possible – both as a business and as individuals.
Business can be difficult even in the best of times, there are few of us, especially during a global financial recession, who can say that things are easy and life is a breeze right now. When times are good there is a tendency for corners to be cut, product quality and service levels to be not so closely monitored and staff or management not always being expected to perform to their greatest potential. Worst of all is customer service is way down on the list of priorities. Its times like now we start to comprehend the impact this is having on our business.
Taking any existing customer or potential client for granted is a big mistake.
Human nature and to some extent situational circumstances creates customer loyalty and with it desirable repeat business and referral. Look to your own purchasing habits to validate this. Where do you buy your bread and milk? Where do you fuel your car? Where do you get your hair cut? Now ask yourself, why?
Is it the quality of the service, the product, the price, or is it that you are made to feel valued when you give them your custom? What would it take for this purchasing habit to be changed? Would it be the result of their poor performance, bad service, a betrayal of the trust or would it be that someone else has made you feel more valued or offered you a better deal?
Customer loyalty is primarily about the relationship you have with the person who you exchange your hard earned cash with, you may even pay a premium price for your milk when you know the shopkeeper welcomes you by name, takes the time to listen or does something out of the blue that makes you or your family feel special or important. It may be as simple as stocking your favourite ice-cream, giving the kids a sweet free of charge once in a blue moon or remembering something you told him in passing like the date of your birthday.
I don’t have to convince you this is true, you know it is. So why do we fail to apply this simple logic to our own businesses and how we manage our own customer base.
The way we buy, the way we communicate has recently changed dramatically as a result of Social Media because we have a global communication network that never existed even a few years ago at our disposal. This change in the way we use the internet and the World-Wide-Web is why we now collectively refer to it as Web 2.0. Accessing this information and the live and interactive opinion of others is easilier, increasingly affordable, ubiquitous and portable. The size of this customer market - the digitally aware and proactive - is now too large to ignore and growing at an exponential rate. To put some perspective on this, if Facebook were a country it would be the 4th most populated in the world.
The question proposed here is, why should you bother with Social Media for your business?
Put simply, ignore it at your peril because leaving it to later may just be to late.
Your existing and potential customers are seeking the opinion and getting feedback from each other on many, if not most of their buying decisions right now. They are doing this via Facebook, in Twitter on YouTube and in their own blogs.
Paradoxically it’s the old fashioned values of maintaining conversations, keeping customers updated and informed, making them feel valued and allowing your advocates tell others about your great service is what makes the emerging social media communications strategies a success in both PR and financial return for businesses of all sizes.
The number one rule to remember is that social media are above all, a social tool. Our usual social norms apply just as well in the offline world, and this means treating customers with respect, being open and transparent, and being interesting and engaging.
Sure its going to take time, there are learning curves to be experienced and some tough decisions to be made - but the only thing you can’t afford to do is wait. Social Media is a long game, not a quick fix. If you are not participating, like the corner store who doesn’t understand the value of good service, your customers will simply drive on by and spend their money elsewhere.