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By “passive presence” we mean the kind of attitude businesses take when they consider customer experience management a lower priority than other marketing objectives, thus creating a culture rooted in “If you build it, they will come.”

But they will not come. At least not just for the heck of it. The 21st century reality is no field of dreams. To succeed in this era of social media, mobile-first, and the Internet of things, brands need to evolve, and engage their customers in a way that fosters customer loyalty and advocacy.

According to Bloomberg, only 2 out of 10 small businesses started by entrepreneurs remain alive after the first 18 months. The other eight crash and burn.

That’s why, even at the early stages of developing your brand reputation and persona, you must replace passive presence with true customer engagement, both online and offline. The earlier you engage your customer, the more likely it is that your business will succeed. Your passion for the way you serve your customer must be ignited on all fronts.

Having a website, installing good signage, and even designing awesome business cards is basic and necessary for your business to exist, but those things can only go so far. It is only when you engage in a relational way that takes into account the needs of your customers, as well as their very primal emotional response, that you will be able to stay ahead of the game.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level, check out these 10 tips for winning the hearts and minds of those engaging with your brand.

Define Your Buyer Persona

The best way to effectively engage with your customers is to have a good grasp of who they are and what drives them. As soon as your doors open, learn as much as possible about your customers. The more you know about them, the better equipped you will be to draft a strong and results-oriented customer engagement strategy.

Learn common values shared by your customers by being a good student of your online reviews, generating your own surveys, and using strong customer feedback software that captures relevant data points and allows you to analyze the behavior and attitudes of your shoppers.

Don’t Let the Relationship Come to a Halt at the Point of Sale

What happens after a customer gives you his or her money is just as important as the money itself. If you want true engagement, make sure you have processes in place that provide follow-up to ensure customer success and satisfaction. Provide technical support, and, if necessary, extend relevant promos. What you do to engage a customer post-transaction will define the character and the success of your business.

Make Every Experience a Reason to Converse with Your Customers

It does not matter if you’re selling a service or a product: Lack of verbal engagement when serving the customer is a no-no for businesses wanting to grow and succeed.

Establish standard operational procedures that require everyone in your teams to engage with customers in ways that show cordiality and care, without being intrusive. Even before the transactions is over, employ communication tactics to make sure that your customer is receiving the highest levels of service. There is no better time than the here and now to make corrections to issues that might result in a less-than-perfect customer experience.

Engage with the Local Community: Boots on the Ground Matter More Than Ever

There is no better way to connect with your customers than positioning yourself as a company that is vested in the local community. Allocate time and budget for outreach, and participate in civic and community-oriented activities that are meaningful to your best customers.

Have a Mailing List and Use It

As the owner or manager, you are best qualified to communicate to your customer, so try to do it as directly as possible. Connect with them on the most relevant platform for your business, whatever it may be.

Email is a well-known common denominator for high-engagement customer feedback. Utilizing a mailing list and email strategy is a great way to ensure you are covering all your bases. Email campaigns are very economical and can be quite successful if you commit to sending information that is relevant, valuable, and personal.

Read MORE: Requesting Online Reviews but Having Trouble Collecting Email Addresses?

Create an On-Location Feedback Program

Providing your customers with the opportunity to voice their opinion right on the spot can save your company from negative reviews, and it will provide you with a timely opportunity to tackle customer concerns proactively.

By empowering your customers via a suggestion box or other similar feedback platforms, you will also be able to refine your offering and receive ideas for products, services, or processes that will better address the needs of your best customers.

Incorporate the Net Promoter Score (NPS) Survey

There is no better or easier tool to help a business capture and understand the overall sentiment of their customer base in association with loyalty. Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys receive a high response rate due to their simplicity, and they equip customers with a way to convey concerns before they have an opportunity to go online to websites like Yelp. You can learn more about the benefits of NPS here.

Deal with Customers at a Personal Level

The most successful local businesses see each customer as a unique opportunity for growth. Simple moves like sending a small token of appreciation for birthdays or acknowledging special events on location can take the relationship to the next level and convert your customer into a strong advocate for your brand.

Be Social with Your Customers

We are always surprised when we see the low level of social media engagement on the part of local businesses. Social media platforms are not going away, and making sure that your customers can connect with you socially is essential to your success.

Not only do you need to have a Facebook or Twitter account, but you also need to make sure you are constantly and proactively engaging with your customers. A dormant Facebook profile is worse than not having one.

Manage Your Online Reputation

If there is one thing that will take your organization from having a passive culture to a culture that values and engages with the customer, it is review and reputation management.

By taking an active role in managing and promoting your business listings and online review profiles, where your customers are already providing feedback, you can achieve the most traction and provide a constructive setting for engagement with current and potential customers. Managing your online reputation is at the very heart of a successful customer engagement strategy.

For more, check out: Top 9 Reasons to Claim Your Business Listings and Review Site Pages

Crystal Shuller

Crystal is the Director of Customer Happiness for ReviewTrackers. She's known around the office for E-mails that make everyone smile, and she has a bag of tricks and tips to help businesses solve their problems and delight their customers.

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