I'm happily fanatical about the importance of customer relationships. They are so important that I believe they start *before* someone actually pays money for a service.
When does a customer relationship start?
Once upon a time, if we needed to find a new store or a new service, we would pull out the yellow pages or ask a friend for ideas.
Today, we can research companies online, ask friends for recommendations (and social media allows us to amplify that far beyond our own friends or even our friends' friends), and form opinions before we ever make that first contact with a business.
I once visited a local shop whose website was very clever and fun. I couldn't wait to get to the shop to continue the experience! But when I visited their physical location, it was quite a let down. It felt more like a hastily set up shop (complete with folding tables and partially empty display cases) rather than a fully functional business. It was disappointing and I didn't go back.
Anticipating your customers' needs
Getting a customer in the door, to your website, or social media account is the first step. Once they are there, you must meet their expectations. What are their expectations? Some of it will depend on your customers (their age, their personalities, and their specific needs).
At the very minimum, they will have questions that need to be answered:
Who are you?
How do they contact you?
What are your hours?
If you sell items, what are your prices and policies?
Are you the right company for them?
Can you help them?
It shouldn't should stop there! We've all felt neglected by a business and decided not to visit them again. And we've all had amazing experiences and decided *that* is who we want to work with in the future. As a customer, I'll take an amazing experience over neglect any day!
Follow up matters
And what happens after the sale is made? Follow up matters. How can your business stand out? How can you make your customers feel special and appreciated? I think this is really where small businesses can shine.
Or, if you want to condense this into just a few words - be good to your people.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.