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If You’re Not Talking to Your Customers, Who Is?

We talk about sales all the time, but how many businesses can really give solid figures on customer retention? I’ve worked with so many organisations who have no idea what their churn is, and rely on repeat business for about 80% of their turnover.

It’s time to consider who you’re talking to – if you’re not talking to your customers, you can bet that someone else is…

Apply the 80/20 rule to listening & talking

Pareto’s getting a serious airing today. But it’s valid – the first rule of talking to your customers is listening. And that’s not necessarily listening in a conversation, that’s ensuring that you have all the listening tools at your disposal to a) know everything about your customer and b) know when they’re (un)happy.

You may think that social listening is “for the big boys” but it costs next to nothing to implement this kind of technology “in the cloud” these days – anyone can have simple social monitoring tools – the key is to know what to listen out for. Brand mentions is one thing, but are you letting the right people know when one of your customers sends a tweet?

One organisation I knew had no social listening, but thankfully someone picked up a disgruntled customer moaning about one of their products online. A quick and speedy response meant that the solution was nipped in the bud – and done so in a public, professional manner.

If you’re not listening, you’re not even going to be part of the conversation. Apply your ears (and eyes).

Constant little reminders of your existence

It’s one thing to go and meet your customers, it’s another to constantly remind them that you’re there. You don’t want to be on their doorstep every month. But you could be in their inbox – or on their twitter feed.

Warren Butler points out the customer communications might appear simple but if you apply a few personalisation touches via your CRM, then you can end up with a personalisation workflow – in other words, you can tailor communications to their preferences, their products, your upsell paths, their location… it’s one way of ensuring that you’re constantly in their minds, and constantly relevant to them.

Many small businesses are still finding their way with Twitter, but have moved into a phase of acceptance that in almost every niche and industry, customers are on there. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be sophisticated – but it does have to be consistent. Consistent in that one tweet a month isn’t enough, and consistent in that you have to maintain your brand image & tone of voice through multiple channels, of which Twitter is one. It’s a great way of constantly reminding clients that you exist and that you’re actually rather good at what you do.

Know them inside-out

Gregory Ciotti makes a great point (number 10) when he says that customers love businesses who know them. This is where you need to get into the detail, and you need to ensure that everyone is an expert (internally) on your customers. Again, this goes back to CRM or some form of centralised system whereby customer data is recorded centrally. If there’s a change of personnel at the top – you need to know. If there’s a new product – you need to know before they tell you.

Knowledge is power, and when it comes to retention, you need to be listening out for company news, and talking to them about it. Even if it’s a five-minute call about their latest press release, it’s proof that you’re on their side, and you’re looking out for them. It’s proof that you care.

Customers love businesses who know them – really know them. You’re going to need to pool the information and create a “reservoir of knowledge”.

Be proactive with your customers

Don’t wait for your customers to come to you with “things to do” or new ideas that they’ve come up with – come up with them yourself. This stems from the previous point about having the reservoir of knowledge – if you’ve heard of something that affects your customer, and you’ve got an idea of how to help them grow their business as a result, then let them know.

If you’ve got something that works for another client, get in touch with this client and tell them about it.

Customers don’t just love businesses who know them, they love businesses who are focused on helping them grow. Proactiveness is the key to differentiation – if you’re not suggesting ideas to them, somebody else will be.

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