Customer management for small businesses.

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Customer management for small businesses.

Customer management for small businesses. 

You can have the best product, price or delivery channels, but if customers are not satisfied or feel that they have been treated unfairly, it can mean the end of a brilliant business.

Most of the entrepreneurs I engage with customer satisfaction, is one of the least focus areas in their businesses. Some of the common explanations provided by these entrepreneurs are – it is too complicated, i don’t have the resources or it is too expensive.

Understandably, as entrepreneurs when we start out, we devote our time and attention to sales, and access to markets and some marketing and social media activities. During our start up phases we might deliver the best customer experiences possible and therefor manage to grow our business. As we grow our customer base, our focus sometimes changes, and we tend to take our eyes off our existing customers, which results in customers exiting our business or often not affording us with a second sale.

Which then leads us all to the same cross roads – what happened, why did happen or is it happening and how can I fix it? Let me help by unpacking a few customer management basics.


1. What is customer management?

Customer management involves the process of understanding your customers needs and managing their expectations before, during and after a sale. It does not matter what kind of business you are in, effective customer management is the key to increasing retention, satisfaction and sales. However, the process of customer management does not need to be complicated, expensive or time consuming.

Tips: Make the time to speak to your customers on a regular basis. You don’t need lengthy surveys that takes brings results 3 months later, simply ask 3 simple questions – what did we do well, what can we do better, and would you recommend our products or services.

2. Deliver on your brand promise

Your company’s brand promise helps generate excitement about your products or services and can be your best brand upliftment tool. However, a brand promise is only good, if your business manages to deliver on their brand promise. When I work with entrepreneurs, one of the first things

we unpack is the connection between the brand promise and their service delivery as both elements has a direct impact on a customer’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Tips: Do a regular review of your brand promise versus business tools and service plan. Make a list of issues and aim for the low hanging “fruits” that takes the least effort but yields the best business and customer results. Don’t make promises you cannot keep


3. Provide the best service, consistently.

Good customer service has proven to save small business money over time as it is 5 times or more expensive to source new customers, then retain your existing customers. Good customer service also creates loyal customers through the most powerful and free marketing tool – word of mouth advertising. The Entrepreneurs that I have worked with who chose to focus on delivering the best, consistent service they can, are able to better position themselves in the eyes of the customer or potential investors. Providing the best service starts with doing the basics really well – for example answering your phone, responding to messages same day, sending out quotes timeously, treating customers fairly, etc.

Tips: Start small by setting realistic service standards that is relevant to your customers. Measure your service standards and focus on the basic standards that your business can deliver on. Examples off good customer service standards or goals include being reliable, accessible, responsive, trustworthy, valuable, empathetic.


4. Embrace customer queries or complaints.

Customer queries and or complaints are a real and authentic opportunity to engage with your customers. A query is often because of a customer needing to clarify something or have a basic or general request. If addressed promptly, will increase customer satisfaction and enhance the reputation of the business if not can escalate into bigger issues. Customer complaints are however service failures that often originated as a query with both customer queries and complaints are referred to as the silent business revenue leakages. A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their bad experience, whilst satisfied customers will tell between 4 & 6 people.

Tips: Ensure your staff is properly trained and has the right tools to manage customer issues. Set up proper customer queries and complaints reporting mechanisms and regularly discuss customer issues with your team. Quantify your queries and complaints to determine the potential revenue impact on the business.     

Actively manage your digital customers

Digital customer service experience or often referred to as user experience, differs from face to face customer service experience delivery. Digital channels not only cover your website or social media platforms, but also your self-service portals, point of sale devices and mobile apps. Online customers, both on social media and your digital platforms, requires instantaneous responses and are very quick to voice their frustrations. Customers who voice their dissatisfaction via a digital platform can easily reach up to 6000 people or more in a few seconds. If you provide products and

services digitally, ensure that you have the business capability to manage the customer’s expectations and to avoid a fall out.

Tips: Empower staff to handle social media and digital channel support. Set up response time that meets your client’s expectations. Own and improve on your mistakes. Inform customers off changes or issues. Educate customers to form a real connection.      


In the end….

Given the advances in technology and the competitive landscape, effective customer management will stand you in good stead. As no matter the type of business you are in or which stage of your business you find yourself in, it is never too late to review some basic customer management principles to help us improve customer satisfaction and greater customer loyalty.


Source: Shaheema Adams, founder and CEO of the Customer Experience Lab

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