By Al Lopez, EGBI Executive Director
Too often, small business owners and startups are so focused on becoming known and marketing themselves to the wider public that they forget about the importance of good customer service. Either they fail to take into account customer satisfaction or they begin to take their earliest customers for granted. However, don’t let the pursuit of fast growth blind you to the need for good customer service.
First and most importantly, good customer service is the foundation of building a trusted brand with an engaged and loyal customer base. Especially in the digital era, the power of word-of-mouth marketing cannot be underestimated. If customers aren’t happy with the service they have received, they won’t just tell their friends – they will also let everyone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram know about it as well.
But look what happens when you keep a close focus on customer service: you can convert regular customers into super-customers of your business. Marketers often refer to these super-customers as “brand ambassadors” or “evangelists.” And it’s exactly these ambassadors and evangelists who can really help your startup grow and take it to the next level. After all, it is much cheaper to retain a customer or gain a referral than it is to find a new customer.
The most obvious way existing customers can help to jump-start your growth is by bringing repeat business. You no longer have to worry about churning through customers and finding new ones. And, it is often the case that customers will trust you to take on bigger and bigger projects as they gain confidence with you. For example, a loyal customer who comes into your restaurant on a regular basis might decide to hire you for a big catering project that can help take your new restaurant in a new growth direction.
You also won’t have to worry about spending a bigger and bigger piece of your overall budget on marketing. Your customers will do your marketing for you. They will make word-of-mouth referrals for you and let everyone know what a quality product or service you deliver each time. Best of all, these are authentic reviews. Nobody is paying them to say something nice about you, and that’s something that readers or viewers will immediately recognize. Authentic customer testimonials can be very powerful indeed.
That’s why a satisfied customer is good, but a delighted customer is best. There are many ways to “surprise and delight” your customers with good customer service. If you’re paying attention on social media, for example, you can sometimes pre-empt any problems a customer might be having. It’s best to get ahead of a concern on Twitter than to let a few bad tweets get out there!
And, you can choose to surprise and delight customers around special times of the year – such as with a special year-end holiday gift. Even a small gesture – like giving away a complimentary dessert “on the house” to help celebrate a special anniversary – can create a very loyal customer.
So you can see why quality customer service is really the key to sustaining and growing your business. Every interaction with a customer can become an opportunity to deepen the relationship and ensure that your customers are as happy with you now as when they first started using your product or service.
In short, quick and rapid growth is not just about piling up new customers as fast as you can – it’s also about making sure that your existing customers are still enthusiastic about what you offer. Great customer service is the key to growing your business.