As a small business owner or manager, you have an incredible advantage over larger businesses when it comes to client interactions and feedback. However, many owners and managers fail to capitalize on this advantage, either by being disinterested in client engagement in general or by too closely emulating the systems and tools utilized by larger businesses. What can you do to ensure that you are maximizing the personal connections you’ve established with your clients or customers?
Don’t Get Out Of Touch With Your Customers
Even the most successful executive of a large company rarely has the opportunity or ability to personally connect with the customers or clients of their business. For example, the television show Undercover Boss places executives from medium and large businesses undercover as entry-level and/or customer-facing employees and frequently profiles the awkward, amusing and sometimes negative feedback that the executive receives from customers and their surprised reaction to being so “out of touch.” Being an executive that’s out of touch isn’t due to a lack of empathy or professionalism – executives of large companies simply don’t have the time to regularly meet or interact with customers or clients on a regular basis. They end up relying on a team of professionals to collect client surveys, conduct focus groups and perform other methods of soliciting and collecting customer feedback that is often expensive, time-consuming and sometimes inaccurate.
The Front Line Advantage
As the owner or manager of a small business, you have a distinct advantage over large business executives when it comes to personally connecting with your clients or customers. For some owners and managers, the interaction is immediate and personal, while others may have to rely on salespeople and other customer-facing employees. However, even if the latter is true, an owner or manager is likely on-site, often in close communication or even within earshot with these employees and still has opportunities to personally step in and connect with customers.
It Isn’t Effortless Or Automatic
While the advantage of being personally connected to your customers is inherent in most small business models, that doesn’t mean that it effortlessly results in tangible benefits for you and your business. There are many small business owners and managers who are disinterested in client engagement and fail to utilize or even respond to the interactions and feedback they receive from clients. Other small businesses inadvertently neutralize the advantage they have in the marketplace by utilizing tools and services that are designed for larger businesses, including digital channels such as social media, or by handing off these interactions to an impersonal or disinterested third party.
Adapt And Connect
The key to fully taking advantage of your personal connections to your clients is to adapt your tools, services, policies and procedures to maximize these interactions. If you interact personally with your customers or clients, you should develop a personal system for asking questions, follow up after the service or sale and keep a record of suggestions and concerns. If you have salespeople or employees that mainly interact with customers, ensure that they are empowered to immediately address questions or reasonable concerns and establish a system for reporting and cataloging client feedback. Finally, if you utilize services and tools, such as email marketing, social media services and digital surveys to connect with customers, ensure that they are developed and used in ways that take full advantage of the personal connections you’ve established with your customers.