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How to turn your negative customer feedback into customer loyalty.

Social Media Monday: How to Convert Social Media Negativity into Customer Loyalty

How to turn your negative customer feedback into customer loyalty. Eventually, almost every business or company will find a negative review or a post from a disgruntled customer in social media. Whether a retweet takes on a life of its own, or somebody leaves bitter post on your own Facebook page, it feels like a personal attack on your small business. For this blog in our Social Media Monday series, PowerSites is giving you the steps to help you convert any social media negativity into customer lotalty.

Monitor your brand

Negative comments can appear anywhere, not just on your Facebook page, Yelp page, or in a Tweet. Monitor the internet for any negativity so you can take action as soon as it appears. If you’re too busy to do the monitoring yourself, designate someone reliable. This is too important to ignore.

Post a reply

If you do see a post or comment on any of your social media pages, resist the temptation to ignore the post. Statements and opinions posted on the internet have the potential to be magnified and spread quickly, and the impact of a negative post that goes un-addressed can be substantial. People expect to see a response from the business owner, so if there isn’t one, it makes it seem as though the negative comment is the whole truth.

You may need to take a deep breath before you write it, but always reply to a negative post as quickly as you can. If the poster has a valid gripe, apologize and offer to make it right. If the post is just bizarre, make sure that customers hear your side of the story by creating a careful and factual reply. Don’t rush through writing your initial response. You want a well thought out response and you need to make sure it addresses all the points in the original message.

Watch for the poster’s response to your reply

If the negativity resulted from a legitimate problem, your sincere apology and offered fix may be enough to turn the poster into a happy customer. The internet is full of messages from once-angry people who amended the original post when the business resolved the issue. If you’re lucky, your poster will be one of these people. Now, when people come across the negativity, they also see your response and the poster’s amended comments. They realize that your business cares about its customer satisfaction, and that helps them to trust your products and business.

However, not everybody is so lucky, at least, not every time. If the poster responds negatively to your overture, repeat your reasoned response. Don’t get in to a flame war no matter how many unreasonable or outrageous comments the poster makes. Your responses must always be reasonable and professional.

In any case, it’s important that you make your side of the story available to potential customers. The most loyal customers may even make defensive comments or tweets of their own that highlight excellent service or superior products. By coming to your online defense, their original feelings of loyalty intensify, and they will become a more satisfied customer.

Remember, don’t let negative comments sour you on social media, because they are a terrific opportunity to enhance customer loyalty if you follow a few important steps.

3 Tips for Improving Customer Satisfaction

3 Tips for Improving Customer Satisfaction

3 Tips for Improving Customer SatisfactionJust about every small business wants to keep their customers happy and returning to them as often as possible, so tips for improving customer satisfaction are always important. This is more than just basic customer service: customer satisfaction entails the entire experience a customer has with your company and their final feeling at the end of the interaction they have with your business.

Below are three simple and great ways to ensure your customers

Listen to Feedback and Interaction

The best perspective on the customer experience as a whole comes from—you guessed it—the customers themselves. If you don’t ask the customers how their overall experience was then you will never really know how your company is doing on a regular basis. So the first thing that your company should do to improve overall customer satisfaction is to ask your customers for their opinion. While people usually hate filling out surveys or anything that will take up too much of their time, providing a forum—both online or in a physical store—will give customers an outlet to convey their feelings to you. If you don’t want to provide a survey, you can encourage engagement with your business page on consumer review sites, like Yelp.

The next step is to take all of this feedback into account and implement changes where you deem necessary. While some things customers say will be isolated incidents or not very helpful for you when trying improve their overall experience, a number of comments will be integral to your customer’s overall satisfaction on a more regular basis. If there are less-than-desirable reviews, you should take the proper steps in addressing the negative reviews.

Make Sure All Employees Know How to Treat Customers

While you may have an idea of how you would like to be treated as a customer, the employees who are interfacing with customers on a constant basis may not. Take the time to train your employees to treat customers the way they would like to be treated through some basic lectures or courses. Employees can be paid for this time or served lunch, so they don’t feel like they are being reprimanded in a group setting. In this training, employees should be encouraged to think about the big picture, especially in an age where customers have more reach than ever before. One bad review online can be relatively damaging to a business, so all customers should be treated as if they are the most important. If these meetings are executed right this will feel like a team building exercise as much as it feels like a way to improve the overall customer experience.

Go Above and Beyond

Look at what your competitors are doing in regards to customer service and try to make the customer service your company offers even better. Hire greeters to stand by doors and have employees ready to help any customer at the drop of a hat, showing them where a particular product is or try and answer any question they might have. This level of customer service should also translate to the online experience, with prompt responses to any questions a customer has about certain products or services, via phone or email. The better all of these components of customer service are in your business, the better the customer satisfaction will probably be.

Finding Success in the Midst of this Small Business Revival

Think your small business can’t compete in a retail landscape dominated by big-box stores?
Think again.

Wal-Mart, Target and other major players arena have been successful over the last thirty years largely because they saw a niche and filled it. They exist to provide reliable access to generic consumer goods at low prices. But not every customer is in the market for mere commodities, and the best customers are not those who are buying on price. In fact, with the dramatic increase in Internet commerce seen in recent years, and the rise of mobile computing, mom-and-pop shops who offer boutique goods and services have never been in a better position to harvest some of that discretionary cash consumers have been saving by purchasing their everyday needs at rock-bottom, big-box prices.

Small Business RevivalBy establishing a website and solid online presence, smaller shops can now literally serve customers around the world. Just as importantly, the Internet offers a way to retain loyal local customers who may have been forced to move away due to family obligations, job changes, or a countless number of other scenarios. For their part, customers have been quick to seize the opportunity. Internet sales now account for nearly 16 percent of all retail spending and continue to trend upward.

So, what are the keys to finding success in the midst of this online small business revival?

It All Begins with Great Products and Great Service

This much hasn’t changed. Online or in-person, customers want to find value and be treated well. Use your ability to deliver personalized service and higher-end, boutique goods as your unique selling point. Not only will you be delivering something the big-box stores simply can’t, but also be attracting high-quality customers who are motivated to buy.

Make Sure Your Website Looks Professional and Functions Smoothly

Your website is the Internet equivalent of your storefront, so make sure it impresses. Keep it updated with new, fresh, and relevant content. If you’re worried that you have no idea how to create, or where to even start with designing a website, there are services that will build your website for you, like PowerSites. Be sure to have photos of your storefront, staff, products offered, testimonials from customers and your business info. Use your website, as an outlet to tell your business’s story.

Think Customer Engagement

Building community is key in today’s online marketplace. Simply putting up a static website and waiting for the sales to come rushing in won’t cut it. Be sure to engage your customers through major social media services like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Also, consider hosting a blog on your website. Customers and search engines both love content marketing, so these practices will help get you found online.

Bulid an Email Marketing List

This is crucial. Your best customers will always be the ones who invite you to show-up in their their inbox. Offer a giveaway, special discount, or some other incentive to visitors who are willing to opt-in to your mailing list. Then follow-up by reaching out proactively to these highly-motivated buyers from time to time with insider news or special offers. It’s a great way to keep your loyal customers engaged, and the potential to turn first-time customers into returning customers.

For small business retailers, going online can be the great equalizer in the never-ending competition with the big-box stores. Yes, they can offer cut-rate pricing and a wide variety of generic consumer goods, but that’s probably not your niche anyway. After all, you have a high-value customer base to get out there and serve.

How to Cater to Your Customers So They’ll Come Back

How to Cater to Your Customers so they keep coming backWhen you go into business for yourself one of the perks is not having to report to a boss. Except that you do, several of them in fact — your customers. While there is usually not one customer signing your paycheck, each payment for whatever goods or service you are providing adds up to either your small business making it or not. So while some of the initial small business tips you received may have involved choosing a business that you care about, what you really need is a marketing campaign that will show you what your customers want.

It’s Not Just the Money

In today’s economy, one might expect customers to want the lowest price they can get. While customers do want this, service trumps price almost every time. Expectations of the customer, especially when shopping at a small business, is to be served by knowledgeable staff, people who listen to their requests and make whatever effort they can to meet. them. They want the service you give them to be more about serving them than actively “marketing” or “selling”  to them while they are trying to make a purchase. Say please and thank you all you want, but no, they probably don’t “want fries with that.,” and a salesperson that comes off as too pushy will keep a customer from coming back, no matter how big that smile is.

So, beyond that baseline of being friendly, knowledgeable, and available without getting too pushy, how do you tell what customers want? Ask them.

While asking someone what they want seems like a no-brainer, it traditionally hasn’t been part of the typical marketing campaign. Many businesses declare that customers don’t know what they want, and while this may be true in a sense, it also isn’t. Being able to take what customers say and translate it into something you can use in order to direct your own product or service in a way that will satisfy them. Many people believe that the automaker, Henry Ford said, “If I asked customers what they wanted they would’ve said they want faster horses.” — no evidence seems to exist that verifies this quote. However, what he did say was, and was quoted in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People was, “If there’s one secret to success it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.”

In those moments when it isn’t possible to get actual feedback from a customer one of the best small business tips is to take a moment to imagine yourself as your own customer and find out what it takes to satisfy the customer’s needs. Small businesses have a unique advantage here, as many businesses actually get started because of frustration the owners felt when larger businesses did not do this.

Making the Connection

Connecting with customers takes more than putting yourself in their place. Empathy is good, but a little verification never hurt. Many businesses have found that they can feed in demographic information of their typical customer and come up with short surveys of ten minutes or less which will reveal what is most important to a customer.

Maintaining an engaging presence on social media sites can also encourage customers to give feedback. A customer who is buying an outfit at a clothing store may not want to be sold a scarf that goes with that blouse at the same time she is trying to keep two small children entertained, but once they are off to bed, she might want to take another look. “Survey questions” can double as status updates and encourage discussion and real insight to your customer’s needs.

Reaching Your Customers Through Social Media

Reach your customers through social mediaEver find yourself wincing as a standup comedian’s tries to recover from a one-liner that fell flat? It’s painful to watch because you know that the comic can tap his microphone and ask “Is this thing on?” all he wants, but the crowd won’t laugh until he starts telling better jokes. It’s also a great reminder that if you want your social media marketing campaign to generate interest and brand loyalty instead of awkward silence, you need to be tightly focused on engaging your audience.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do that: Always think about reaching your CUSTOMER.

C – Communicate, Connect, and Care

Social media is not a one-way broadcast medium. A television commercial or a magazine ad may be all about calling buyers to action, but social media is about having a conversation. It’s an amazing opportunity. Your business gets a chance to establish a real connection, show that it values its customers as people, and express a genuine desire to serve them. The key is to be responsive. When people comment or ask questions about your posts, take an interest and get back to them quickly.

U – Unlock

Followers and friends expect your social media presence to be real and unguarded. They want to get a sense of what goes on in your business. They also want to understand what other customers think of your brand. Social media is a wonderful space to enhance your level of social proof, but always keep it authentic. If a customer posts something critical, think twice before hitting the delete key. A whiff of censorship or a sign of whitewashing can ruin a great campaign.

T – Track Conversations

Think of social media as a market research wonderland. Listen to what customers are saying about your products, your reputation, and your management. Chart it out and look for trends. Not many years ago, getting this kind of input would have meant hiring a consultant and running endless focus groups. Today, it’s yours for free, as long as you’re willing to pay attention.

O – Open Eyes, Ears, and Mouths

If your business is large enough to have several departments, make sure your social media campaigns don’t get locked away in marketing. Everyone involed in the day-to-day operations of your business should see what followers are posting. Everyone should listen and consider customers’ input, and everyone should have the chance to lend their expertise as you formulate responses.

M – Measure

Social media may seem like a soft discipline, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to run a campaign without measuring its impact. Adopt a relevant set of metrics and track your return on investment. Conversely, use the metrics you gather in other facets of your business to tweak your social media campaign. Chances are you’ve learned a lot about your customers over the years. Put that information to work strengthening your online presence.

E – Excel

Never do anything half-heartedly in a social media channel. Use questions and complaints as a chance to provide superior customer service. When you put offers in front of your audience, make sure they’re amazing. Always do the right thing. If you impress your followers, you may see one of your posts go viral. Nothing else—absolutely nothing—can get your brand if front of new prospects more quickly than doing something that inspires their friends to “share” or “like” your post.

R – Reward the Community

No one has to follow you on your social media channels; they choose to do so. Make sure you treat them well. When thanks are in order, offer them proudly and publicly. When you have a terrific deal in the works, give your followers the first chance to take advantage of it. These kinds of actions build fierce loyalty and may turn your customers into your best advertisers.

The CUSTOMER acronym is a powerful way to keep your social media marketing campaign on track, so consider keeping a copy handy. Refer to it regularly and reap the rewards.

Six Steps to Grow Your Small Business

Six Steps to Grow Your Small BusinessStarting a small business is easy. In fact, it’s harder to find someone who hasn’t printed out a business card with “CEO” after their name these days than someone who has. When it comes time to grow your small business, that’s another story. You can launch a website, advertising your services as a marketing professional, a graphic designer or a writer for hire, but unless you can grow that business, and grow it again, it’s not going to earn you the income that you’re after.

These simple small business tips will help you to grow your business by developing all the right habits and making the right moves so that you can grow in the right direction:

Emphasize Customer Support

The wrong way to approach an angry customer, a confused customer or a dissatisfied customer is to think of them as a problem. A customer who is unhappy, for any reason, is an opportunity. Put an emphasis on customer support, and on adjusting your product or service to match the needs of these customers who find it worth their time to call you. If you’re not going to listen, there’s no point picking up the phone.

Deliver Valuable Content

Too often we think that just filling our blogs, newsletters and emails with white noise, with clever slogans and words that sound good, but don’t really get you anywhere, is enough. It’s not. If you don’t offer web content that delivers real value, then your readers will get that value somewhere else.

Monitor Your Analytics …And Put Them to Use

A recent study shows that only half of all major companies actually put their analytics and data to use, even though one hundred percent of all major companies collect this data.

There’s no point in trying to learn who your customers are, and what they want if you’re not going to change the experience to match what they’re after. Put the numbers to use or don’t waste your time and money collecting them.

Adapt

Your great website might look awesome on a laptop, but how does it look where everyone’s reading it, on mobile devices? Make sure that the web experience you offer your customers is adaptable to whatever platform your customers are going to use to access it. This will help you to reach out to a wider base.

The Little Things

When you go to your favorite burger joint, we’re willing to bet that they throw plenty of ketchup in the bag without your having to ask. That’s the kind of thing that makes a small business a favorite, and being somebody’s favorite is how you ultimately grow in the long run. The restaurants that save a couple cents by not handing out ketchup lose a lot more business than they probably realize.

Growing your small business has as much to do with the big steps as with making the right decisions day to day. No matter how much money you spend on marketing, if you’re not delivering quality service or products, you’re not going to grow like you want to.

Build A Large, Valuable Network with Social Media

You have heard the buzz and been told to do it for sometime now; Get involved with social media. Where do you start though? Social media is everywhere from LinkedIn to Facebook and beyond. Customers and potential customers do not interact with the world around them anymore.

People post everything that goes on in their lives be it minor or major on twitter feeds and in status updates. They hardly communicate with their friends, so what makes you think they will thumb through the phone book or even do a Google search for your services?

Word of mouth is still the power behind most business and that likely is not to change. What has changed however is the “mouth” that the word comes from. Companies can be crippled by bad online reviews and Facebook troubles. For an example of this, have a look at this recent news story. Potential clients and current ones need to know that you understand their needs and are there when their need arises.

There are many examples of companies staying relevant and becoming integrated with their public. To further the point of the importance of the reliance on social media by consumers, have a look at a few surveys at SurveyGizmo or Google consumer surveys. There is a reliance on using social media for finding goods and services. It is no longer an option whether or not you need to be involved with social media; it is now the bare minimum you can do to get by. Choose not to be involved at your own peril.

So, getting to the point, here are small business tips you can use to become involved in social media.

What Not To Do

  • As you may have read before, customers are prone to become angry and nearly hostile if they feel they are being taken advantage of online. If another customer has been victimized or been taken advantage of, mob rule can quickly take over on the internet.
  • Stay ahead of problems and monitor the internet about your company. This includes internet searches and Facebook and LinkedIn searches. If you find a problem or someone has a complaint about your services, address it and do what you can to solve it before it snowballs. Here are several small business marketing tips and actions to NEVER do.
  • Never censor online posts on your company Facebook or other media site. There are exceptions, such as vulgar content and if there is a violation of terms or conditions. Customers hate to be censored or otherwise feel that a business is trying to cover up an incident.
  • Never attack a client no matter how belligerent they become. This seems to be understood, but sometimes internet users say things that are mean spirited and or slanderous. Do not get drawn into the fray. Address problems; offer to solve them if any arise and stay as diplomatic and customer service friendly as possible. Do not become the next Meme (it is possible to have a good Meme however) or internet company scandal.

What To Do

  • In a word, research. Knowing your audience or your clientele is essential to build a network. It will take time to find out some of their habits and tendencies, so stick with it. Start a Facebook and get involved. First, find out what companies are doing it right. It does not have to be a company that is in the same field as you, just a company that customers.
  • Start conversations online. Communicate with friends that add you, and do not just post things about specials or discounts. It is ok to post about a new product or service; just do not let that be the only thing you post. Post relevant (and vetted) articles that may be pertinent to your field.
  • Here is a list of social media tips and “definitely do’s” to get you started.
  • Interact. Do it frequently and make yourself seem like a caring, human company.
  • If there is a questions to you written or posted on a Facebook page, make sure it is answered quickly. If there is a problem, it is urgent that you get a head of it and if it is a query or question, you have to address it fast. Customers want businesses that not only understand them, but that go out of their way to help. If you do not answer their question and answer it fast, they will take their business somewhere else.
  • Stay focused. If you are going to have more than one social media account, that is fine. Just make sure not to bombard fans or followers with redundant content. Use one source to post the bulk of your communication. It is good to diversify, but it you are focused on posting your weekly or monthly discounts, or your newsletter, that makes one destination a “go-to” place. If customers have to search multiple platforms and sources for what they need or want, you can guarantee that will go somewhere that has what they need in one location.

How Can Small Businesses Improve Communication with their Customers?

We are always looking for ways to improve our relationship with our customers. We believe that effective communication is the key to successful partnerships. For years we have been committed to delivering numerous services to small businesses in a big way.

Businesses lose customers due to a number of reasons. Most of these reasons can be improved upon. However, miscommunication is the biggest problem and also the most common.

Here are a few Small Business Tips to get Started:

Hire Customer Representatives or an Answering Service

Small Business Tips: Hire Customer RepresentativesWhen customers buy a product or purchase a service they want to know that there is a live person they can talk to when they have a question. Some companies are getting so technical. It is to the point that customers call in to address a concern, or to ask a question only to find them selves talking to an automated machine, rather than a real life person.

There are some questions that machines cannot answer. Small business owners lose customers when they cannot compete with larger companies. Larger companies are able to hire more employees. Smaller companies may not always have the budget to accommodate hiring additional employees, but there are other ways to still provide quality customer service.

One solution is to setup and create an account for your business on social media sites. Let customers know about the new services and products online, and that they can contact and communicate with your company through these social media pages. Another solution is to hire an answering service that can relay important messages 24 hours per day.

Have Customers Complete a Survey

Surveys are a great way to get feedback from your customers. They let the customers know that their opinions and thoughts are important to your business and it’s future. They can complete an online or paper survey depending on the nature of the business. If it is an online business they may prefer an online survey. Physical businesses can produce a paper version survey. Some businesses choose to add an incentive along with their surveys to make it more enticing, and increase repeat business. Your incentive can be a contest/raffle, where a survey is an entry to win a gift card to your business or 25% off their next bill.

Make sure the survey asks the tough questions that businesses may not want answered. Such as are you satisfied with the level of service you are receiving? Is this your first visit? Will you come here again? If yes explain what features or services they enjoyed? If no, ask why and ask them to suggest and expand on ways to improve the problem.

Small Business Tips: Follow-up with a Phone Call

Follow Up With a Telephone Call or an Email

Staying in touch with customers is important. There may be too many to call but an email can reach thousands of customers in a matter of minutes. Let them know what is going on and invite them to come by or visit the site. Offer them special promotions or discounts that make them feel exclusive and appreciated.

Send out Greeting Cards and Birthday cards

Make it a point to send customers Christmas and Birthday cards. Customers feel better when they know they are more than a number. Plus this is a great promotional tool to use to win back customers who have gone astray. It’s up to you how you choose to send the message. You can send a postcard by mail if you want to add that extra personal touch, or you can save on postage and send them an e-card, which is just as good.

Small Business Tips

Rebuilding the communication gap with customers is not easy but it can be done.

  • Stay focused.
  • Devise a plan and stick to it.
  • Do not be afraid to try new communication techniques.
  • Identify and define the target audience
  • Find ways to keep them coming back.

Any small business can succeed when they put their customer needs first.