Use technology to shape organizational growth, improve agility, spark disruption and adapt to changing workforce expectations
Before the onset of the Internet and the near-constant presence of smartphones - when small business customers made purchases in person and...in more predictable ways. Fast forward to present day. The purchasing patterns and paths to help influence a customer's decisions are extremely varied and therefore require several strategies working in concert.
In fact, customers build relationships with small businesses in a non-linear, near-impossible to predict way. They look up information online, ask friends, do price comparisons online and in-store, they see a social media ad, they change their minds entirely, and then - seemingly at random - they buy. But to customer-obsessed small businesses, there's nothing "random" about this new buying cycle.
Customer-obsessed SMBs know their customers so well that they cannot only predict, but also use technology to truly influence these new purchase paths. Being customer obsessed doesn't just mean that you value and appreciate your customers. It means knowing your customers as well - if not better than - they know themselves.
Brian Solis, digital analyst, futurist, anthropologist and principal analyst at Altimeter Group, said it best: "Think about Instagram, Tinder and Uber - all of these things are rewiring your brain, whether you know it or not, to do things differently and expect things differently," Solis said during an interview with Chase Jarvis. "What they're all teaching us is that the world literally revolves around us." With this "everything in an instant" mentality, customers have begun to want not just service, but experiences.
In order to provide a truly customer-centric experience that will set your small business apart, you have to start with a two-pronged approach that encompasses personalization and engagement.
Winning SMBs will allow customer expectations for easy and deeply personalized service to shape their business priorities. That often means businesses will go out of their way to give something long before they receive anything in return. This "there when they need you" approach can foster brand bonds that may not result in an immediate sale, but can help buyers see your brand as a trusted advisor and lead to acquisition later.
When trying to predict what your customers need, you have to develop a deep understanding of who your customers are - their likes and dislikes, their purchase preferences and goals. This can be done with the help of customer personas.
Customer personas are detailed representations of the different segments of your target audience. Fueled by data that maps out the who behind the buying decisions for your products or services, customer personas can help inform everything from blog posts to product development. HubSpot is a great resource for tools to create custom personas.
Think about your favorite brand for a moment and ask yourself why it stands out to you. In addition to a great product or a great service, you likely have an emotional connection to it. Brands like Coca-Cola and Virgin Airlines have loyal followings because they continue to ask the question - "Are we doing enough?" Their response is always the same - No. They always look for improvements.
Customized experiences are now an expectation of the market. These heightened expectations are actually a good thing for small businesses. By deepening customer relationships, companies have an opportunity to drive loyalty.
Microsoft Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela notes, "The lifetime value of a customer who is a 'fan' of Windows is 75 percent higher than a casual user."
Small businesses often resort to incentives to entice and retain customers, but research shows good experiences outweigh things like gifts, loyalty programs and even discounts. One-third of consumers value customer service over incentives, no matter how deep the discount. Beware, negative experiences also leave a lasting impression. More than 70% of consumers say they will stop supporting a brand after two disappointing customer service experiences.
It's often said that the cost to retain a customer is much lower than the cost to acquire a net-new customer. Ipsos reports that customer acquisition costs 500 percent more than retaining customers. That's because customer acquisition expenses often include marketing, promotions, discounts, labor and any advertising targeted at non-existing customers. Driving towards loyalty is a more effective business practice.
Your company is facing a loyalty emergency. Without loyal customers, you're faced with constant churn, decreased revenue and increased costs to acquire new customers. Consider integrating a customer engagement solution such as Dynamics CRM, which is designed to help you create proactive and engaging customer experiences. Learn more about Dynamics CRM Online.
Your company ranks below average in terms of customer loyalty. With a low number or loyal customers, you're faced with constant churn, decreased revenue and increased costs to acquire new customers. Consider integrating a customer engagement solution such as Dynamics CRM, which is designed to help you create proactive and engaging customer experiences. Learn more about Dynamics CRM Online.
Your company ranks at or slightly above average in customer loyalty. But who wants to be average? Take your loyalty to the next level with Azure, an integrated ecosystem that provides all the analytics, computing, networking, and storage resources needed to wow your customers. Learn more about Azure.
Congrats! Your hard work has resulted in well above-average customer loyalty. But there are still hearts left to win. Take your loyalty to the next level with Azure, an integrated ecosystem that provides all the analytics, computing, networking, and storage resources needed to wow your customers. Learn more about Azure.
Did you know that returning customers spend almost 70 percent more than first time shoppers? This means not only is brand loyalty an important element to good customer service, it is imperative to the revenue - and growth - of your business. Modern technology can streamline this process in a cost-effective and simple way. Here's how:
We live in a world of shortened attention spans. When your customers have an issue, they expect immediate solutions. In fact, almost half of consumers will shop with a competitor within a day of experiencing poor customer service. Don't lose out on an opportunity to build customer trust. Providing your employees with up-to-date software and devices allows them to mitigate any situation promptly, and from any location.
Small businesses are often pitted against larger, more established competitors. These competitors typically have deeper pockets and a broader reach. So how can your business compete? By transitioning to the right cloud solutions that help meet your business needs. Fully utilizing a cloud solution such as Office 365 gives your small business the same flexibility and scalability as larger competitors, but for a more economical investment.
Have employees across more than one location? Serving customers from around the country or globe? Because almost all consumers (97 percent) are likely to remain loyal to a company that implements their feedback, responsiveness is key in winning long term customer loyalty.
When you're building customer connections, you have a responsibility to protect the data they're entrusting you with. Cloud technology makes it easier to protect your data from a costly breach. With the Azure storage platform, SMBs can confidently store server data such as log files, event data, and backups, in the cloud.
Embrace new ways to connect with employees and customers- With all of the features of Skype that you know and love, Skype for Business takes it a step further by consolidating your meetings, files and messages in one powerful, secure app. If you have a phone and the internet, you're ready to go. Learn how Skype for Business can help you avoid lengthy emails, phone tag and untimely interruptions by visiting Skype.com/Business.
Skype Translator helps break down the language barrier between your employees and customers, at no additional cost. The feature will help you communicate in seven languages for voice calls, and in more than 50 languages while instant messaging.
It's no secret that if you're still operating your small business on outdated technology, customer experience and your bottom line will suffer. Whether it's a large enterprise or startup, customers today expect tech-savvy businesses to anticipate their needs and reward their loyalty. This is where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools come in.
Sure, you might ask yourself whether you really need a CRM solution, but the reality is setting a solid foundation for growth early will serve you well in the long run. CRM can help businesses of all sizes easily organize and track customer information, including data, sales and engagements, in one location. For a minimal investment, CRM tools provide invaluable data on your customer interactions, allowing you to target new and repeat customers.
Integrate with Office 365: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Office 365 work seamlessly together as an affordable solution for gaining a complete view of your customers, closing more sales, and cultivating close relationships.
Find the right partner: Choosing the CRM solution that's the right fit for your business is important. But an equally important step for the success of your solution is choosing a partner that's right for you. Consider IT providers with relevant service offerings, specific experience in your industry, existing relationships with software vendors, and higher ratings from others. You can access a list of local providers by visiting PinPoint.
Make CRM a part of your normal workflow: Depending on where you are in the implementation of your CRM solution, you're likely already seeing positive results from your sales team. As your team continues to use the technology on a regular basis, you can introduce additional processes and other CRM functions to help them tackle more complex aspects of selling, such as customizing sales assets to meet a specific customer's needs.
When customer obsession is the goal, simply listening is no longer enough. In order to create a memorable experience, you must understand both the obvious and the hidden messages in what your customers are saying and doing before, during and after their interactions with your business. Test your obsession below.
While long lines do imply a healthy interest in your restaurant, it's also likely to mean unhappy customers. Decrease the wait by implementing online ordering with easy pick up for these orders. This will help your restaurant better compete with larger chains.
Customers love discounts, but research shows that customer service reigns supreme. According to our latest survey, one-third of consumers value customer service over incentives, no matter how deep the discount. Cutting down the lines will help improve your restaurant's service and be more impactful than a coupon.
Great answer! Offering an alternate option for people who are short on time will reduce lines and help to improve customer satisfaction.
While a return trip is great for your business, you run the risk of alienating parents who brought their children and losing these customers to more family friendly alternatives. By offering a kids-only game night, you're able to cater to adults who want time to themselves whether or not they brought the kids along. Proactively showing customers you're thinking about their needs increases your appeal across markets without depending on return visitors.
Great answer! By offering a kids-only game night, you're able to cater to adults who want time to themselves whether or not they brought the kids along. Proactively showing customers you're thinking about their needs increases your appeal across markets without depending on return visitors.
Discounts are great but do little to build long-term loyalty. By offering a kids-only game night, you're able to cater to adults who want time to themselves whether or not they brought the kids along. Proactively showing customers you're thinking about their needs increases your appeal across markets without depending on return visitors.
In an age where consumers have elevated access to information about your brand and elevated expectations of what your product or service can do, the right technology, such as CRM online and Office 365 can help your business pull ahead of the competition and gain more loyal customers by enabling experiences that showcase your SMB's customer obsession. For more information, download the Boost Your Business With New Technology eGuide.
According to estimates from the Small Business Administration, nearly half of small businesses will be the victim of a cyberattack, which could cost them an average of $21,000. The good news is the cloud has made it easier than ever to protect your customers and your business from cyberattacks. Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) is the only comprehensive solution that protects information assets across four layers: user identity, content, applications & cloud services, and devices.
Learn more on how EMS can protect your business by visiting Microsoft.com/EMS.
According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an estimated 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster. While not all businesses run the risk of being affected by extreme weather-related events, the truth is disaster can strike anywhere, at any time. It just might take the form of a break-in or fire, or a virtual disaster like network failure or a security breach.
Unpredictable events or natural disasters can strain IT resources. Whether planned or not, the cloud offers the ability to flex and scale IT resources like never before. With the right technology and planning in place, your business will be equipped to withstand disasters with little to no impact to you or your customers.
Be sure to work with employees to create a crisis communications plan to quickly re-establish network connectivity. Share your plans ahead of time with employees, key vendors and suppliers to ensure a seamless transition.
Take the Cyber Security Awareness Quiz to determine if your business is prepared for an online attack.
For more guidance on developing a disaster plan and maintaining your business during a disaster, visit the SBA's disaster planning page.