Acquiring and retaining customers has become increasingly harder, but SMEs are turning the tide. Instead of primarily paying attention to gaining new business, the focus is on building long-term relationships with existing customers. To do so, you need to become a customer-centric organisation.
Every experience with a business can make or break a relationship
In this day and age, customers really are king - if only for the never-before-seen pool of information they have access to, such as websites and social media reviews. This makes them feel empowered and fully in control of any relationship with a business. A competitor is just a mouse click away. In fact, 89% of customers would stop doing business with a company after a bad experience.
Customers demand an excellent product or service, not just from enterprise companies, but from small- and medium-sized companies too. If customers encounter a negative experience with a business, such as poor, unfriendly service, they’ll easily flock elsewhere. Plus, they won’t be afraid to share it through social media or chat about it with family and friends.
To help you thrive, becoming a customer-centric business is the future. A truly customer-centric company puts customers at the forefront of everything they do. Customers are the number one priority: without them, your business is worthless. This doesn't mean you have to do everything your customers want. Instead, focus on what they value the most.
3 elements that make for a customer-centric organisation
What does a customer-centric organisation look like? And how do you really place your customers at the heart of your business?
Engage your customers on a regular basis. Frequently keep in touch so they know they’re being taken care of. By setting up regular check-ins with your customers (e.g. once every 3 months), they know they’re being heard. For example, send loyal customers a message with a special discount or offer to show how much you care. In addition, create useful content that addresses the needs of your customers and include it in your periodic newsletters or publish it on your blog.
Know your customers and how you can be of value to them. It’s important to understand who your customers really are, what their interests are, and why they’ve decided to do business with you. A customer-centric business knows their customers in and out so you can better cater to their needs. The easiest way to understand who your customers are, and what they want is by simply asking them. Discover more on how to gather customer feedback and measure customer satisfaction.
Manage customer expectations. Like mentioned earlier, a customer-centric SME shouldn’t do everything a customer wants. While it’s tempting to always try and please customers, it’s definitely not feasible: you can’t do right for everyone, all the time. That’s why you need to closely manage what customers can expect from your business early on. For example, clearly document what they can expect from your product or service: what’s the best way to reach out to your business? What does your service consist of? Dedicate a special page on your website to it or send a personal email once they become a customer.
What’s holding small businesses back from investing in customer-centricity?
“I just need to sell, I don't need to transform my business.” Acquiring new customers is a key thing to survive, but "We need new customers!" can't be the only thing that's top of mind. If you just focus on volume, and not on the quality of your relationships, your customers likely won't stay, and that ultimately will cost you money. To counter this, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that aren't. Being a customer-centric company does have a positive effect on your bottom-line.
“I already know who my customers are and what they want.” Do you already think you have a good view of who your customers are, and think you're already doing a great job at? How customers feel has a massive impact on whether customers will buy from you or not. According to McKinsey, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. The only way to truly understand your customers is to talk to them, face-to-face. Unlike larger organisations you can meet your customers much more easily in person as you probably have a closer relationship with them. You might be surprised by how open your customers will be to have a discussion.
“I need fast answers, but I will probably only see results in a few months.” SMEs don't have time to waste and juggle many responsibilities at once. Sometimes actions might be focused on the short term instead of the long term. The key lies in implementing bite-size improvements that can easily be attained. How do you find out where you should start? Again, speak to your customers face-to-face, you’ll probably be able to write down 3 action points to start working on right away.
Customer-centricity is no longer a nice-to-have, but a business necessity. In a dynamic market, customer-centric businesses will come out on top. It’s essential for small- and medium-sized businesses to focus on giving your customers a positive experience and building long-term relationships. Become a customer-centric organisation, and retain and grow your customer base by meeting and surpassing their expectations - every single time.