It’s our job to help companies grow their business. That’s our core objective and we take it very personally—your goals are our goals. However, the longer we do this, the more we realize that online marketing—giving our companies a solid online presence, functional and impressive website, and top rankings on all the major search engines—does no good if the company doesn’t have customer service to back it up.
The most common client objective is to grow their business. We deliver with higher search rankings, a solid social media presence and quality content on their website (to see why read our content marketing post). Our partnership with them and online marketing efforts produce customer leads through comments, online forms, emails and calls.
But what good are those leads if no one follows up? Most company owners do not set out to build a company with poor customer service, but customer inquiries often fall through the cracks. The result: a company providing poor customer service. So how can your company improve your customer service?
- Don’t make email inquiries your last priority. We live in a digital world, with smart phones, tablets and computers becoming more common—and being used more and more to make purchasing decisions.
- Set a standard operating procedure for handling customer inquiries. Don’t just handle customer inquiries without a strategy. Set a plan in place for handling phone calls, email inquiries and social media messages—and stick to it.
- Make sure everyone answering the phones and emails are trained on SOPs and how to respond. A poorly trained employee is a liability when answering the phones. Don’t just throw your employees into the fire. Train and educate them. Inform them of SOPs and make sure they know proper protocols for answering the phones, handling customer questions and dealing with angry customers.
- Designate someone responsible for answering and following through on each inquiry. This doesn’t mean you triple one employee’s workload. Choose an employee to answer phones, another to answer emails and a third to check your social media sites for messages. Be flexible. An employee completely overwhelmed by emails or phone calls is not in a good position to deliver exceptional customer service. Though you’ve designated employees, let them know to jump in if the phone is ringing off the hook or the inbox is full.
- Offer customer service online, but don’t feel like you need to answer customer questions 24/7. Today’s consumers expect businesses to answer them within an hour, thanks to the instantaneous of the internet. However, you don’t need to provide that service all day and night. Put your business hours on your online form, and make it clear that inquiries are answered during that time.
- Remember, every customer counts. It only takes one person’s bad experience to ruin a business’ reputation, and news travels fast on social media. One wrong response, or dropped inquiry can spread across the internet like wildfire. Though it may be tempting to just let that inquiry go because of a complex answer or a large workload, answer each inquiry as soon and completely as possible.
Study after study has proven that testimonials, and in our modern day, online reviews (like on Facebook), play a role in customers’ decision whether to purchase a company’s service or product. If you are not delivering good customer service, unfavorable reviews pile up on your social media sites and word spreads about your subpar customer service. The result: you can’t reach your goals no matter how much marketing tools you employ. We can create the marketing tools on your behalf, but you need to back it up with exceptional customer service. The good news: by using our customer service tips, you can achieve your goals and customers’ goals—two targets that should be in sync, or at least overlap.
There always seems to be something more to do as a business owner, from day-to-day operations to trying to find the next big feature or service that gives your business the edge. Trying to find time to post to Facebook or tweeting can seem like a burden when your to-do list is long, but resist the urge to cut corners on your social media marketing. Your customers sense when you do, and you won’t achieve the results that you joined Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest to achieve.
- Don’t cross post. Linking your Facebook page to Twitter, or your Pinterest account to Facebook may seem like a brilliant way to save time, however resist the temptation. Each social media site has its own atmosphere and set of rules, and social media players who play by those rules (your customers) do not look kindly on an obvious, automated cross post. In short, you are not giving your customers the good impression that you joined social media to achieve.
- Using pictures without written consent is not recommended. With the advent of smart phones, it’s easy to snap a picture and share it on your social media site. Great time saver, right? Not so fast. If the subject of the picture is a customer, or someone in your store, follow a marketing best practice: get the subject’s written consent to use the photo. This does not apply to pictures taken at public events.
- Be prepared to be sued if you copy and paste photos from a Google search. We clearly remember the shocked expression of a local business owner when we told him that photos and graphics online are not for public use. This is a common misconception, and one that can get your business into legal hot water. Don’t assume the images that come up when you do a search are okay to use. Use your own photos or graphics, or be budget for stock photos from a photography site.
- Don’t take a half-hearted approach to social media marketing. If we had a nickle for every time we heard a business owner say, “I meant to post regularly, but…” we’d own all of Wisconsin. Regular posts are important, because consistent customer interactions is the key to social media marketing results.
- Schedule posts in moderation. Pre-scheduled posts seem like a great idea, don’t they? Just schedule all your posts for the month, then schedule the next. Your customers can see through the ruse. Schedule posts when you are on vacation, or for a short time period, but regularly check and live post your social media sites. You need to be able to respond to your customers, especially the occasional angry customer.
Don’t feel like you have to do all your social media marketing. There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing your social media marketing efforts. To the contrary, putting your business social media marketing in an expert’s hands can get you the results you desire: more customers, deeper customer interactions and an excellent online presence. Check out our do’s and don’ts of outsourcing so you know what to expect from hiring a social media marketing agency, then contact a firm that achieves results. Yes, it’s another thing to add to your to do list, but the long-term results, regular posts and shorter to do list are well worth it.
With more than 90% of people starting their online search with a search engine, and 75% of users never scrolling past the first page of results, getting your business found online sounds like an impossible task. However, with millions of potential customers online, how can you afford not to?
Even if your business does not sell products on your website, having an online presence gives people a first impression of your business. By having a social media site and properly designed website, potential customers can determine whether it is worth visiting your business and can ask questions and set appointments.
So how can your business’ online presence get found among the millions of other web pages? The answer: search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is a localization technology that ensures your business is ranked at the top of major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. But before you jump in to this great technology, there are a few things you should know:
- SEO finds local customers. Search engine optimization is perfect for any business wanting to find local customers beyond their communities. Whether your business has one location or several locations, search engine optimization can get you at the top of the rankings for neighboring communities.
- It works. Take ABC Flooring, one of our clients in southeastern Wisconsin, and what search engine optimization has done for their business. In just four months, their website traffic doubled because of search engine optimization. In 30 days, their unique visits increased 122% and hit an impressive increase of 200%. Website traffic is just a number unless you can convert those visits to customer interest. Today, ABC Flooring receives form submissions every week from potential customers, with 60% of those visits stemming from their search engine optimization package.
- Not just any SEO firm can achieve results. Many firms promise results for businesses, but very few can attain them or they deliver sub par results. Each firm uses different search engine optimization technology, and not all are created equal. Contact a firm that has a proven record with successful search engine optimization for other local businesses, and can prove results with a written report.
Where do you start? Get a report of your current search engine rankings with recommendations of how you can improve them. Contact a firm that has delivered results for local businesses, and can do the same for you. After you have made the investment, ask for reports showing your current search engine rankings. Top search rankings bring customers, so be ready. It’s time to deliver the customer service that comes with a strong online presence.