Small businesses have always been challenged to attract and retain a loyal customer base. This challenge has been intensified a thousand times over because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Whatever their industry, business owners and CEOs will face a new landscape once restrictions are lifted and customers once again embark upon the purchasing journey.
But how can businesses foster a newfound customer loyalty? The key may lie in greater empowerment for customer service representatives and in adjusting to new ways in which customers will make purchases in the weeks and months to come.
Here are suggestions for enhancing your customer connection and instilling loyalty during our uncertain transition to the “new normal.”
Give customer representatives the power to meet customer needs.
Customer service is an aspect of your business that may or may not have received the attention it deserves in the past. Now, as people begin to re-engage, it’s vital that your customer service team has the power to override past policies that may no longer apply. Insisting on adherence to past policies risks losing a customer before he or she even makes a purchase.
Look at policies where some flexibility can be introduced without upsetting the balance of operations. Offer your customer service teams more advanced communications technology (video conferencing, instant messaging, etc.) so they can guide and support each other during a trying time.
Move past technological challenges and go “full-digital.”
Months of self-distancing and isolation have dramatically changed purchasing habits. Even when the time comes for retail stores and other services to open their physical doors, many would-be customers will stay away, out of an abundance of caution.
Where before most trends indicated continued growth in online buying, now it’s abundantly clear that “digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity once the Coronavirus is quelled,” notes McKinsey & Company, “and companies that quickly innovate in their delivery model … will establish a strong advantage.”
In other words, meet customers where they live. Do everything possible to enhance each customer’s online buying experience (i.e., a more user-friendly website, simpler checkout and purchase functionalities, etc.), because—at least for now—that’s where most of us are doing our consuming.
Explore the increased use of chatbots.
In the digital realm, chatbots are a highly useful “first-step” in the purchasing journey. This computer program “simulates and processes human conversation (either written or spoken),” enabling customers to engage with digital devices “as if they were communicating with a real person.”
Chatbots can serve as a gateway to deeper engagement with your customer service team. They can also guide prospective buyers around your website, answer basic questions about products or services, and expedite a customer’s desire to make the final purchase decision.
Once you get the easy stuff out of the way, the chatbot process should lead the way to real-time contact with your customer service team. When a customer feels that their basic questions have been answered, they’ll be pleasantly surprised to receive assistance from people who can help with more complex transactions. That’s a key first step in instilling newfound trust and loyalty.
Reach out to your target audience with timely notifications.
Keeping past and prospective customers informed about your company’s re-emergence is critically important. These proactive notifications can be automated and set on a regular schedule in order to provide timely information that’s of particular use to customers, while also enhancing awareness of your brand.
Just remember, as Smart Customer Service notes, to make sure these notifications “are omnichannel so that customers get them where they live, whether it is messaging, email, voice, or other channels.” Notifications that offer guidance on a customer’s next step with engaging your business can be immensely helpful when the time comes for more comprehensive interactions.