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Building Great Online Relationships

I know everyone is over talking about Covid, and we’re all heartily sick of it, but I have just a quick observation to share on the dire effects of the economic damage it has done…

My favourite local fish and chip shop closed without warning recently. I don’t eat F&C all that often, but when I do, I’m pretty fussy and it took me years to track down a F&C shop that rated this highly. I supported them as much as I could and I was quick to recommend them to friends and family if they were in the area, and they too rated them highly. The business was run by a lovely family and over the years we saw their children (who worked in the shop after school) grow up and come back to help their parents. They were all very hard workers who always greeted us with a friendly smile and a great product.

Then one day, they’d packed up and gone, with no chance for us to say “goodbye, good luck and thank you”.

While we’re surrounded by lots of takeaway outlets, we have plenty of choices left if we don’t want to cook, and of course there’s always Uber Eats, and others, if we want to choose from further afield. Having said that, the next closest fish and chip shop to me closed last year and a very successful nearby pizza joint closed at the end of March. Then there’s the cafes and restaurants that have closed temporarily until Covid is sorted or we’ve learned to live with it and the rules relax.

The only small businesses that seem to be surviving in these tricky times are the ones that either provide an essential service (such as hairdressing or dentistry) or the ones that can easily operate on-line.

So, while our sense of community certainly isn’t what it used to be with all the closed-up storefronts surrounding us, we can still purchase most of what we need by using the web. But building those relationships we had with the store owners or their staff are really not that easy to replicate in a virtual world.

Think Zoom or Teams, versus face-to-face in the flesh.

Most of us are not the same people we were pre-covid. We’re tired and shell-shocked from all the doom and gloom; some of us are well over ‘being kind’, and almost everyone has had to adapt to a very-much changed work place.

Which makes it even more important to ensure our on-line presence (websites) and relationships (with customers) are the best they can be.

If there’s no budget available to advertise or to bring in marketing experts or undertake promotions, sales etc, let’s look at what you can do to keep your existing customers happy and expand your customer base.

  1. Deliver on your promises.
  2. Acknowledge orders and returns.
  3. Keep customers informed.
  4. Offer personalised service.
  5. Offer joined-up service across channels.
  6. Stay fresh.
  7. Sort out problems promptly.
  8. Customer complaints equal opportunity.

The old concept (pre dubdubdub) about it being easier/cheaper to retain a customer than finding a new one doesn’t really wash any more. Recent research identified that gaining a new customer is five times more important than keeping an existing one, mainly because it opens up a whole lot of fresh opportunities to reach more new customers through online reviews, comments, feedback and referrals. Obviously the power of the network is still alive and kicking.

The European Business Review published an article in 2021 called ‘The recipe to the ideal website: How to keep your online customers happy’. It contained a short list of things to consider for your website

  • Create a customer-driven marketing strategy – product-driven or customer-driven?
  • Provide timely omni channel customer service – communicate with your customers directly; be friendly and helpful
  • Omni-channel communication: Your online customers will want to use different channels to get in touch with businesses and receive even help everywhere – real-time communication is vital
  • Give away special offers – give them something extra to encourage engagement

In conclusion the EBR article said

  • 57% of customers spend more on brands or companies to which they are loyal and committed
  • Suppliers need to be honest and understandable
  • Suppliers need to pay attention and understand their customers
  • Suppliers need to provide outstanding customer service support
  • Suppliers need to be there for their customers when they need or ask for something

To read the whole article check this out.

None of this is rocket science and the web is saturated in good marketing advice and information, all of which pretty much says the same things – communicate well, be honest and upfront, be responsive and deliver on your promises. If you’re not doing this already, follow the above and you can’t go wrong. Easy huh?


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