How small businesses can build long-term customer relationships

Building relationships with customers in the long-term can prove to be very rewarding for small and medium businesses. Here are some of the effective ways to build a loyal customer base.
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Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology that helps to manage all of your company's relationships and interactions with existing and future customers by using communication APIs (application programming interface). 

The straightforward goal is to strengthen business relationships. The communications APIs along with CRMs assists businesses in staying connected to customers, streamlining processes, and increasing profitability.

An enterprise or a brand manages its interactions with customers using different channels of communications, typically by analysing large amounts of data. This aids in contact management, sales management, productivity, and other areas. 

Communication on different channels, depending on the target audience choice, allows an enterprise to focus on its relationships with individual people—such as customers, service users, colleagues, or suppliers— throughout the lifecycle of the relationship. This includes finding new customers, winning their business, and providing support and additional services.

A brand or an enterprise uses Customer Data Platforms (CDP) to gather information from various tools and sources, into a centralised information hub that provides a unified view of the customer. First-party information from all these sources is consolidated and collated in a data warehouse that is accessible to all relevant parties in the enterprise or the brand.

The centralised information hub is essentially a repository of demographic characteristics, professional characteristics, buying behavior, etc. This data keeps changing because the customer’s preferences will change over time for various reasons, one of which is customer buying patterns. Small businesses, including MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), need to be tuned to these variations in order to serve their clientele in a better manner. 

And when this is done right, it will eventually turn into a long-term relationship that involves some trust and loyalty.

This is easier said than done because developing that kind of a relationship with customers, who increasingly have a short attention span and treat most communication as spam, is difficult. 

But this is not impossible. The solution is to use technology to establish a communication channel that fosters trust. This can be accomplished in a seamless manner by meeting the customer on his turf, say, through a favorite OTT App / messenger service / communication channel. This could be at his or her convenience when he or she is most likely to be open to interacting with the brand via phone. 

Rather than simply bombarding customers' phones with messages, this type of engagement will transform a simple client list into customer loyalty. Let's look at some of the factors that can help you achieve this goal.

1) Competition tracking: Constantly monitoring competitor movements and strategies can help in deciding future moves. This kind of information will allow businesses to pivot strategy swiftly. A small business brand can take advantage of changing trends more effectively to achieve maximum utilization.

2) Improved customer targeting: The right segmentation will let a company target the potential audience with greater accuracy. The brand must ensure that the messaging reaches the relevant segment for the best results. The right mix of strategies can overcome the challenges associated with upselling, cross-selling, upgrading, or promoting a new product.

3) Customer experience (CX): A superior CX is very important to ensure a seamless experience throughout the customer journey. Businesses must focus on maximising this across all touchpoints. Brands can connect with customers via popular digital channels and mobile messenger services such as WhatsApp, RCS Business Messages, Viber, Google My Business, and social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook.

4) Personalisation: This can influence customer experience. Offer a tailored experience by using insights gained from their buying preferences and browsing behavior intent. 

Consumers are more likely to purchase from your brand if they know your name, purchase history, your likes, and dislikes. For example, whenever you see an email with a personalised subject line and

content, you feel more valued and are more likely to open it. 

The customer data which the business already has may show that the customer preference is in certain products. So according to their preferences, small businesses can recommend some products with higher chances of customers purchasing the product.

5) Omnichannel marketing: It’s fascinating how many brands are using omnichannel marketing to reach their customers and enhance their customer journey. For instance, if a customer always shares their queries on WhatsApp, then swiftly shifting to the WhatsApp Business Platform will give you an edge to provide a better customer experience.

6) Analytics: Customer analytics is all about understanding your customer across every channel and interaction point. Understanding customer behavior lets your brand help in many ways such as in customer acquisition with the behavior analytics and behavior patterns with the best potential offers. 

Customers who spend money on buying products from the same brand frequently are more likely to spend again with the behavior pattern details. Real-time information about customer activity, browsing behavior, and buying patterns, can help brands make effective decisions to improve conversions, boost the company’s bottom line and achieve targets.

7) Automate workflows: When ‘Conversational AI’ is complemented with omnichannel analytics, it helps any industry sector to provide detailed, unambiguous, and ratified information. Customer analytics offer valuable business intelligence that can be leveraged to optimize workflows and

improve business communications.

For instance, patients can reach out to the hospital through the channel they want such as calls, text messages, chat, and video calls. All medical communications are captured properly and the right customer agent will pull out the relevant conversation and provide empathetic assistance during an emergency.

The plain and simple fact is customers gravitate towards brands that show interest in them, listen to them, understand them, also alter their products as per their needs and are present where they are. That’s where the CRM, Communication channels come into the picture with real-time data analytics to help adapt to customer needs. 

This way, small businesses can effectively achieve their revenue goals and also meet the expectations of their customers. As it is highly dynamic in nature, its process is very challenging. That said, it is totally achievable if it is optimized continuously to keep consumers engaged.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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