“In the coming year, small business owners will be focusing on growth: Nearly 80% of respondents reported that their top priority would be increasing revenue. Coming in a close second at 67% was the goal of establishing new customer relationships, which can be more costly and labor-intensive than improving existing relationships (46%).” (State of Small Business report-2014)
I received a “thank you” note from Staples today. It was in response to a long detailed note I wrote them about their color copy machines and the people they hire in the copy department. They have wonderful color copy machines in the self-service area and in every store I have gone too (two states now) the thumb drive slot is taped over. In order to do “self-service” color copies with a thumb drive you need to ask the people behind the counter. The very people who are rushing around trying to finish endless copies for projects; collated and stapled, then boxed in less than an hour. Me and my thumb drive are not that important.
Customers are the reason businesses exist. Nothing happens until one person sells another person something. It is at the core of our economy and the whole reason sites like LinkedIn exist and prosper: customer relationships. I have something you need and want and if I am fair, nice and convenient, you will come and buy from me. Right?
So why is the cost of promoting and growing those relationships so costly? Is it that relationships really do need a human touch in order to make them important? 67% of the small businesses who reported in this study said that they wanted to grow these new relationships, but sadly, it came in only second to increased revenue…is that possible? Can a business increase revenue without also growing new customers relationships? (Of course they can as anyone knows who flies in airplanes, yes indeed, if you charge for everything—oh that they could charge for the air in the cabin– then revenue can go up while the customer relationship suffers.)
But even airline companies, the ones that are thriving, know that relationships must be developed and nurtured, with a human touch, in order for their to be true, long-term, revenue growth.
“Customer relationship management (CRM) is a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It often involves using technology to organize, automate and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.”
CRM: Its a well thought out process of managers and technical geeks who work together to find new ways to make customers happy and buy more stuff, but like automated phone services, your customers don’t really like your new CRM strategy for customer growth. In fact, we hate them. First we know you are just trying to cut labor costs to increase revenue; and second, in this increasingly tech-oriented world, we have no choice but to press 1 for english, for the possibility of being given the option to speak with another human to resolve issues with your services. Automated phones are not increasing your customer relationships–just ask anyone of the humans at the end of the long trail of button pushing who gets to speak to us! In my opinion, they are saints and need a raise!
Humans are not easily organized, automated or synchronized with sales and marketing goals. Humans are messy, distracted, funny, flexible, emotional, and easily exhausted by the things like automated phone systems. Humans aka customers, just want to be a part of the process. We want to feel important to you, valued, and heard. We want to be greeted with a smile and listened to when we ask for something, or write out a complaint. That is what makes us loyal and true, spending our money and telling all of our friends and associates how much we love you.
Social media is not a strategy to get your customers love and attention. It is only the vehicle that carries your true message about a customers value to your business.
The Staples person that wrote me back mentioned that the pricing issues would be brought to the attention of management. It was an oversight that told me my email was not really listened too, because I only referenced pricing at the very end, and it was not a complaint. My customer issue was about service. Telling people in million dollar ads that you are the “small business guy partner and friend” and yet making it impossible to get things done, quickly and without having to deal with your lack of staffing—it is a problem.
The solution? Be human. Hire more humans. Act like humans. Think like humans. Offer services that humans like. Put away your fancy CRM plan and find people who want to help others. That is my CRM plan for growth. Humans reaching out to other humans.
#smallbiz, #customer, #customerservice, #CRM, #Human, #relationships, #revenue, #linkedin, #staples, #designbear
Image Source: Shutterstock Images