Regardless of how lofty your ambitions are or how well-intentioned your business is, staying afloat without a steady customer base is likely to prove impossible. Loyal patrons are the backbone of any small business, and failing to shore up your customer base is practically guaranteed to result in tremendous regret. That being the case, making the customer experience as pleasant as possible should be among the top priorities of all small business owners. Additionally, in working towards this goal, it’s imperative that you avoid the following missteps.

Making Customers Feel Like an Inconvenience

No one relishes feeling like an inconvenience. Be it in relationships, social situations, or business settings, people hate being made to feel as if their presence is unwelcome. After all, if you’re providing a business with patronage, what right do they have to make you feel like a nuisance? Unless a customer is being outright mean or inconsolably enraged, making them feel like an inconvenience serves no purpose but to hurt their feelings and diminish your odds of ever again receiving their business. 

With this in mind, make a point of being as courteous and personable as possible in all of your customer interactions. Without even realizing it, people tend to project feelings of annoyance onto customers, and if you suspect you’ve been guilty of this in the past, take care to be extra mindful of your attitude when dealing with customers.

In addition to exuding an air of warmth and approachability, make sure to thank your customers for their patronage at every available opportunity. The more appreciated someone feels, the more likely they are to give you their business in the future – and the stronger their connection to your business is likely to become. One of the keys to fostering customer loyalty is encouraging patrons to feel personally invested in your success, and consistently showing them due appreciation represents a step in the right direction. 

Regarding Your Business as Infallible

No matter how much time, energy, and capital you pour into refining your business, it’s important to understand that no business is above making mistakes. And the more customers you serve, the more opportunities there are for mistakes to spring up. While no consumer enjoys dealing with mistakes made by businesses, many of them can be surprisingly forgiving if genuine efforts are made at correcting those mistakes.

So, the next time you receive a customer complaint, avoid the urge to go on the defensive and insist that the fault lies entirely with the customer. Accepting responsibility for mistakes made by your business shows humility – which can go a long way in winning over patrons and generating repeat business. Every business is infallible – some are just more willing to acknowledge and work on their shortcomings than others.

Being Generally Unresponsive

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t keep customers waiting for responses to the communique. Whenever you receive a phone call, email, or text message from a patron, it’s in your best interest to provide them with a timely and courteous response. Unresponsiveness gives off the impression that input and concerns from your patrons are unimportant, and if customers don’t feel valued, it’s only natural that they’d take their business elsewhere.

You should never keep a customer waiting for more than a few hours for a response to a message that’s received during normal business hours. Additionally, if you lack the bandwidth to personally respond to every customer communique, consider hiring at least one dedicated customer service representative. This person will assume responsibility for all things customer service-related, including responding to messages in an expedient fashion, addressing complaints, assuaging patrons’ frustrations, and working with cloud-based CRM software. Depending on the size of your business and how many customers regularly reach out to you, you may need to welcome multiple customer service personnel into your ranks.     

You’re likely to have a hard time finding a small business that’s able to get by without the support of loyal patrons. When it comes to ensuring a business’s long-term success, a few steps are more important than building a solid customer base and working to retain it. So, if your approach to customer service and patron retention could use some work, there’s never a bad time to get started. 

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