Regardless of what your business model looks like, customers are obviously essential. They are the ones who pay your bills, cover your expenses and help you to maintain a profitable business. This is all true, but what if I were to ask you why your repeat customers come back to you, especially when you are offering an identical service or product to your competitors?

There are quite a few factors which can include pricing, quality of the product, delivery times and more, but if we keep all things constant, the biggest reason that customers return to a business is an emotional one: they like how they feel when they shop with you. Bricks-and-mortar store owners have been saying this for years, and it's time for more online businesses to take note:

Customers may forget what you said, but they'll never forget how you made them feel.

If you go through studies on why customers shift from one business to their competitors, most of the time it will be because they were unhappy with the customer service. If your customer service is good, your customers aren't going anywhere.

How do you provide the kind of customer service that makes customers not only stick with your business, but also become brand advocates? Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn't simple, and every successful company has their own techniques and tactics that work for them. However, one thing is true across the board: successful retention comes from good customer service, and successful customer service comes from cross-channel outreach. Here are four simple ways to get started.

If your company ignores social media or uses it only for branding, marketing, or lead generation, you're missing out on the most effective tool for conversions and retention.

Social Media as a Customer Service Platform

If your customer has a question about the product they bought from you or the service they are using, what do you think will be the best way to contact a company so that his or her question can be answered quickly? If your answer is by phone or email, you really need to think again.

Social media - especially Twitter - works faster than any other medium. This can scare off some customer support departments, but don't fear: often real-time complaints or concerns can be turned around faster on social media. Through this method, you can create a positive customer experience and encourage those customers to share that experience with their social audience.

Check out this example from 2Checkout, an online payment processing app. A customer tweeted directly to the company and the problem was resolved within a few with positive results. Through email, this could have taken more than a day.

Social Media is where your customers are. It's where they congregate, it's where they look for advice, and it's where they share their experiences. If you can be there for them when they need it most, they won't just be satisfied; they'll become loyal customers and advocates for your company.

Social Polling

Relationships are two-way interactions. In order to build a close relationship with your customers, don't just wait for them to contact you!

Social polling and asking customers for specific feedback does two things:

  • Customers will appreciate that you value their opinion.
  • You will have a better understanding of what your audience wants, how they use your product or service, and how to improve.

Interaction and building relationships with customers is important which is one of the reasons I like is social polling. Ask a question about a feature they want to add to a product you sell or what changes they want to see in a service, survey the results, and act on the most popular reactions. Twitter and other social media channels are great places to ask for customer opinions.

Once you have the data of what your customers are looking for, you can make alterations accordingly and create a win-win situation for your business. I've noticed that more and more small business CRMs are including social media tools, web popups, and surveys as a part of their software, essentially combining sales, marketing, and customer support into one package. So there's really no excuse not to ask for honest feedback and act on the results; it's almost too easy.

Live Chat and Real-time Support

What could be better than you contacting your customers and potential customers at during the buying cycle and helping them make the right decision? Here, I really mean help. Don't just push your customers into purchases; help them with useful information and a friendly attitude.

One of the best things you could include on your site is live chat software like ClickDesk which makes it easy to chat with both potential customers and current customers directly from your website or web app. Many of these live chat apps include a social toolbar or other social media links that make it easy for customers to share their experiences (and follow your brand) on their favorite social platforms. When you offer personalized pre-sales support that actually solves their problems, they feel comfortable and, as a result, might not only stick with you as a customer, but also recommend you to others in their social and business circles.

Respond to Negative Reviews...Politely

Social Media is amazing, but dangerous at the same time. If you or your customer service team doesn't know how to handle bad reviews, then things can get ugly and it can directly affect your businesses revenue. On the other hand, you can turn those bad reviews into opportunities to increase sales and retention in the long run.

Prepare your sales team for social media and especially review websites like Yelp. Teach them how to handle negative reviews. This is one of the finest examples where a restaurant owner gets a bad review removed because his restaurant was in the right.

Also, check this post where you will get an idea of how business owners successfully handle bad reviews on the internet. Remember that potential customers will check out your business on social media. If it looks like you aren't even bothering to respond to customer complaints, they are many times less likely to do business with you.

Not only can social media increase customer happiness, but it can help your business create an engaged community that will promote your brand organically. The four ideas discussed here are only the beginning of the journey to increasing customer happiness and revenue.