To Grow Your Customer Base Focus on EOA: Early, Often and Always
Customer service. Every business needs it, but not everyone knows how to execute it. In business, it’s easy to undervalue, underappreciate and underestimate our customers. Sure, there are always going to be the ones who are impossible to please; the few who aren’t worth that extra effort and will end up costing you money in the long run. But for the most part, creating loyal customers who will become ambassadors of your brand is crucial to grow your company.
When your company is small and new, it’s those very first consumers who can make or break your business. Remember these people can also provide valuable feedback, and taking the time to speak with them can be incredibly lucrative, from more than just a customer service standpoint.
When it comes to attending to customers, I like to follow the simple rule of EOA: early, often and always.
Try to anticipate your customers’ needs. Be reachable to them on the platforms they will likely attempt to reach you, whether it’s a contact form on your website, a dedicated support email address or a well-monitored Twitter account. It’s better to face your consumers head-on than to hide. Customers are going to complain, so you may as well be around to nip it in the bud when they do. There’s nothing worse than further frustrating an already frustrated customer, so being easily accessible and responding to complaints quickly is very important for maintaining loyalty and credibility.
Related: How I Won My First Big Customer
Be available to your customers on multiple platforms, and follow up with them to make sure their concerns have been addressed and their needs have been met. This does not, of course, mean you need to have a fax machine just because one of your customers might prefer to contact you that way. It means knowing your consumers and being available to them in an intuitive way (this goes back to being available to your consumers early). Once you’ve had your exchange with them via email, direct message, or other channel, follow up with them to make sure they are satisfied. A personal note goes a long way and also serves as a reminder of your brand to make sure you always stay top of mind.
As you grow and as your customer base grows, don’t stop. Like any good relationship, never stop showing people that you care. Find a way to continue to be there for your consumers, no matter how large you become. You’ll have to scale your customer service model as your business grows but removing it is simply not an option without alienating your loyal customers. Whether it means outsourcing or switching to email-only contact, you must find a way to be accessible. Remember to always be available, authentic and relatable to your consumers.
Ultimately, you will need to set your business’s culture towards customer service. You will need to determine and craft the tone in which your brand interacts with its consumers. The method in which you interact, though, should be established early, enacted often, and continued always.
Sarah is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where she studied systems engineering and entrepreneurship. During her junior year she opened Green Bean, an eco-healthy salad restaurant. She is now in the midst of launching her second business, a line of performance-focused men's business socks: Unfettered Socks. She was a finalist in the Entrepreneurs' Organization's Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in 2012. Find more about her on her website.