Photo Credit: P Shanks
Most small business owners are content with a website or maybe a Facebook page in order to drum up sales and inform their favorite customers about special deals. While this is certainly better than no internet presence at all, it doesn’t allow a business to really make the most out of the web. Businesses that really use the web and web applications best are those who integrate it into their core customer experience, making sure that it allows them to connect with their customers and enhance their connection with the business.
Many small business owners treat the internet like a newspaper advertisement or Yellow Pages ad, making sure it has accurate information about them and their business and leaving it at that. However, the biggest advantage of the internet over traditional media is that it is two-way in nature. Customers can provide information as well as receive it. Even a simple online guest book, comments page or e-mail form can allow the curious, the outraged or the particularly well pleased to provide useful feedback. This feedback can also be used to let others know that a particular business has outstanding service, quality products, or dedication to its customers. Studies have shown that honest customer feedback, when included in advertisements and statements, is more likely to make potential future customers feel that a business is trustworthy and capable of withstanding criticism and improving their service.
Increasingly, small businesses are reaching out to their customers through the use of live chat applications. This is particularly helpful in the customer service realm, since sometimes phones or other more traditional methods are slow or impractical. As such, companies that have a virtual storefront have found that using online chat allows them to not only talk and connect with their customers during the ordering process; it helps them find products more easily. The use of a website chat application can also help customers who have become lost or who aren’t sure exactly what they are looking for. Much like an employee in a store can easily guide a lost customer to the appropriate aisle, an employee with access to online chat can provide links and directions to customers who want answers to questions or who are not quite sure what they intend to buy. This not only increases sales, it makes customers understand that they are valued and appreciated and thus increases the likelihood that they will return to make additional purchases.