Every business has had “growing pains” throughout the beginning part of their business. And there are a lot of “lessons learned” along the way – both in managing the business, and growing as a small business owner professionally. We’ve asked author and respected small business industry expert, Donna Fenn, to scour her band of successful entrepreneurs and share their stories, and her expertise, in a new series called the “Secrets of Small Business Success.”
Every Tuesday through October 30th, we’ll bring you a new post sharing small business wisdom. Kicking us off, Donna spoke with founder and CEO of award-winning Marketing Zen Group, Shama Kabani, on how small business owners should communicate with customers via social media.
Every small business with an online presence– whether it’s a fast-paced Internet start-up or a local appliance store – should be using social media to connect with and better serve customers. But what does that mean, exactly? Sure, you have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, but are you using them to your best advantage? We spoke with Shama Kabani, CEO of Dallas-based Marketing Zen Group, an award-winning brand marketing and digital PR firm, to get some insider advice on how entrepreneurs should best engage with their customers online.
1. Set up alerts. Whenever your company’s name is mentioned online, you need a little virtual tap on the shoulder. Set up Google alerts, but also do a Twitter search to get a heads up on when people are talking about your company without your hashtag. You can (and should) interact with those customers. “It’s a great way to delight your customers because they’re not expecting to hear from you,” says Kabani. Platforms like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite can also help you monitor your social media streams.
2. Amplify the positive. Don’t wait until there’s a complaint or a question to interact with customers. If someone gives you an online shout out, seize the opportunity for a positive interaction by simply saying “we appreciate your business; let us know how we can better serve you.” With customer service, says Kabani, it’s all about the ratio of positive vs. negative comments. Build up the positive to counteract any potential negative interactions that may come your way. She also suggests that you post your offline endorsements – a letter of appreciation, or that picture of you with the Little League team you sponsored. Use Instagram to capture and post those offline props to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
3. Respond to all constructive criticism. Don’t panic if a customer says negative things. Accept that it’s going to happen and, says Kabani, that “you will be judged more by your response to a situation than the situation itself. You can turn a bad situation around by getting in front of it and being humble and gracious.”
4. Manage your social media presence. The worst thing you can do is give customers the impression that you’re present on social media and then fail to interact with them promptly. Ever tweeted your cable company or mobile carrier to complain about service, only to be completely ignored? Don’t be that guy. If you can’t monitor your accounts on your own, pass along the responsibility to a trusted colleague.
Lastly, says Kabani, remember that customer service is no longer about waiting for people to come to you; it’s about preempting that need. “If you have a customer-centric business, you don’t need customer service,” she says.
Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.
Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 9, 2013 at 10:22 am