Information Sysetems Associates
Information Systems Associates
Customer loyalty: make and       
keep a customer....

Build Customer Loyalty 24 Hours A Day,
and Don't Lose Sleep Over It

by Gary L. Breeden, MBA

The purpose of business, management guru Peter Drucker once said, is not to make a sale, but to make and keep a customer. As a small business, you need to think about your Web site in the same way. Most businesses spend 80% of their marketing dollars on finding new customers--and then do a lousy job of keeping them satisfied. Sound painfully familiar?

Enter the Internet, which has turned the discipline of Monday-to-Friday-9-to-5 customer service on its head. That creates a bad-news-good-news situation for small businesses.

The bad news is that Internet users are increasingly conditioned to expect immediate gratification--any time, any way. The good news? You can use the Internet to provide it. And if you succeed, you'll find that Net customers tend to be more committed (read: lucrative) over time. They are also willing partners, providing instant, ongoing feedback for creating new products and shaping new value propositions. In short, the Internet can be a killer tool for generating customer loyalty.

A Bigger Picture

The challenge for many small businesses is to be able to see the forest for the trees--to be able to look beyond using the Web for merely posting electronic brochures. After all, when was the last time your company brochure turned a grumpy customer into a loyal lifer, or provided critical market research and customer feedback to help you design a better product or service?

The Web can do all of that, and more, provided you begin thinking of it as an extension of your everyday business processes. We're not talking here about complex security systems to take credit cards over the Internet (though there's nothing wrong with that). We're talking about easy-to-implement ways to extend your reach to stay in closer touch with customers.

For Example, are you:

  • Launching a new product? Post a Web form--and advertise it to select users--to get early customer feedback to your marketing department.
  • Developing new services? Send out a regular e-mailed newsletter, with links back to your Web site for more details.
  • Want feedback on a product upgrade being planned? Invite customers to offer their advice through a user listserv, and post the most interesting responses on your Web site.
  • Cutting product support costs? Let customers find their own answers from your Web support pages--24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without any of those annoying delays on your costly toll-free phone line.
  • Clearing out old inventory? Use broadcast fax over the Net to alert your preferred customers to great deals.
  • Trying to generate more revenue from current clients? Link your database of customer preferences to your Web server, and customize the product literature pages each one sees on your site.
  • Constantly changing prices of commodity goods for a large customer base? "Push" the data to their desktops in real time through a custom "channel" that they can subscribe to on your Web site.
  • Launching a new product line? Set up a Web product catalog and tie it to your inventory database, so you can promote overstocks and special purchases. This doesn't have to mean taking orders on the Web. Simply keeping customers current on your best offers will keep them coming back for more.
  • Expanding sales in a new market? Set up a fax-back or "fax-on-demand" service that forwards telephone inquiries from potential customers to fetch and fax the requested literature directly from your Web site.
Customer Loyalty

"Way cool!" you're saying to yourself. You never knew a Web site could do all of that. But then you realize that your small, decidedly un-geeky staff is stretched thinner than a whisker to ever take on the technical demands of such a site. No need to freak.

Automation Tools

While the technology is not quite yet simple enough to put your mother in charge of the IT department, it's not as bad as it sounds. New products such as Microsoft's Small Business Server that integrate all the necessary operations in a single system--file sharing, critical databases, email, fax and Web-page generation--are helping to cut down the technical quotient required. And Web-page authoring tools like FrontPage let you build and maintain professional Web pages without programming a single line of code.

Of course, there's another way to think about it. Your Web site (and server) can do the work of employees you can't afford to hire. A fax-back service alone has been demonstrated to automate the work of as many as two full-time employees. In fact, you probably can't afford not to make your Web site work smarter for you. If improved productivity doesn't convince you, then consider the fact that your competition is either using the Web to build loyalty, or will do so very soon. Failing to keep pace with competitors means you're falling behind.

The emergence of the Web means this new reality: If you're not asking for some kind of interaction from customers--information about her preferences, product feedback, and a new order--you're wasting the medium, and untold opportunity.

Information Systems Associates (ISABIZ®) offers small businesses products and services that greatly enhance improving customer self service. Give us a call at 865-719-3561 or click below to request an on-site or phone visit.

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