Web technology is often seen as a golden opportunity to promote your business: to find fresh leads, to make more sales, to increase revenues and profits via this new channel. After all, isn’t that the aim of every business?
It really shouldn’t be. Those benefits are the result of a more vital goal: to serve the customer. And look at how empowered your customer is today, thanks to the web: she’s posting business reviews on Yelp, reviewing products on Amazon, Twittering about commercial entities (good and bad), blogging about the quality of your customer support and posting Facebook status updates about your new products and services. In short: your customers will inevitably talk about you, and they now have large networks of friends who will read, digest, and react to every message…better make sure that message is a positive one!
Beyond ensuring that your products and services are truly top notch, why not do something today, in kind, that helps your customer achieve her goals? You can guarantee that positive (and unexpected!) experience will be widely shared online. Not to mention that us humans find it almost irresistible to return favors - a tendency that will set you up for long term growth.
Want some ideas on how to use the web to help your customer today? How about:
1. Write a “How-to” article on your Company Blog - Your corporate blog isn’t just a way to broadcast messages to your clients and customers: it can also be a resource that establishes you (and your business) as a thought leader and expert. As early as 2005, web-savvy Savile Row tailor English Cut gave readers of its blog advice on sewing buttons back on - the type of kind gesture we remember to this day, and one that establishes the trust required to put down $4000 on a suit. An extra bonus: “how-to” articles are among the most popular content on social bookmarking sites like Delicious, meaning that web users will save your content and add labels that help others discover it too.
2. Give it away online, for free - Whether it’s a white paper on your industry (another indicator of expertise), or free samples of your new product, people love freebies. Take, for instance, the launch of Starbucks’ new instant coffee, VIA, in February. The company gave away free samples of the new product, making “VIA” and “Starbucks” appear within the “trending topics” on social messaging service Twitter over a two day span. Even better: the mentions were almost wholly positive, thanks to the kindness of the gesture.
3. Organize an event - Social tools such as Facebook and Meetup.com make it easy to bring together like-minded groups around a topic. Not only do you get face-time with those genuinely interested in your line of business, but a few free drinks or a meal is a favor that’s likely to be returned…in new business. Where to start? Go to Facebook, set up a page for your company (if you haven’t already!) and create a Facebook event. Customers not on Facebook yet? No problem: old favorite Evite remains a great way to send out email invites to your customers.
4. Answer a question - In web forums, on blogs and on social messaging services, customers are asking questions about your brand, your services and your area of business. What a surprise they’ll get when they ask a question about a company on their personal blog…and get an answer directly from you! How to pull off this trick? Subscribe to the
Google Blog Search alerts for your company name (plus the names of your competitors), then hop into the comments of these blogs whenever your business is mentioned. For extra credit, join the social messaging service Twitter, keep an eye on the Twitter search results for your business and reply whenever you’re mentioned. The poster boy for this favor-based attitude to customer service: Frank Eliason, who uses his ComcastCares account on Twitter to engage in a dialogue with Comcast customers.
There are many more ways, of course, to use web tools to help your customers and clients. Remember that on the web, a good deed never goes unrewarded: the favor gets shared, bookmarked, blogged and Twittered. It’s an investment in goodwill with tangible benefits for your business.