Amid social distancing, stringent lockdowns and what’s looking to be a second surge of COVID-19 cases, business owners can no longer rely on splashy launch events, mom-and-pop friendliness or a dynamite location to build customer relationships. Today, every business is competing for eyeballs and purchases made on digital channels.
Data-based approaches can help you stand out more effectively.
To successfully stand out, you’ll need to understand data optimization basics, including gathering customer information, responding to real-time feedback and reducing inefficiencies that lose revenue and diminish trust.
Gathering Customer Information
Data optimization commonly refers to collecting all the information at your disposal and maximizing the speed and comprehensiveness with which business-critical information can be extracted and analyzed.
If you have a website, this could be the most sensible place to start data collection. You likely have a handle on how many people are visiting and what pages they’re viewing, but are you using an analytics tool to assess where they are coming from, the content they spend the most time reading, and which page prompts them to leave? Do you know where your most active visitors live, how old they are and what products or services they most frequently purchase? These questions form the foundation of your business, and therefore are critical to your data-optimization efforts.
Feedback forms or emails are essential, but in today’s climate you’ll likely want to be more proactive about seeking out qualitative information about how customers value your offerings and their experience with your organization.
You don’t have to invest in a pricey or unwieldy customer survey to do this. Instead, try pushing a few questions to targeted visitors based on the defining characteristics above. You can also use analytics features embedded in the big four social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter) to ascertain what people are saying and the general sentiment around your brand.
If your customer relationships are rich with engagement points, CRM software can be a wise investment. These tools help monitor your interaction with current and potential customers, leverage data analytics to track customer history and details and suggest data-driven strategies to grow relationships.
Managing Real-Time Feedback
Customers are more likely to respond to your feedback requests if you:
- contact and respond to them directly,
- indicate that you care what they have to say,
- listen to their ideas and
- implement changes quickly where possible.
Ensure your employees in charge of analysis have the right context for mining key themes and insights from the feedback. Be wary of handing off your feedback to a third party that isn’t close to your products or customers.
You can develop your own applications to both manage customer feedback and create solutions to problems the feedback uncovers. You don’t have to be a programming expert to take advantage of a variety of low-code and no-code software programs. The resulting applications can be iterative, meaning you keep testing and honing them in response to business and customer needs. Sample applications include a program to crowdsource new product ideas or an app that allows customers to rate service performance.
Your business intelligence is only as good as the quality of your data. At a minimum, you should routinely clean your databases to avoid redundancies and flush outdated information.
Organizations are also using COVID-19 as an opportunity to deliver greater value to the customer. Big data analytics provides small-business owners with the tools to examine and streamline every aspect of their supply chain, production, marketing and sales processes, and catch elements that are broken or disrupted. When it comes to customer data specifically, it’s powerful to understand when, how and why behavior and attitudes change so you can pivot according to evolving marketplace demands.
In most organizations, paper-based processes are still the enemy of efficiency. Software-driven automation can help you gather and synthesize critical data more quickly while making it easier for customers to do business with you. Mobile capture, which involves routing and storing data from electronic forms accessed on mobile phones or tablets, is one method. E-signatures are getting more sophisticated all the time, even allowing you to analyze the biometrics of how a signature is drawn.
Customers are more likely to respond to your feedback requests if you contact and respond to them directly, indicate that you care what they have to say, listen to their ideas and implement changes quickly where possible.
You can also employ mobile capture via technologies such as photo annotation, GPS stamping, speech recognition and barcode scanning. These also help reduce inefficiencies by streamlining administrative processes that take place between your business and customers, such as item delivery (e.g., item location tracking, driver identification and photographic proof of delivery). And, by placing customers at the center of more interactions, mobile capture often prompts more open dialogue and earlier error identification.
If you recognize the potential here but need a bit more guidance, consider consulting an expert or hiring a contractor or employee with expertise in database management and data analytics. COVID-19 is a customer attraction and retention game changer, and your data must be up to the task.
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