Do I need a digital strategy to communicate with customers?
Q: What are your thoughts on using social media to promote a consumer-facing business?
A: Unless your customers are all over the age of 75, then I would say that this is a mandatory part of doing business in today's environment.
I meet lots of independent retailers who miss this opportunity to communicate with their customers and are relying on traditional methods.
While many traditional methods work, it is a matter of combining traditional and modern tools to maximise your success with your consumers.
I get example after example of retailers posting new products, or some specific messages on their digital media platforms, where they are clearly able to demonstrate a very fast consumer response within hours of posting.
Many independent business owners are already doing too much themselves and find it hard to make time for their digital activity. It may be something that someone else does on your behalf, although you need to be fully involved. There are lots of great supports from your Local Enterprise Office including training on the different tools available and also an online trading voucher which assists businesses that are not trading online to start doing so. I also notice that it is no longer just Facebook and Twitter that businesses are now using, but they are expanding rapidly into YouTube, Instagram etc. Not having a strong digital media strategy is like not having a sign over the door of your business!
Q: Do you think it is a good idea to call customers by name when they are paying by credit or debit card?
A: I get asked this question a lot. I very often meet store owners and managers who say they find it hard to motivate their staff to call customers by their name as they feel uncomfortable in doing so. In over 40 years of doing this in Superquinn, I don't think I can recall any negative feedback from customers about having their names used. Our policy certainly was to address the customer by their surname and a title e.g. Thank you Mr. Jones and I think it would be overly familiar to use a Christian name. We took that a stage further and several times each year our store managers would run an event where we gave the customers name badges.
Our staff would often tell us that while they knew customers' faces, they very often didn't get the opportunity to ask them their name. By creating these events where we gave the customer a name badge, it gave the staff an opportunity to use the name and hopefully remember it for the next visit. It was an overwhelming success and once our customers knew what we were doing, they joined in the spirit of it.
In summary, I don't have a hesitation in recommending to anyone that they should use customer's names. You will be quite surprised by the positive reaction you get from customers and once your staff get comfortable with the idea they will embrace it enthusiastically.
Send your small business questions to firstname.lastname@example.org