smb-tech-trendsDo you spend so much time courting potential new customers for your small business that you are failing to fulfill the needs of current ones?  It’s an important question to ask yourself since a 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase business profits by 25 to 125 percent, according to analyst firm Gartner Group.

While current customers may seem satisfied with your products and service offerings, they may have a need that is going unfulfilled that may eventually drive them to seek an alternative provider. Consider if you truly understand what your customers need and if you are meeting their expectations; if you don’t; it’s time to do some homework.

Ask questions

Begin by asking questions and listening to your customers. Your goal is to find out what your customers need not only now but in the foreseeable future. If a customer seems uncertain or indecisive about your offering, spend time asking questions about current problems or challenges they are facing. Probe to find out if the issues are budget or competitive or if the timing just isn’t right to make a purchase decision. Asking the right questions also can help you plan for future products or service offerings that customers indicate they need.

Evaluate your customer service

Consider if your customer service is meeting customer expectations. In its 2012 Global Consumer Pulse Research, Accenture found that 63 percent of  respondents indicated it is frustrating when a company delivers a different customer service experience than what it promised. Moreover, seventy eight percent of consumers say they are likely to switch providers when they encounter such broken promises.

Review your content

As a means of engagement, content that is both timely and relevant to your customers is a key to success. Content is not about packaging your marketing materials and presenting them on social media channels and your website. Your content, whether its how-to-documents, relevant case studies, blog posts or white papers on industry trends, should provide useful information to help solve customer problems you identify. Provide content that encourages commentary and interaction. Keep in mind that today’s search engines are factoring social interaction with your content in determining rankings.

Revamp your loyalty program or start one

Loyalty programs work, says ACI Worldwide, a leading international provider of payment systems. In a study conducted last year, ACI found that 84 percent of Americans are members of at least one retail loyalty program; and 71 percent feel that their loyalty programs deliver important benefits.  However age influences satisfaction with the program. In the 18-24 age group, only five percent of members reported that very few of their loyalty schemes deliver benefits that matter to them; the figure increases to 27 percent of members over the age of 65.

ACI suggests that the key to loyalty programs is placing the customer experience at the center of the reward and loyalty. For example, instead of offering a discount on a purchase after accumulating a certain number of points; consider packaging personalized products or services. Get feedback from your customers to find out what they would like to gain by offering their loyalty and customize your programs accordingly.

How do you get input from customers to ensure you are meeting their needs?