The value of a few words from your customers

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Four ways Australian small businesses can leverage communication from consumers to build brand credibility in a post-pandemic world.

Brand credibility is becoming a major differentiator for small businesses as consumers continue to research and purchase online. There is no doubt that brands of all sizes need to build trust and credibility with their existing and future customers, to cut through the noise and win their hearts, and ultimately their business.

Over the last 18 months, many small businesses have had to work harder than ever to stand out. While there are many tactics that can be used to acquire customers quickly, such as introducing flash sales or offering discounts, if small businesses want to retain customers long term, building brand credibility and trust is essential.

As we move into the new year, if one of your resolutions is to build or strengthen your small-business brand, here are four steps to consider:

1. Collect customer reviews

With the rise of online research and shopping, customers are now relying on reviews from their fellow customers to find the most up-to-date and accurate information about a business. In fact, 70 per cent of shoppers in Australia and New Zealand read reviews prior to making a purchase, which highlights the growing need for small-business owners to consider adding reviews to their business strategy.

“Having reviews publicly available conveys to potential customers that you’re safer to do business with, which adds to your credibility and trustworthiness.”

Reviews are an opportunity for anyone familiar with your business to share what they love about your product, service, or customer experience. So, having reviews publicly available conveys to potential customers that you’re safer to do business with, which adds to your credibility and trustworthiness.

Consider partnering with a third-party technology provider to automate your reviews. Also, ensure that you’re sending them at a time suitable and convenient for a customer, and likely to generate a response, either post-purchase or after a specific interaction.

2. Invest in customer service (CS) and customer experience (CX)

How do you define good customer service? Stellar customer service means caring about what your customers need and want to be satisfied, and always going the extra mile to make sure they’ve had the best experience possible from beginning to end.

Building great customer service means continuously investing in your customers and making sure their experiences are seamless – from the top of the funnel to checkout, and through to the after-sales service. In the last few years, customers have become increasingly empowered when it comes to purchasing decisions. If you deliver a great experience as a small-business owner, you are more likely to increase satisfaction, reduce doubt, and boost conversions. Research highlights that 89 per cent of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer-service experience so ensuring that you’re providing a positive, memorable experience is crucial. Additionally, with nearly three in five customers reporting that good customer service is key for them to feel loyal towards a brand, it’s something small-business owners cannot afford to overlook.

Customers share their experiences with others. Not paying close attention to your CS and CX could cost your business its reputation and, in the long-term, your credibility.

3. Ask for customer feedback

Listening to your customers – the good and the bad – is crucial to ensure your small business is staying ahead of the competition and improving on the customers’ last experience. Collecting customer feedback via methods such as reviews, surveys, or in-person interviews, after either a purchase or a specific interaction, allows you to better understand what works, what doesn’t and what could be improved to deliver better products or services.

By understanding what is working and what’s not, you can adapt your business to remain competitive. If you receive good customer feedback, consider promoting it across channels such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook pages, and your business website.

Additionally, if customers share or provide feedback that they like your fast delivery times, you could consider highlighting this during the checkout to reduce cart abandonment. On the other hand, their feedback can also highlight what your customers don’t love about your business so you can make improvements. Listening to feedback, making the necessary adjustments, and communicating these efforts showcases that you care about your customers and are prepared to make changes to improve your offering and build credibility.

4. Let you customers do the talking for you

Great customer relationships are the bedrock of any small service business. By leveraging your most passionate customers, you can increase credibility, sales, and the bottom line by letting them do the talking for you.

Customers are more likely to trust content shared by ‘normal’ people than content shared by businesses, as it appears to be more authentic. If you have a small marketing team or budget, amplifying the voice of your customer is a particularly smart tactic, as you ultimately let your customers promote your product or service, boosting your brand credibility without doing the heavy lifting. You can do this by promoting customer reviews, testimonials, and feedback across your owned social media channels, website, and emails.

There are myriad ways to build brand credibility, but the most important thing is to keep it simple and develop a strategy centred around your customer and the experience you deliver. In the ‘new normal’ for businesses, credibility will be critical as customers look to purchase from small businesses they trust.

This article first appeared in issue 35 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine