The advent of social media, internet, and smartphones have made it easier to communicate with a large audience. Through sites such as Facebook and Twitter, information can now be shared, within seconds, to millions of people. These changes have forced businesses to be more transparent in regard to their consumers, nothing can be hidden. They must be in constant communication with their consumers. In contrast, a consumer is now free to let their friends and family members online know about any experience they’ve had with a business, be it positive or negative. Such circumstances can be either help or damage a business, especially a small, local business.
Small businesses can no longer be aloof and unapproachable towards the demographics that they serve, but rather, they must answer to them. In a world where reputation is everything, small businesses must preserve their reputations. To do this, they must establish relationships with their consumers, and ensure that every experience that they have with them is positive. Social media has made this much easier than it was in previous years, therefore it is crucial that businesses – both large and small – establish a presence on social media platforms.
I have seen the importance of customer interaction first-hand and how a small business’s presence on social media, or lack thereof, can affect them. For example, I was on Facebook one night when a woman I am friends with posted a status about her experience at a local restaurant in Towson, Maryland that she went to with a friend one night. She described her horrible experience in detail: poor service, people using drugs in the bathroom, and an employee staring creepily at her table. It was posted as a status on Facebook for all her friends and family to see. The issue was made worse by the fact that it did not appear that the restaurant had any social media presence. Otherwise, it would have tried to somehow rectify the situation publicly. For example, I have seen businesses respond to dissatisfied customers on social media, apologizing for their poor service and asking how they can make it right.
The restaurant did not display any good customer service during my friend’s time there, nor after – it did not attempt to rectify the situation by engaging with my friend online, ensuring that what she endured while eating here would be handled accordingly. As a result, the hundreds of people that this woman is friends with on Facebook know that the restaurant is of poor quality and will likely never spend a dime there. Being that the restaurant in question was a small, local restaurant, the fact that this woman is from the area, and so are many of her friends, hurts them even more – they have lost an entire potential demographic.
The numbers prove not only how important excellent customer interaction is to a brand, but how crucial it is to have multiple modes of communication open as well. According to a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group, businesses with the strongest multi-channel customer interaction programs preserve 89% of their consumers, while those with weak programs only preserve 33% Source: (https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2013/12/31/why-omnichannel-strategy-matters/). In addition, according to business analyst Esteban Kolsky, 67% of consumers cite bad customer service as a reason for taking their business elsewhere.Source: (https://www.slideshare.net/ekolsky/cx-for-executives) Do the math: Poor customer service, in combination with limited customer interaction channels, is a recipe for disaster for any business. What the consumer will remember most is their experience with your business, and not even necessarily the quality of the products (though product/service quality is of course a part of the overall experience). Therefore, as a small business owner, you cannot afford to not interact with your customers and establish relationships with them.
As social media becomes increasingly integrated with society, small businesses must take advantage of these changes. Consumer interaction, as my friend’s situation proves, can either help or hurt a business. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are platforms used by millions of people, so any bad experience that a customer has with a small business will be all over seen by a large audience within a matter of seconds. Many small businesses have failed to keep up with the current era and take advantage of these platforms, and they are suffering as a result. The world we live in is much more connected with the advent of, so small businesses have no excuses as to why they do not engage with their consumers.