Professional presence is a key factor in attracting the modern customer, but how do you ensure your small business can rival your big corporate competitors? eReceptionist’s Rory Whelan discusses changes you can make today.
Your customers deal with large corporations on a daily basis. From major retailers and grocery outlets to utility companies and banks, big business is everywhere; it’s an unavoidable part of life. Thanks to these regular interactions with such brands, the public has come to expect certain levels of professionalism from the businesses they connect with. It doesn’t matter if you are big or small, they’ll want to see the same levels of service across the board, whether your net profits are £10,000 or £1 billion.
Pushing your business to match the professional traits of major rivals can be rewarding. It has the potential to attract customers and encourage people to engage with, and trust, your brand more. But what methods are available to help you achieve this?
Get a Business Phone Line
When you call a major corporation, you will call an 0800 number.
When you call a friend or a colleague, you’ll call a mobile or home phone.
This is what we expect when it comes to phone contact. The result is that when a small business uses a mobile or standard landline as their primary contact, there is a misalignment between our perceptions of what we judge to be professional and personal.
If you think this sounds ridiculous, think again. By switching to an 0800 number over a landline or mobile, you could see an increase in enquiries by as much as 175%.
People are more trusting of an 0800 number. They identify it as a professional business line and understand that it is a freephone service. It also demonstrates a level of authority above that of a small business operating out of somebody’s back bedroom. It holds a perceived level of professionalism that can instantly boost your business’s brand presence.
Enhance Your Online Profile
75% of people will judge your business based on the quality of your website. In a world where the majority of shopping and service searches are now done online, a professional website is critical for sales and customer acquisition.
While a staggering 2 million UK SMEs still don’t have a business website, this does mean that the majority of companies do. However, simply owning a website is not a key to unlocking online professionalism. The website has to be a competitive platform — one that rivals both the functionality and design of major brands.
How do you ensure your online presence is meeting the professional standards expected of customers? Follow these rules:
- Avoid Bad Design — Outdated, clunky or ugly design says one thing: poor website investment. It tells your customers you aren’t on the same level as other businesses. People do judge books by their covers and your website is the cover people will see.
- Set up a Business Email — Similar to phone numbers, customers expect to be emailing a professional company contact. If your email ends in @hotmail or @yahoo, it looks like a personal account and damages your professional branding.
- Provide Service Information — Vague or confusing service information isn’t going to make your business look good. Make your service info clear and concise. You’ll also want to ensure proper pricing is available and easy to find. A lack of pricing details can be frustrating and makes a small business look like a dodgy operation.
- Check Grammar and Spelling — Spelling and grammar mistakes are for amateurs; you won’t find them on Apple or Microsoft’s website. Mistakes are jarring and are the quickest way to turn off your visitors. Always get an editor to proofread your web copy.
- Avoid Outdated Information — Given the importance of the online platform, people expect websites to be well maintained. Information about sales that expired two months ago, seasonal details for Christmas when it’s May, or text that says ‘in 2016’, gives the impression your website — and by extension business — is not well-looked after.
- Enable Mobile Browsing — Mobile browsing now accounts for the majority of website viewing. If your website isn’t optimised for mobile browsing, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to use, which is incredibly detrimental not only to your professional appearance, but actual lead generation as well.
- Invest in Data Encryption — Google now warns browsers of unsecured websites. These are websites that lack the HTTPS encryption format. Getting a warning that your website is not secure does not inspire a sense of professionalism and can lead users to worry that their personal information won’t be secure, making an SSL certificate a crucial investment.
Create a Dedicated Customer Service Channel
Here are some important facts to know:
- Customers often want a vocal conversation about important queries.
- Phone calls are still the highest-converting form of sale.
- Most people will not leave a voicemail or call back if a phone call goes unanswered.
As a small operation, potentially with only a handful of employees, meeting all customer service calls can be a tall order. However, as the data above suggests, this presents a problem.
If a customer calls a large corporation, they’ll reach a dedicated customer service line designed to ensure their queries are answered. If they contact a small business that can’t handle call volume, they may be met by a voicemail or just an unanswered line. Your clients expect to receive dedicated contact, making reliable service critical when those threatening to steal business away from you are capable of offering it.
What’s the solution? In a nutshell, outsourcing.
Losing calls is not an option, but investing in a hire to answer them isn’t cost-effective, which means you need to find a balance. You may be able to answer a certain quantity of customer calls, but not all. In the event you can’t, you don’t want customers reaching a voicemail. Services exist that allow small businesses to forward unanswered calls to centres that are able to manage customer queries person-to-person, which is exactly the same service they’d receive when calling a major competitor.
Investing in such services ensures your business doesn’t appear to be one incapable of taking proper care of its customers. It shows them you are able to offer the same level of professional treatment as any other company.