Most small business-owners allocate significant labor resources to customer management. Many time-consuming tasks, however, don’t require skilled employees. In fact, essential customer management processes can often be automated or outsourced for a fraction of the cost it usually takes to complete them.
Small companies that build streamlined systems in this area tend to see a range of benefits, from greater employee productivity to happier, more satisfied customers.
In this post, we’re going to look at six practical ways that you can streamline your customer management practices, cut costs, and make better use of your workforce. What’s more, in the vast majority of cases, implementing these changes is fast and easy. Let’s dive in.
1. Offer a Client Portal
Online portals are essentially virtual member’s areas. Your clients can log into a dedicated space on your website and conduct a range of tasks without any direct input from you. These tasks include scheduling, rescheduling, and cancelling appointments, uploading important documents, submitting help tickets, and more. Whenever appropriate, you will receive an automated notification, and your calendar will update.
The best client portal plugins are inexpensive, easy to install, and customizable. What’s more, adding a portal to an existing website usually doesn’t require any technical or development expertise. are low-cost and easy to implement.
You can even take advantage of popular solutions if you don’t currently have a website. Many packages come with straightforward site-builders and hosting options, thus enabling you build a client-facing online presence with minimal financial and time investments. Often, you’ll alo have access to complimentary staff onboarding and client training programs.
2. Automate Communication With Apps
Consistent communication is essential for maintaining client satisfaction over the long-term. Many small businesses, however, still rely on manual processes to keep in touch with their customers. If you still ring customers on the phone to confirm appointments, for instance, or send out printed invoices, you’re needlessly wasting time and money.
Most forms of client communication can be automated by using apps. Appointment scheduling software, for example, will automatically send reminders and confirmation texts and emails to customers. And accounting apps can be connected to a CRM to auto-generate and send invoices once a sale has been processed.
3. Use Customer Relationship Management Software
Customer relationship management software can be used to organize, automate, and streamline every aspect of your sales funnel and existing customer processes. Over the last few years, CRMs have evolved into highly advanced and feature-rich solutions, many of which are geared specifically at smaller businesses.
Modern features include database management, lead tracking, third-party integrations, customer service tools, analytics and reporting, and more. A well-chosen CRM can act as your “central control” panel, enabling you to keep track of everything that’s going on in your business and aggregate client information from a variety of sources and other apps.
4. Sync Your Tech Stack
Compiling client information from different software applications is a time-consuming process. You might have to access multiple apps, for example, whenever you input new client information or make small changes to existing details.
Syncing your tech stack is one way of overcoming this problem. By integrating your different software solutions, changes made in one app will automatically appear in all the others that are part of your automated network.
Let’s say, for example, that a client approves and pays for a proposal. Your document management solution will “talk” to your accounting app to generate an invoice and update the client’s sales details. Your accounting app will then update the client’s account in your CRM. All of this will be done with relatively little or no effort on your part.
5. Set Up a Loyalty Program
You might be thinking, “What does a loyalty program have to do with efficient client management? By setting up a loyalty program, aren’t I just giving myself another job?”
This reasoning is faulty for a simple reason: it costs far less to keep an existing customer than it does to acquire a new one. If you want to make the best use of your resources, reinvest more heavily in keeping current customers as opposed to finding new ones.
Loyalty programs are also very easy to implement, and you don’t need to be tech-savvy to create one on your site. And if the thought of building an online program makes you want to bury your head in the sand, you can always go for a more straightforward “manual” system. That’s exactly what coffee shops do when they give customers a free coffee after a certain number of purchases.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
This is a simple but crucial point. Sometimes a difficult client just isn’t worth taking on. Small businesses often have a hard time saying no to customers that aren’t a good fit. But it’s far more economical in the long-term to turn away clients that are likely to cause problems.
Set up straightforward “filtering criteria” to pinpoint those clients that are unlikely to be a good fit well in advance. Often, you will have to rely on qualitative data from sales reps. If you are using a customer relationship management tool, you will likely be able to automate this process.
It’s easy for small business owners and managers to become complacent about client management. Often, existing systems and processes work reasonably well, and there is a reluctance to rock the boat and potentially incur greater costs.
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that by relying on outdated client management practices, you are needlessly giving your competitors an edge. Implementing efficient, streamlined systems can lead to greater levels of customer satisfaction, more productive staff, higher rates of repeat sales, reduced costs, and more.
Take the time to try out some of the suggestions outlined above. Once you start to see the benefits, you’ll only wish you’d done it sooner.