Five common customer relationship mistakes (and how to fix them)

Engage with your customers

Online businesses have a unique opportunity to connect directly with their customers, but some simple mistakes can damage customer relationships rather than strengthen them. Thanks to tools like social media and online reviews, small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are hearing their customers' complaints, praise, questions and suggestions more than ever before.

In order to build customer relationships that incite loyalty and lead to repeat business, brands need to not only hear that input, but also listen, measure, and act on it.

Here are five of the most common mistakes that SMBs make when building relationships with customers, and how to turn them into business-driving opportunities.

Seeing customer communication as a one-way street

Far too often, SMBs use their social media channels and review platforms to push marketing campaigns and sales initiatives to their customers, instead of utilizing them as communication channels. While 89% of UK-based online shoppers are influenced by negative reviews, 15% are more likely to do business with brands that respond to negative reviews with a proper response and resolution.

Instead of replying to a negative review with an automated response, think about the customer's needs, propose a solution, and ask for his or her opinion.

For example, brands can all take a page from Kellogg's book: one social exchange with a dissatisfied customer earned the company a lifelong brand advocate when the brand acted on the customer's request to share breakfast with its mascot.

Waiting for brand loyalty to happen

While most companies know that brand loyalty won't happen overnight, many still wait idly for customers to become brand advocates over time. Without sparking customer engagement based on trust and transparency, SMBs are particularly at risk of losing business to larger brands, which might offer better deals or a wider selection.

One way for SMBs to turn customers into advocates is to fuse the brand story with the customer's story.

By allowing customers' experiences shared on social media, review platforms and with customer service representatives to shape the brand story, brands can attract always-on consumers who are otherwise accustomed to tuning out brand messages and only searching for the best deal.

Neglecting customer data and metrics

Only 16% of businesses use analytics data tied to individuals, revealing a huge disconnect between the potential to develop a successful Voice of the Customer (VoC) program and the amount of brands who actively pursue these efforts.

SMBs should be looking at visitor spike times, frequently returned items and the most-reviewed products to derive insight from customer review trends.

If there is a spike in customer conversion through Twitter, a brand may need to increase its social media staff to generate more conversations or launch a campaign on the channel to reach as many potential customers as possible.

Hearing, but not listening, to customer feedback

In more than 70% of organizations, marketing, sales or e-commerce teams take the lead in managing online reviews, while customer service teams have the responsibility in less than 20% of cases.

With so little dialogue between the public response to reviews and customer conversations, it is easy to lose sight of the business value of end user feedback. Instead of segmenting reviews off for one department, circulate customer feedback throughout the company.

An effective VoC program circulates customer reviews from the executive staff through fulfillment, product, engineering and marketing teams, in order to allow each team to adjust their processes to meet customer needs and give the entire organization a better understanding of what their customers want.

Cutting the customer lifecycle short

One of the worst things a brand can do is give up on a customer relationship after receiving a negative review. After replying to a negative review and offering a solution, be sure to have a representative continue to check in with the customer to ask if the solution corrected the problem or propose next steps.

It is important to stay relevant in a customer's mind from a positive perspective, encouraging the customer to want to continue the relationship and transition into a brand advocate.

Companies make mistakes when it comes to customer relationship management, but most mistakes are easy to fix. When you make the adjustments throughout your organization and make a commitment to stick to them, the customer-brand relationship will only continue to improve over time.

  • Jonathan Hinz is the director of product marketing at Trustpilot.