Building customer relationships for small businesses

Loyal customers are the lifeblood of small businesses. When entrepreneurs build strong relationships with their clients, they better the chances for repeat business. It can also inspire happy customers to recommend the shop to their friends or to write positive reviews online. A good customer can be the best advertising a business can get, and owners can make some of those valuable connections without needing a budget.

Good customer service speaks volumes
According to CIO, store employees can be the most important resource for pleasing customers. Business owners need to make themselves visible to patrons and should always put their best foot forward, regardless of the circumstance. Responding with kindness and patience to an angry customer can be the best way to solve the conflict, and general warmth and friendliness will help consumers trust the business more. 

"Every interaction between a customer and employee, whether that is pre-sale, the actual sales process, after sales support or billing, provides an opportunity to either add or detract from the equity of your brand and company," said Rick DeMarco, managing director at Inward Strategic Consulting. 

"Staff should always be excited and engaged when speaking with customers."

If there are other employees who work at the business, owners need to be thorough about customer service training. Staff should always be excited and engaged when speaking with customers. Helping customers find products or resolve issues quickly and professionally should be a standard part of their job responsibilities. Their behavior reflects back on the business and the owner, so employees need to reflect what the store's mission is. 

Connecting outside of shop
While being polite and friendly is necessary for providing good customer service, establishing connections with customers requires business owners to do more than just smile when people walk in. Establishing a positive presence in the community is great for building up a good reputation and drawing more traffic into the store. 

Using social media is a good way to start reaching out to existing and potential clients. Being active online can keep a business on people's radar without requiring the funding that an advertising campaign would need.

Business owners should also make a point to go out and attend local events, according to All Business. Setting up a vendor booth at local festivals provides access to new clients and helps locals view the business as a part of their community. 

Giving back to the neighborhood can also win fans for entrepreneurs who want to make customer connections. This can be done through hands-on volunteering, sponsoring a local sports team or donating the store's products to a charity drive. 

Equipment and business industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.