If you own and run your business, you're busy. I get it. Who isn't? You have to pay the bills, pay your employees, order supplies, and the list goes on and on and on. And if you're growing, you have less and less time to do all of the above, including talking to the people who are most important to you: your customers.
I'm not saying that you need to be on the floor all day or answering customer service inquiries. What I'm talking about is listening to how they feel about your business and communicating back with them that you're hearing them.
At my online marketing platform company, VerticalResponse, we have hundreds of thousands of customers, so it's not possible for me to do this. But I do believe in keeping a close ear on what people think, making myself as accessible as I can, and talking.
So what do I do to make myself available?
1. I put my email address on our blog and our website. I also include my Twitter handle as well. These are, hands down, the best way to get to me. If someone wants to call me directly, he or she can. I've found that when a customer calls or emails me, he or she has either had an exceptional experience with us or a rotten one and I typically find a process that needs to be fixed. For that one person who contacted me, there are likely 20 more out there who just didn't bother. It's an opportunity, IMHO.
When a customer emails me with a question about our product, I'll try to answer it if I can, instead of forwarding the email to someone on the support team. It doesn't happen too often, but because he or she has taken the time to find my email address, I feel that I should at least respond with an answer--hopefully the one he or she is looking for!
2. I regularly check our Facebook page, and I look to see what people are saying on Twitter about "VerticalResponse," "Vertical Response" (because people often think our name is made up of two words), and our handle, "@VR4SmallBiz." I also look at what people are saying about our competition as well. It's always good to know the good and the bad so you can act on anything if you need to.
The Harvard Business Review just published a study about the low percentage of CEOs who use social media in their business. I was shocked by some of the comments made about how CEOs have "people" for that. Seeing and listening firsthand what your customers think is crucial to your business. Are you accessible?
JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick