Last week we published a press release about a study put together by Forbes Insight and KeyBank’s Key4Women that looked at how women-owned businesses were coming out of the recession and their attitudes regarding customer service. The survey collected responses from 320 female small business owners and found that while they’re taking a very customer-centric approach to business, most are sticking with the “tried and true” (read: old) methods of customer service and aren’t putting actual customer service strategies in place. Scary.
As a woman small business owner, I was pretty surprised by many of the findings. The study found that post-recession, women business owners are focused on customer service. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that customer relationships were the core of their business, putting faith in the old adage that it costs more to gain a new customer than it does to keep an old one. You would think, then, that we’d find women small business owners all over social media. That they’d be using tools like blogs, Twitter and Facebook to increase engagement and stay abreast of customer issues, their wants, needs, etc.
However, that’s not the case.
According to the study, more than 60 percent of respondents admitted to NOT tracking social media to find out what customers were saying about them, with fewer than 10 percent stepping in to engage with people. Broken down by platform, the number of women small business owners using social media to track conversations looks like this:
- LinkedIn – 37 percent
- Facebook – 27 percent
- Twitter – 17 percent
- Blogging – 16 percent
Twenty-four percent of respondents said they weren’t using ANY type of social media. Ouch.
When it comes to customer retention, it may be in womens’ minds, but it’s not being reflected in their business strategy. Only 18 percent of those surveyed said they have a dedicated customer service strategy (27 percent admitted to having none), 55 percent said they instead address customer service on a case-by-case basis. I found that pretty surprising, knowing how time invasive is to continually have to make “judgment calls” instead of creating a streamlined process.
Even scarier: 25 percent of respondents said they didn’t have a Web site.
I was really surprised to see the reluctance of women small business owners to get involved with social media and to, instead, stick to older, more classic forms of engagement. Women are known for their ability to create relationships and be human, and nowhere is that more successful or useful than in social media. One woman surveyed responded that she didn’t engage in social media because it wasn’t for “businesses like hers” and instead she engaged by handing out business cards during local events and placing ads in a phone book. With more and more phone books going away and becoming doorstops, that scares me from a business perspective.
If you’re a small business owner NOT engaging in social media, I’d recommend you start to get involved. Engaging in social media allows you to find out about issues faster so that you can react faster. It helps you to track interactions and see what people are saying about you. You can find out directly from them what they want in your store, what they don’t need and their overall experience. It seems crazy that anyone would ignore these channels. If customers are the core of your business, than your social media strategy is how you measure its health.
Are you building a strategy around the business elements that are important to you or are you just sticking to “what’s always worked” and hoping it continues to?