From accountant to CMO, small business owners are used to wearing a number of different hats and juggling myriad tasks. It’s easy to become so immersed in the minutia of business that you forget about your surrounding community. Don’t let this happen to you! It takes a village to run a successful business, and it takes passion for community to make a business successful.
That’s the lesson Tanya Klien, the VP of Anta Plumbing Inc. in Toronto, learned from more than 24 years running her own business. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Tanya and learn more about how her passion for making a difference in the Toronto community has proven to be her “secret sauce” for entrepreneurial success.
Essentials for Success: A Passion For Community
“Plumbing is a unique business. To be successful, you not only need to be a skilled professional, but you also need to truly enjoy spending time with people. Plumbers are the ‘doctors for the house’,” said Klien. “Even if you have the technical skills to be good at the job, if you don’t have the people skills or a deep respect for the community, you’ll never succeed long-term.”
Over the years, Anta has earned a reputation in Toronto as the premiere provider of quality plumbing, thanks to skillful management of the company’s community relationships and customer service.
How to Build a Strong Online Community
Offer Real-time Chat on Your Website
The addition of a LiveChat service can have a tremendous benefit for customers.“Our customers can describe exactly what plumbing problem they’re experiencing to the chat representative, who can then coordinate with our team to send out the right plumber with the right repair parts to get the job done correctly the first time. Talking the problem through online eliminates guesswork” said Klien.
Whether you use LiveChat or another real-time chat service, live chat can be the boost your business needs to convert more prospects into customers. Kissmetrics reports that Forrester Research found that nearly half of all online customers (44 percent) say that having questions answered by a live person is one of the most important features a website can offer. And nearly two out of three customers (63 percent) say they’re more likely to return to a website that offers live chat, according to an eMarketer.com survey.
Bonus: Live chat representatives can talk to multiple customers at once, increasing efficiency and lowering customer service costs.
Encourage Online Reviews
While you can certainly never force someone to leave a review about your business, you can encourage positive reviews from satisfied customers. “We always engage with customer feedback, no matter what the customer says. All feedback is ultimately positive because even if a customer has a complaint, by reading the review we can learn what went wrong, how to fix the problem for the customer right now, and then how to prevent this problem again in the future.”
The biggest recognition doesn’t come from industry peers, but from the community itself. “A satisfied customer and a positive review mean more to me than any industry award ever could.”
A double bonus: all those positive reviews also help with local search, too. When plumbing emergencies strike, people need immediate help and head straight to Google for a solution. Once you’ve nailed the basics of local search (NAP alignment across multiple listings), great reviews can give your business an extra bump.
Be Active in the Community
Customer care means going the extra mile for community members. Klien regularly leads the company’s charitable efforts. These efforts include providing financial assistance for people in homes that have been destroyed by fire, as well as providing support for individuals who are sick with cancer. “We do everything anonymously. The reward is in helping the community and strengthening our local ties with the people that make Toronto such a special place to live,” said Klien.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important part of any contemporary business strategy, no matter the size of your business. Pick the right partner, identify opportunities for immediate community involvement, and structure for sustainability. There’s no need to rush your CSR. Start slowly and grow the program based on community feedback.
No man is an island, and neither is any business. In the rush to build your small business off the ground (or keep it going day-to-day), don’t forget about your place within the community.