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Become essential: Five ways to stake your place in your customer’s Little Black Book

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Trust and necessity.

Two simple words, but together they form the mantra all suppliers want their customers to chant (preferably in their direction).

Becoming and remaining a preferred supplier is the ultimate aim of most businesses, and if you’re a customer, finding those businesses you trust to consistently deliver is one of your biggest business problems.

TrueLocal, the online business directory and local business review site, averages 5.7 million visitors a month, carrying out 3.3 million searches. It stands to reason that the TrueLocals know something about business retention.

“Great-quality, affordable suppliers are like gold for consumers. It’s why many consumers will still travel to their GP near their childhood home, or use the gym beside their old workplace, even though they may face a 30-minute journey each way,” said TrueLocal spokesperson Bradley Taylor. There are a number of ways businesses can ensure that their happy customers keep coming back.

Here are the TrueLocal top five:

Partner with complementary businesses for cross-referrals

Consumers often seek referrals from suppliers they already use and trust. For example, a customer might ask the hairdresser they’ve used for years if they can recommend a good beautician, or their go-to plumber whether they know of an electrician that does equally great work. “Cross referrals are a great customer-building strategy. Build relationships with similar service providers in your area and offer to refer customers to their business if they’ll do the same for you,” said Taylor.

Work on rapport

Your first interaction with a customer is your one opportunity to give an indication of the quality of your service. “Consumers seek suppliers they can trust, and rapport is a major factor in building trust. Many businesses that turn leads into sales really go that extra mile in listening to, and understanding, customer needs, and offering additional expert advice – even before they make a sale.”

Respond to complaints

For consumers, online reviews are a growing source of information about business service levels – and unfortunately complaints are a reality. Responding with care to any customer complaint online will demonstrate to other customers you value them and will set you apart from businesses that ignore criticism. “Respond to an online complaint politely with the view to resolving the issue, but take the communication offline when getting into the details,” suggested Taylor.

Develop a presence on specialist online portals

The large search engines are designed to answer a million questions and may not prioritise your listing. “List your business on portals specially designed to help consumers find local businesses – such as directories – and check they’re optimised for mobile. At TrueLocal, we’ve seen a 32 per cent increase in searches by mobile devices and tablets in the last year alone.”

Highlight your credentials

Certifications and industry accreditations give customers peace of mind about the quality of your work which, in turn, builds trust. “Ensure your credentials are clearly listed on your website and marketing collaterals. Join industry associations, too – many people go to associations to source experienced specialist service providers.”

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