Strengthen Customer Relationships
In an age where relationships of all types are growing more shallow and less personal, here are three simple steps you can take right now to strengthen your customer relationships
It’s a paradox that we all lament: We’ve got more connections to each other than ever – more than we could have imagined just a few short years ago – yet we are more disconnected than ever.
With software vying for what’s rapidly becoming the single greatest finite resource on our planet our attention – our deep personal connections are fading away in favor of shallower, multidimensional, multiplatform links with larger numbers people.
These digital disruptors of connection show no sign of slowing down, or even letting us connect in peace when we’re not online.
Evenings with friends are plagued by constant interruptions for social apps and five-filtered, thrice-tagged, live photo-journals of the now momentous occasion that is dinner.
This is my food.
This is my mojito diablo (aren’t I adventurous?)
Oh, you’re too kind – I don’t actually look that young – it’s the lighting in here (yeah, Adobe LightRoom!).
Say, you should join us next time we’re out!
We’re all around the table with our phones out, ignoring each other while we keep up with our shallow digital connections.
It’s an epic night!
It’s Not Just Personal, It’s Business
While the declining depth of personal relationships is something we discuss openly, we don’t often talk about how those same forces interfere with business relationships – especially with customers.
Further, in the tech space, we’ve become so good at delivering seamless, set-it-and-forget-it experiences with cloud and managed solutions, that we’ve robbed ourselves of opportunities to fix problems for our customers.
Hence, another paradox we must contend with is this: even though we are better at what we do than we have ever been, we are more vulnerable to poaching from competitors.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’re digging into how to rekindle (or even develop) that loving feeling with your customers, starting with three simple steps you can take right now to strengthen your customer relationships:
1. Embrace Social Networking
Hypocrisy warning: After making fun of social media’s hollowing out of our relationships, we’re advising you to engage in it with your customers.
They are singing in that same chorus of too many voices and will greatly appreciate your liking, retweeting and (appropriately) commenting on their posts.
You get four birds with that stone:
- you remind your customer about you and what you’ve done for them;
- you learn details about your customer that help you have meaningful interaction when you do connect on the phone or in person;
- your customer sees that you’re still paying attention to them; and
- all the science behind the dopamine highs people get from social media likes and shares applies to your customers as well, so you can endear yourself to them in the process.
POWER TIP: Use your social media efforts to refer your customers to each other when appropriate.
Not only do these referrals show that you are invested in your clients’ success (not just your own), they can invoke the Law of Reciprocity.
In other words, make your own good karma — when you do something nice for someone, they’re likely to do something nice for you in return.
In this case, your customers may refer clients to you (never a bad thing), but they’re also less likely to leave you.
2. Never Lead with Your Weak Foot
It’s not easy to build meaningful customer relationships if part of your team is offensive or indifferent to your customers.
All companies have them – task-oriented staffers that come across cold in emails, tech-savvy types who talk down to everyone who doesn’t know as much about technology as they do, and employees that are focused on their challenges, but devoid of empathy for those of others.
In the right situations, these people can work out or even become true company assets, but they should never interface with customers.
Keep them off the front lines and you’ll keep more customers.
POWER TIP: Even small customer-retention incentives such as staff bonus pools can significantly improve the attention your customers receive from support personnel.
In short, don’t let the owner be the only person in the company who reaps the rewards of happy customers.
3. Get Personal
Here’s where we redeem ourselves for encouraging you to embrace the shallows: If maintaining meaningful connections is difficult for everyone, it’s also difficult for your customers.
And that, my friend, is an opportunity.
There’s no question that it’s harder to get your customers to lunch, a ballgame or happy hour than ever before.
But it’s worth the effort – especially with key customers – to make time in your own busy schedule to connect with them.
You’re in the business of being a trusted adviser.
At its core, trust is earned – and it’s very personal.
POWER TIP: If you are serving verticals, find out which industry events your customers attend and meet them on their own turf.
This gives you new opportunities to connect, plus you’ll learn the problems your customers are facing and how you might be able to help.
That kind of connection can go a long way toward building good will.
Khali Henderson is senior partner and Casey Freymuth is managing partner at BuzzTheory Strategies, a marketing and strategy consulting firm specializing in the channel.