How to Blend New School and Old School Approaches to Building Customer Relationships
When you scroll through a list of your customers, what do you see? Look past your standard customer data—what products they’ve purchased, how much they pay, etc.— and evaluate what you really know about them and their company. Do you understand what their most pressing issues are? Can you identify what they need to grow their business or the best way to communicate with them? When you really look at it, how well do you know them at all?
The more customers you have, the more challenging these questions can become. And what about when these customers have multiple points of contact on your team? It can be challenging to make sure everyone has access to the same information so that when the customer interacts with someone from your company, they feel known. They feel like they matter.
There are no shortcuts to customer satisfaction and there are myriad ways an organization might go about improving their approach to delivering quality service. Some companies lean heavily on the analytics; others rely on handshakes and making the customer feel like the number one priority. It all depends on your business and what your customers are looking for. That said, some customer relationship management strategies can be applied across industries and demographics. Here are a few tips for cultivating quality long-term customer relationships.
Create a strong connection from the start
Joey Coleman, a respected customer experience expert, states that in a typical business, in virtually any industry, 20 to 60 percent of all customers leave within the first 100 days. While this may sound discouraging, it actually means you have a huge opportunity to stand out by connecting with your customers in a meaningful way within those first few months. You can do this with a personal touch by having team members reach out creatively, using video messages or sending thoughtful gifts. What could you do to exceed their expectations? Whatever you do, gather as much information as you can on each customer and keep meticulous notes of every interaction to make sure your next communication is as effective as possible.
Pro-Tip: Use tools and technologies designed to help you track and measure your communications with customers, including emails, phone calls, and purchases. Make sure this information syncs with your core business management software and is accessible to all team members who might interact with your customers. Furthermore, be sure the tools you use are right for a business of your size. There are all kinds of options available out there today and what’s best for an enterprise of 50,000 sales people is likely not the most effective tool for a startup or midsized business’ sales team.
Form an ongoing relationship, not just a sale
By creating a meaningful connection within the first 100 days or so, you’re laying the foundation for a lasting relationship, not just a single sale. You want repeat buyers and great referrals, right? The only way to do that is to earn it with proper diligence, one day at a time. Your customers are more than just names in your database. They’re real people facing real challenges. So when they receive a communication from you, how are you demonstrating that you understand their point of view? Are you able to demonstrate to them that you are indeed listening and understand their needs? Trust is built over time. Practically speaking, trust requires that you know details about your customers and respond according to the feedback they’re giving you.
Pro-Tip: Data is most potent when it is paired with empathy. Even if you have detailed, actionable customer data, it’s imperative to connect with your customers on a human level as well. It’s not just about offering the best products or solutions to their issues; it’s about understanding their struggles and celebrating their successes as well. These are the building blocks for trust, loyalty and long-lasting customer relationships.
Notice patterns and test theories
In Charles Duhigg’s book, "Smarter, Faster, Better," he tells the story of a high-performing debt-collection team which spent every day on the phone in an effort to persuade customers to make payments toward their credit cards. What made this team so effective? Led by their manager, the team would keep a vigilant eye out for any behavioral patterns they could find. They would brainstorm theories they could test when interacting with customers. As a result of this approach, they learned it was more effective for them to call homes in the morning when they were more likely to reach mothers home with their children. These women were more apt to send payments. They also found success calling customers who had a history of running up balances and then paying them off in large chunks in the evenings when they were more likely to be at ease and relaxing. They could be reminded of how good it feels to pay off their balance and inspired to do so. Seemingly anecdotal patterns can add up to remarkable revenues when teams take the time to pay attention and recognize that resonates with one customer may be applicable to others as well if you can determine the pattern.
Pro-Tip: Create a system and means of storing behavioral patterns and anecdotes about your customers. Encourage regular conversation amongst your team to come up with theories you can test. Not only will it lead to a better experience for your customers, but you’ll engage your team in a fascinating ongoing experiment.
There is a huge opportunity for businesses across all industries to create meaningful connections with their customers by leveraging modern data collection with good old-fashioned personal attention. Customers reward the companies who do that best with their loyalty, be it with repeat purchases, referrals, or both. Make sure that your company is the kind that customers want to reward.
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