“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
On the one hand, most of the business world can agree with this quote from The Godfather. Decisions and courses of action are made to support the health and growth of an organization, and sometimes those decisions are not always favored by all individuals in the company (or by all the customers they serve). Those decisions may even cause hurt feelings, or anger – not intentional, perhaps, but it happens.
But on the other hand, this quote is completely wrong – business IS personal. The quality of a person’s work output is directly correlated to their emotional connection to their company – the greater the passion, the greater the quality. People who feel most connected are the ones who are going to go above and beyond what’s required to produce outstanding, extraordinary work.
And that goes the same for a company’s customers. The more enthusiastic a customer is about your products or services, the greater their efforts to evangelize your brand. To keep business expanding, companies need to leverage their customer base to generate those crucial customer referrals. Even one single customer (with the social circle they center) offers a doorway into a new, untapped, potentially huge market – and the only way that businesses successfully get through is by invitation only.
So by getting customers to forge an emotional connection with your company, you not only reap the cost-savings benefits of customer retention, but you also gain access to new potential customers. Check out our five tips for hooking your customers’ hearts.
- Offer Outstanding Customer Service
Customers will care about you if you care about them – and the proof of that is in your customer service. If a customer reaches out to you with a question or problem – whether it’s by phone, email, or by walking up to a physical cashier stand – your team needs to provide that customer with an immediate, and satisfactory, response.
Implementing customer relationship management (CRM) technology empowers your employees with the right knowledge for handling customers’ questions and needs. For example, Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a comprehensive database for holding not only customer contact information, but histories of past conversations between the customer and company representatives. This is a powerful capability – by having an easily accessible record of past interactions, representatives are able to intelligently discuss those past interactions and get a better understanding of how to work with the customer. And for the customer, knowing that the company keeps track of all issues, complaints, and questions – as well as that the company troubleshoots any problems quickly and painlessly – signals that the company really is focused on providing individual attention.
And with today’s technologically savvy consumer able to easily and quickly access your competitors with the click of a button, giving that individual attention is a crucial way to build valuable goodwill. Because a reputation is an easy thing to gain (a good customer service experience can retain a customer and make that customer spread the word) and destroy (one bad customer service experience is enough to drive a customer away forever – and encourage others to stay away too).
With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you’re able to view and track all customer issues as they come in, where they originated from, the representative assigned to those cases, etc. You’re also able to more closely analyze that data by displaying it in a visual chart or graph format.
- Follow Up with Customers
A sale does not mark the end of your company’s relationship with an individual – it marks the beginning. And just as with any of life’s relationships, it’s essential to put in some one-on-one time to make that relationship flourish.
Schedule follow up calls and emails with customers to check how they’re doing, how their products are working out for them, or any feedback/criticism they wish to volunteer about your company. And not only follow up after a sale, but also a few days after a customer service issue was resolved. Maintaining these touch points with customers indicates your desire to make them happy, and your appreciation of their business. Everyone likes to be appreciated – and it’s important to share those tokens of appreciation.
When you do reach out to customers, make sure you truly listen to what they have to say. Don’t make following up with customers just a perfunctory, mark-the-checkbox type of action – people can spot the difference between appreciation and obligation, and they respond in kind. In fact, it should be viewed as an imperative – what better way to get into the mind of the customer then to talk to the customers themselves? And what better way to deepen the connection with your customer?
Because if you pay attention to what your customer tells you, and if you act on the suggestion/criticism/request for help that the customer relays, then you reap the reward of a customer feeling their worth to your company – in other words, you make them an active partner in your company’s success.
Technology is crucial in managing customer interaction. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, representatives are able to easily schedule activities and tasks with customers, which helps maintain communication and strengthen relationships.
- Give Away Freebies
People love getting stuff for free. And not only do people love getting something for free, they also love sharing that they got something for free – which gets picked up by their fellow freebie-loving friends and family.
Giving away freebies doesn’t necessarily mean giving away free products – you could if you want to, but that’s not the only thing you can offer. For example, you can offer free webinars with interesting/educational topics. Provide insightful white papers/research/blogs for no cost. Or post cool, informative videos on your website – videos that maybe showcase how a particular product of yours works, videos that offer tips on how to best use one of your products or services, etc. If the content is interesting, people are going to check it out. And if your content is great, you 1) establish credibility as an expert; 2) make your site the go-to hub for information; 3) build goodwill by giving it away for free.
And remember: the greater the content, the greater the chance that people will share it. So put some thought and effort into your freebies. A freebie is not a throwaway; it could potentially be the deciding factor in getting a customer to seal the deal, or the next viral hit that sweeps social media.
- Show Your Appreciation with Special Offers
Expressing appreciation for someone’s hard work is not only a nice thing to do, but it’s also a significant motivational tactic. For example, according to a study by Globoforce, 82% of employees surveyed in Spring 2012 said that being recognized actually motivated them in their jobs— up from 78 percent in Fall 2011. The study states, “Employee engagement is linked again and again in studies to motivation, productivity and increased earnings and profits for companies.”
Customer engagement is no different. When customers feel that their decision to use your company is recognized and appreciated, then they’re going to continue visiting you. Express your gratitude with reward programs – give discounts on products and services, provide special offers, give customers an opportunity to purchase a brand new item before it’s offered to the rest of the public, etc. These extra little treats create a nice bond between the customer and your company, because it shows that you’re not content to just let a customer walk away after a purchase – you care about them coming back.
And make your rewards even more special by setting up different customer levels in your program. If a customer is a loyal, frequent visitor, then it’s only reasonable to give them a perk that’s different from the customer who is a once-in-a-while guest. The word gets out on reward program benefits – if people hear that a friend of theirs is getting really cool stuff for using a certain company, they will want in too.
Segmenting customers into different levels in your reward program gives you better insight into your customer base, which leads to more effective customer engagement.
- Build a Social Networking Community
The rise of social media cannot be overstated – it’s one of the primary tools we use to interact with people today. (Be honest: how many times did you check your Facebook already today?)
Establishing an active presence in the social media landscape not only gives you a one-on-one connection with you customers, but it allows you to stay connected at any hour, during any day. You get a connection with your customers when they visit your locations (either brick-and-mortar or online), but that connection is temporary – customers can forget about you when they walk out, or when they click a different link. But if you link with them on social networking sites, you remind them of that connection; you make them remember why they like you, and it encourages them to visit you again.
Social media also provides a valuable platform for broadcasting information quickly and easily – and it facilitates the sharing of that same information by others just as quickly and easily. For example, if you post an awesome special promotion on your Facebook or Twitter, it only takes a click of a button for your followers to share it with their followers, and so on – which translates to you generating crucial awareness with minimal effort.
So remember to fully take advantage of the valuable customer interaction opportunity that social media offers. For example, if someone tweets a question at your company, answer it. If someone posts an issue they had with a product on your Facebook wall, respond to it. If someone praises your company, thank them for it. These small efforts lead to big payoffs – if your company develops a reputation as being accessible, open, and responsive on social networking sites, your sites will inevitable attract more followers. More followers mean more potential business.
Differentiate Your Business by Building Customer Relationships
It’s very easy for customers to be fickle these days, which is why forging emotional connections with them are so important: it helps your company break through the mass of competitors. So don’t separate business from the personal – if you share how much you value your customer, your customer will prove that value.
If you would like more information on how you can improve your customer relationship management processes, please email us at email@example.com.
Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.