“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the customer experience a little bit better.” ~ Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com
In this fast paced, high tech digital world, there are countless ways to stay connected with your customers. And that can be a big problem for some businesses because it can be so overwhelming, and consequently, time-consuming.
But make no mistake, in order to stay competitive, and to reap the benefits of customer loyalty and repeat business, you must stay connected.
Before you even think about how to stay connected, the first and most important step is to create a relationship with your customer that will last beyond the first encounter. Get to know them on a personal level, and try to create an emotional connection. Studies have proven people will spend more with a business they like and trust. (White House Office of Consumer Affairs). Additionally, engaged customers are more likely to recommend you to family and friends. (American Express Survey).
In order to create that relationship, it is important to find out personal information that will make it easy to connect, such as name, address, email address or cell phone number. Some people are reluctant to give out that information, so make sure you explain why you are requesting it. Let them know they will be the first to know about upcoming promotions or sales. Sometimes a little incentive can also get information you can use, such as 5% off their next purchase. Make sure you find out their preferred method of staying connected. A good way to find out their preferences is to send them a survey, either in store or online. A second, easy way is to ask! And then make sure you listen! Some people prefer email, some prefer texting, while others like phone calls.
Other ways to stay connected include:
- Social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook pages
- Mobile apps
- A personal note such as a Thank You card in the mail
Since connecting with your customers is a two-way street, one important point that needs to be reinforced is how you respond when a customer tries to contact you. Maybe they have a question about a product, an inquiry about an order status, or a concern or complaint about a product or service. What policies and procedures do you have in place to answer their questions? What is the maximum time allowed before phone calls must be returned, emails answered or tweets responded to? If you don’t have policies in place, now is the time to establish them. I know one company that responds to emails within 5 minutes (that might be a bit much, but their customers are blown away by that approach) while other companies have a 24 hour period.
Make sure you monitor and review sites to see what your customers are saying about you online, and take advantage of that information. According to SurveyMonkey, 58% of customers use online reviews when making purchase decisions, but only 33% of businesses take those reviews seriously when evaluating customer feedback.
But the number one, absolute best way to ensure staying connected to your customers for years to come, is for you and your employees to provide excellent customer service, or as I have defined it, More Than Perfect™ Customer Service. Create an exceptional experience that exceeds expectations. Never take your customers for granted, or they won’t be your customers for long. If you don’t truly care, no matter how much effort you make in connecting with them, it will be hard to keep them coming back.