As our world becomes ever more “connected”, a paradoxical problem heaves ever more into view – how to meaningfully engage with each other in an increasingly digitally mediated world?
It’s not a question limited to the personal realm either; businesses large and small worldwide are struggling to build long-term relationships with their customers and losing real money as a result.
Even the most cursory of forays out into the marketplace shows that many companies have given up the ghost entirely in this regard and are happier treating their customers as abstract problems to be solved rather than engaging with them as real flesh and blood beings in the world.
In a world of increasingly undifferentiated and remote service providers, taking the extra effort to create real connections with your customers can give you the edge to make your business stand out from the crowd.
Whether it’s in terms of boosting customer loyalty, or finding out more about where your target audience feel you can improve, nothing beats building as close a relationship with your customers as possible.
No matter what size your company is, look to build these six simple steps into your culture and you will soon reap the rewards.
- Engage On Social Media
The list of industries that do not stand to gain from targeted engagement on social media is a short one.
The exact platform mix and tone to be taken will naturally vary according to the nature of your business but this is a communication platform you simply cannot afford to ignore.
Social media puts an effectively cost-free tool at your disposal that can be used for customer support, inbound marketing, brand building and public relations. Start using it.
- Reach Out To Your Customers
The initial sale is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to locking in lifetime customer value.
A major part of your job in creating meaningful long-term growth for your company involves building a solid and sustainable relationship with your customers long past that initial transaction.
Make it a priority to actively reach out to your customers in a manner appropriate to your business.
This could be in the form of a well-run company blog, regular newsletter communication, personalised promotions to existing customers or any other channel that is appropriate to your business.
The point is, you are actively keeping a conversation going with your customers that offers real value and keeps your offering foremost in their thoughts.
- Provide Real Human Customer Service
If you’re in the lucky position of being a huge company with near market monopoly, you can afford to make your customers trudge through an automated hellscape of canned responses and infinite menu selections before they get to deal with a person.
For the rest of us, making it as simple as possible for customers or prospects to get in touch directly should be an absolute priority.
It’s astonishing, for example, how long the majority of businesses will take to do something as simple as return a call to a potential sales prospect or even an existing customer.
Go miles out of your way to make yourself available to your customers and you instantly set yourself apart from the crowd.
- Ask For Feedback
Feedback is a potentially tricky topic. Nearly all businesses claim they “welcome feedback” and pay lip service to its importance.
Very few go too far out of their way to either actively solicit it or take any kind of meaningful action as a result of what they hear however.
Every single piece of customer feedback, regardless of its nature, is an opportunity for you to add real-world value to your processes and drive iterative improvements. The companies that consistently take advantage of this are the ones that naturally rise to the top of their industries over time.
- Nothing Beats Face-To-Face
It’s never been easier to avoid actually having to deal with anyone face to face.
Constant improvements in communications technologies mean that businesses of all sizes face an increasing temptation to retreat from any type of personal contact with the people who are actually paying their wages.
Face-to-face meetings with your customers are an unbeatable way of staying in touch with your market and keeping your feet firmly on the ground.
- Make It A Priority For Your Team
A desire for close connection with customers is something that starts from the top.
The next time you’re faced with bored, listless or aggressive customer “service”, don’t blame the individual you’re dealing with.
More than likely, their attitude is simply a reflection of how little the company’s leadership cares about its actual customers.
Your job as a business leader is to make it crystal clear to your team that every customer interaction, no matter how small, is a test your company is dedicated to passing with flying colours.
Stick to the six steps above and you will not only soar into the top 10% of customer-orientated firms in your industry in a surprisingly short amount of time, you’ll also start seeing significant improvements to the bottom line as a result.