Customers can be fickle. This is a hard truth that businesses have to face, especially with not-so-true cliches floating around like “the customer is always right.” While the cliche may not be right, there’s no denying that with so many choices available to customers today that it puts them firmly in the driver’s seat. That’s why building customer relationships is so important to your business.
As a result, they can quickly jump ship the first time another brand offers them a discount or something that seems a little interesting. There’s not much you can do to prevent this except by building customer relationships with a focused effort.
Take a moment to think. Are there any businesses or sales associates that you’re loyal to because of some sort of relationship there? I could never go to a different clothing tailor because I’ve chatted with mine regularly for years, and even though five kickboxing studios have opened near me I’d never abandon mine because of the personal relationships I have with the trainers
Building customer relationships is something that needs to be intentional, but with the right techniques, you can make this a core part of your business and customer service strategy. These tips will help increase brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
6 ways you can start building customer relationships:
1. Encourage and Share User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) can include pictures, reviews, and other social media posts that your customers create and share online themselves. This can be as simple as a public mention or as significant as a gorgeous picture with an enormous message about why your business changed their lives.
Whatever form UGC comes in, it’s a valuable opportunity for relationship building. Customers love genuine responses from businesses they post about, and many love it even more when you actually share what you’ve posted and give them a shoutout, too. This will often happen more through your social media team than customer service reps, but it’s still an effective tactic to look at.
2. Take the Time to Make Small Talk
Some people hate small talk and swear it off during customer exchanges, but it can create valuable bonding moments that leave the customer walking away feeling like they have a rapport with you, even if they’ve only talked to the customer service rep over the phone for a few minutes.
If you hear a dog bark, say that you love dogs and ask what kind they have. While you’re looking up information to help them, ask if they’re enjoying that cool fall weather. After they answer, you can share a little bit about yourself, like that you also are a dog person who has two labs or that cool weather makes you excited for the upcoming holidays.
Small moments of human connection are key to relationship building. Take time to take advantage of them.
3. Really Listen to What They’re Saying
One mistake customer service reps or salespeople make that consistently push customers away is by not really listening to what the customer is saying.
A customer might express frustration, for example, that a package containing the dress they were going to wear as a bridesmaid got lost in the mail and that they need it today.
Don’t just write this off as an impatient customer who is angry that they have to wait another three weeks just because they get a free replacement; it’s entirely possible they’re angry because now there is no time for alterations, and that time is everything.
Offer to overnight them a new dress, or, if possible, have a new dress that’s made as a rush order to their specific size requirements without the rush fee. This actually solves the problem that they’re having and gives you a chance to solve the problem.
4. Be Responsive Where Your Clients Are
Your customers might call your business number. They might send an email, or fill out the contact form on your site, or shoot you a message on any number of social media sites.
Wherever they’re trying to reach you, you need to respond… and fast.
In a study by Microsoft, 96% of people said customer service is important when considering loyalty to a brand. Customers need to feel valued if you want to build a relationship with them, and that means answering incoming calls, messages, and emails as quickly as possible. Many customers are expecting responses within an absolute maximum of twenty-four hours.
Put systems in place so that you can manage all incoming channels of communication, having strong phone systems, dedicated email support, and tools to consolidate incoming social messages and live chat options in one place. No matter what, make sure that all channels are checked a minimum of once per day.
5. Follow Up Regularly
Following up with clients shows that you’re actually invested in their happiness and their experience, even after you’ve gotten the sale from them. Send an email a week or two after the initial purchase or sign-up, making sure that they’re still happy and asking if there’s anything they need help with.
SaaS companies, for example, may want to ensure that their clients are getting the full potential out of their software. This keeps clients happy but also increases the likelihood that the clients continue their subscription. Companies selling physical goods can make sure that everything is working properly, and see if the client has any questions regarding use or care.
You should always follow up soon after a purchase, but you can also follow up once every six months or a year just to check in. This keeps your relationship strong and can keep people coming back.
6. Focus On Individuals
When you have account managers or sales teams working with clients one-on-one over a long period of time, they can really take the time to get to know each other.
You take what you learn during small talk, and learn what matters to each client. This can be entered into a CRM software, adding notes to each client to keep it all straight.
Finding out that one client plays tennis with his team through the summer, for example, allows you to ask how the team is doing and if they made playoffs when you catch up. I’ve swapped recipes with clients, know the approximate ages of their kids, and make sure to always ask how their wedding was when they come back from a honeymoon.
These individual relationships should be real and authentic; if they’re not, they’ll come across that way. Send a card for birthdays with a snippet of that personal touch in there, and it can go a long way.
Taking the time to build relationships with customers– even if it’s just quickly with small talk on a short customer service call– can drastically see how they view your brand as a whole. Brand loyalty is difficult to create, but getting to know your clients and showing that you value them individually is the best and most effective way to go about it.
If you aren’t sure where to start, any of these 6 tips can work well regardless of what business or industry you’re in. Pick a few and start implementing them into your routines regularly.