Whether you deal with $500,000 service contracts or $5 retail products, every touchpoint you have with a customer is an opportunity to care for them—and keep them coming back to your brand for life.
What if someone asked your customers, “How do you feel about that brand?” How would they answer? It seems like an intangible aspect of business, but there are tangible steps you can take to deliver a top-notch customer experience.
At first glance, these steps might seem slow and extraneous. But building a committed core of customers and unofficial brand ambassadors is actually a tried-and-true way to boost your business. Here’s how you can get started.
Do you remember being just out of high school or college? Were you busy emailing the same former bosses every time you’d apply for a new job?
That kind of business relationship, whether with a mentor or a client, can feel transactional for both of you. To build relationships with your top clients, create opportunities for genuine connection outside of sales and deliverables.
One easy way to do this is by creating a check-in calendar.
To start, choose a day of the week and a time of day you want to dedicate to checking in with folks you want as repeat clients or customers. If you batch your tasks, this is an easy one to roll into a block of non-deep-work admin time.
Then, make a list of the contacts you want to be in touch with. Decide how often you want to check in with each person. (Every six to nine months is a good starting point.) Then, add calendar reminders to send out an email or text.
You can also keep details such as birthdays, anniversaries and accomplishments in your calendar, so you can add an extra personal touch to your messages.
Gifting is one of the most powerful ways to build relationships with your clients and customers. It shows a level of awareness that’s often missing in business relationships—awareness that your client is a real person, with a real life outside of work.
When it comes to selecting the gift, there are plenty of services to make your job easy. Spoonful of Comfort sends high-quality soups and treats, having mastered the ability to surprise recipients with a warm meal via snail mail. Google the phrase “gift box company” for a plethora of other options, depending on the basic interests of your recipient.
Specialty foods, housewarming items and luxury personal care treats can all be neatly packaged and sent on your behalf. A timeless gift from a well-known brand, a donation in your client’s name to a cause they care about, or a gift card to a local restaurant also make good gifts.
The book Giftology by John Ruhlin is a good resource to start with if you’re considering building gifting into your business strategy.
Whether you’re an established business owner or a new entrepreneur, your story holds value for those interested in doing what you do. Your business practices and knowledge are also valuable. (If you had a dollar every time someone asked to “pick your brain,” you’d be rich, right?)
Although you can’t get coffee with everyone who wants to know the secrets to your success, you can strategically donate your time to certain clients and customers.
This could be in the form of going above and beyond during a sales call, sharing business best practices that you use in your own company. It could look like spending an extra 30 minutes with a client after you fulfill their contract, letting them ask you follow-up questions.
This extra care for your customers shows that you see them as more than a source of income—yet in doing so, you create a deeper relationship with them. That relationship could actually make them more likely to return to do business with you, again and again.
Customer service is a critical element to the customer experience, and there are several ways you can make yours stand out.
To start with, look at the data collected each time someone contacts your company. (And if you don’t collect this data—start!) How many times does a customer contact you before their problem is solved? How long do they have to wait to talk to an employee? Are too many people starting to fill out a help form only to abandon it?
This data gives you a quantitative starting point for making decisions about your service desk priorities.
You may realize that your agents need more training or coaching. You might find that your knowledge base is outdated or clunky. Understanding the detours your customers take as they navigate your brand is key to understanding how you can serve them better.
One way to check in on your customer care is to become the customer, Undercover Boss-style.
The goal is never a gotcha moment—it’s a chance to reflect on the pain points your customers may experience as they procure and use your products or services.
It also helps to consume your own messaging from a client or customer standpoint. Once you’ve gotten in the mindset of your clients and customers, you can better brainstorm ways to make them happy along the way.
One quick example.
If you own a chain of local hotels, use your website to book yourself and your family a room for a night. Also check third-party booking sites for deals and promotions. Try paying without Discover, Visa or Mastercard. Show up incognito. Ask for a toothbrush and a few extra towels. Ask if you can switch rooms and if you can visit the pool after hours. Try all the amenities, get yourself a dinner reservation, and request a wake-up call.
Take notes on which parts of the experience you enjoyed and which irked you. Think about other hotels you’ve visited. What did you love there? Was it the way the staff remembered your name, or the warmed towels at the spa, or the ease of getting your laundry done?
Afterward, take your notes to your team, and start making improvements.
As tension grew and patience waned post-pandemic—to use the term very loosely—it became clearer than ever that customers are not actually always right.
In fact, treating them as infallible fails to take into account that serving someone often involves helping them course-correct. Doing the hard work of digging deeper into a customer care complaint might seem like a fool’s errand, but in certain cases, it can actually lead to greater satisfaction.
For a simple example, imagine a customer calling your outdoor gear company’s service desk, asking for a replacement bike tire. They’re upset because they took their daughter for a ride on her birthday, and within a few minutes, her tire was flat. Your agent agrees to send a new tire, as the bike is still under your no-questions-asked warranty.
But as the agent collects the customer’s information, she realizes that the customer is located in an area where goathead thorns are a rampant invasive species. She asks a few follow-up questions and suggests the customer take the bike to a local shop to have the tires treated to prevent punctures.
Rather than solely placate the customer, the agent solved the root issue. When you’re able to provide this kind of experience for your customers, you might turn even an unhappy customer into a brand loyalist.
In order to use social media to extend care, you should know which platforms your customers and clients are using.
Just like in any other relationship, businesses need to meet people where they are. If you’re all about LinkedIn but your customers are on TikTok, then your efforts on LinkedIn will be wasted.
Determine which platform to focus on first. After that, look for trends you can use to connect with your potential and current customers. Philanthropic causes, silly dances, humorous voiceovers and quirky memes are all ways brands have connected with people in the past. It’s up to you and your team to know the flavor of the day.
Also consider how you want to foster interaction. Will you offer a product giveaway to encourage follows and shares? Can you team up with a social media influencer to promote your brand? Will you offer discount codes and advertise holiday sales?
You can really do any of the above, as long as you’re using the platform the way your customers are consuming it. You may need to test various approaches to see what brings in the highest quality interactions.
Finally, know that as long as you have good guardrails in place (i.e. a solid social media guide) you can avoid overthinking your social presence. People scroll to be entertained, to let their brains wander and to be inspired. Allow the humans who run your social media to be human, and you’ll make genuine connections with your audience.
Ultimately, knowing your customers is going to be the best way to know how to surprise and delight them. You don’t have to engage in customer care alone, though.
If you have a team, you should also be getting to know them better. As you do so, encourage them to share with you what they know about your customers. Encourage internal creativity for coming up with new ways to implement customer care, make them feel special and make your brand stand out. For example, keeping new product prices stable during a time of economic struggle.
Customer care is a team sport. With some intentionality and investment, your business will benefit from treating it as such.
Featured Image Credit: Pavel Danilyuk; Pexels.com. Thank you!
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