In all the talks I’ve given over the past several years, I’ve always made it a point to emphasize that it’s not content that is king, but the customer.
I have not deviated one iota from this position. I now believe in it more than ever. It’s the relationships which you have with your customers that are going to drive your revenues and account for the vast majority of profits. In fact, a study done not too long ago by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company, a well respected global consulting firm, indicated that in financial services, a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profits. Thus, it is critical that you create lasting customer relationships to realize these benefits.
Acquiring customers is a challenge, so you must be prepared to know what to do with them once they’re on-board. This is where knowing how to establish and maintain a well developed customer relationship management system comes into play. It’s not a one size fits all approach that will work, but one which aligns with your respective business and the customer base which you serve. There are some general things which should be considered regardless of your company or industry regarding a solid customer relationship system. These include:
1) Effective Segmentation
In the case of customers, not all are of equal value. You need to recognize this by initially segmenting them into a few select categories. These can include, but are not limited to criteria, such as:
Whether or not they’re a first time buyer;
The amount of purchases;
The profitability of the customer;
Are they an influencer or not;
The strategic value of the customer to your business, particularly in a B2B environment.
You also need to ensure that you’ve clearly identified your “ideal” customer and utilize this as part of the segmentation process. This is a strategy that has been employed very successfully by major banks, retailers, airlines, hotels, and many others where the top customers are given a number of perks. In fact, you may be a recipient of some of these rewards based on your status as a customer with various companies.
2) Human to Human Interaction
Even though we’re in a highly automated society where computer software is now used on a routine basis for customer service inquiries, it is those companies who still offer the ability for someone to reach out and “touch” someone if needed that excel. I can think of nothing more frustrating than being unable to talk to someone either via a text chat on a website or in a phone conversation when a problem arises with a product or service that I’ve bought, or if I’m doing research on a potential purchase. It’s very frustrating, and a huge waste of my valuable time. I’m sure you feel likewise.
As part of what Author Bryan Kramer calls refers to as #H2H engagement and interaction, you want to ensure that it is not a machine like experience. People have to be personable and real. They should not seem like they’re reading from cue cards or from a memorized speech that they’ve been given. People can sense this a mile away and it will be reflected upon quite negatively.
Having a plethora of data readily at hand on the individual customers, their purchasing patterns, and preferences when they contact you helps to build trust and enhance the customer experience and relationship. Sure, there’s an investment involved in ensuring the instantaneous availability of this information, but the WOW that will be created in the mind of the customers will be off the charts. Furthermore, this data can be used as a strategic source for upselling and cross selling, as many companies have realized. It can help boost revenues with very little effort. Additionally, by utilizing leading edge technologies such as predictive analytics, you have the ability to further enhance the relationship and create more lifetime customer value.
4) Prevent Complaints and Issues
To ensure that complaints and issues are minimized, be proactive and create a system that will allow you to scrutinize each and every potential issue that will arise during the customer journey starting with the initial purchase via the web or other channels. Dissect each and every interaction and touch point and determine what could possibly go wrong at each juncture. Fix those things that you can. Put redundant systems in place to ensure that such things as power outages don’t impact your system uptimes. Develop contingency plans for the most critical issues. In cases where issues are inevitable, develop a documented system on how you are going to deal with them and try your hardest to mitigate any harm.
5) Listening to Customers and Addressing Complaints and Issues
Regardless how much planning you’ve done and your efforts towards risk avoidance, things will still go wrong which will negatively impact the customer experience and overall relationship. To address this, ensure that you have a presence on the social media channels where your customers are most likely to be active. Be an active listener on these channels by having the tools in place to listen for any mentions of your company or products.
Have a mechanism in place to effectively address and respond to complaints in the most efficient and timely manner as possible. With the advent of Twitter, text messaging, and other instantaneous communication channels, people want to be responded to immediately. There is no waiting.
6) Nurture the Relationship
As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”. The same holds true in the case of customers. You need to continue to nurture the relationships with your customers. Perhaps one of the most effective tools for so doing is email in the case of most business in the B2C space. In B2B, human connectivity via phone calls or face to face meetings is more effective, however, email plays a role in ensuring continuity of the message and for filling in the gaps when calls or meetings are not possible.
If email is utilized, make sure that it is personalized and a targeted message that addresses the needs of the customer. With the content tsunami we’re all experiencing, there’s no time for the delivery of content which is not aligned with the consumer. It will simply be overlooked, seen as a nuisance, and might negatively impact the overall brand image of your company
Also, make sure that you deliver emails on a consistent basis at the same time on a weekly basis, if at all possible, but don’t over do it. From experience, I know that the delivery of an email at the same time every week, is of immeasurable help in driving open rates.
There are numerous other steps that can be taken to create lasting customer relationships. Those outlined above are what I feel are some of the main points that you really should address to get started.