As Small Business Owners, we all know the importance of customer service and customer relations. Unfortunately in the “high tech” world in which we live, building customer relations is pushed aside. Many business owners feel they “just don’t have time.”
People buy from people they know and trust is one of the basic tenets of marketing. The attached article explains why taking the time to build long term relationships with prospects should be # 1 on our to-do list each day.
Today’s marketing landscape is radically different than it was just one decade ago. It continues to evolve at an ever-increasing rate, keeping pace with the latest technological innovations.
Successful companies have adapted to the demands of this new environment, integrating competitive SEO and social media campaign initiatives into their marketing portfolios. Those who turn their backs on these changes put themselves at a steep disadvantage. However, those who are a bit too eager to go full-tech run the risk of falling even further.
The problem isn’t that businesses choose to embrace the high-tech transformation. After all, in order to remain relevant, a company needs to play ball on the same field as its competition. More often than not, that field is digital, at least to some degree.
Instead, the problem is going digital without a plan to preserve high-quality, high-touch relationships with clients.
A High-Touch Game Plan in a High-Tech World
As in any relationship, it is important to develop an assured sense of self before committing to something serious and long-term. Companies must know who they are, what principles they represent, and exactly where and how their customers fit into their communities.
A business’ culture determines the way it is perceived by the public. This culture must be developed from within and include employees at every level of the organization. Having a firm hold on one’s guiding ideologies is critical to building and maintaining sincere, lasting partnerships with customers.
Why? Because a company that lacks a cohesive sense of itself generally cannot act with precision or uniformity. This same company will also have a difficult time managing its public image and brand.
When customers are not sure what to expect from a particular business-or when they are led to develop inaccurate expectations-they are taken aback by apparent violations of that business’ compliance with its own values. The same is true when a business tries to reinvent itself without a thorough, well-thought-out course of action in place before any transition is made.
Developing a robust culture takes time, but it is a worthwhile investment that bolsters businesses’ trustworthiness and reliability. Doing so will provide a strong foundation for positive and profitable customer relationships.
Focus on the Future
In the competitive global marketplace, it is easy to develop a form of nearsightedness. The allure of a quick sale often appears more attractive than the somewhat blurry prospect of a partnership that might lie farther down the road.
This nearsightedness can come at a high cost when one-time customers aren’t converted into repeat clientele. This is especially true now, when the prevalence of e-commerce puts even more competitors’ products and services in front of prospective clients. As a result of this, fostering brand loyalty is-as a rule-more difficult than it used to be.
Here’s the bottom line: It is important to invest time and resources in optimizing a customer’s experience before, during, and after a sale. Focusing on a sustainable future, rather than just a lucrative present, is the best predictor of a business’ ability to thrive over time.
Simply because a business only operates an online storefront, there is no rule that its presence must be limited to the digital world as well. There are many ways to remind customers that there are real live people running a website, and that these people are thinking about them.
Tried-and-true strategies from the age of traditional offline marketing still offer plenty of value. Customer appreciation events, notes written by hand (or at least signed by an actual person), distribution of promotional items or freebies, and participation in community events gives businesses a face-and sometimes even a heart.
Get A Little Personal
It’s possible to save money by replacing traditional customer service specialists with automation technology. Alternatively, these positions can be outsourced to third party firms-oftentimes firms that have no genuine stake in the companies that contract them.
The first scenario is problematic because customers want to feel like they’re interacting with real people when they make purchases. The second scenario is little better, as customers also want-and deserve-to feel valued. Part of feeling valued is sensing that a business is grateful enough for their patronage to ensure that they receive expert advice and service from representatives who embody the spirit of the company that employs them.
It is important to create opportunities for customers to interact with friendly, professional personnel. It’s not a bad idea, either, to encourage personnel to stray from highly scripted conversation into the territory of casual chat.
About the Author: Gary Austin is the CEO of ThePenGuy.com, a company focusing on high quality promotional pens and fantastic customer service.
Photo credit: Johan Larsson