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Without satisfied customers, your business is in trouble, and the experience your customers have with your brand is your main (and sometimes only) differentiator. But the process by which you go about creating that experience starts with a much better understanding of your customers — not just as a whole, but as individuals, by truly understanding and then fostering their journey from prospects to new customers to raving fans.
At inception, your customer experience must be much more than something you pay lip service to. It needs to begin with individual relationships and rebuilding the collective experience to arrive at something new.
After all, you are more likely to have a thriving, growing business when you have happy customers. So shouldn’t that be your top priority?
Every interaction you have is an opportunity to not only create a great experience, but also to collect and use data to develop an ongoing strategy for strengthening your customer relationships. Our survey of over 500 organizations early this year showed that those that ranked their customer experience among the best grew a full 2.5 times faster than those with a less optimized experience.
But where do you begin? You need to start by arming your customer-facing teams with the right people, processes and technology to get the job done. Let’s go through five ways to build better customer relationships.
Related: 5 Ways to Build Killer Relationships With Customers
1. Put yourselves in your customers’ shoes
Too often in business, we use language and processes that put the focus on us rather than our customers. Even when we describe the customer journey, we start with language like acquire, engage, convert, retain, grow, etc.
That language is entirely from our viewpoint, not the customers’. How about truly thinking through what it is like to be a potential customer looking for a product or solution in your space?
From your customers’ perspective, they don’t get “acquired” — they shop or look for possible products or services that best meet their needs. They do research, talk to peers and compare you and your competitors on review sites via Google, social media, industry podcasts and more. Once they become your customers, the ability to understand and be empathetic to their experience is even more important.
2. Excel at getting and implementing feedback
Hearing directly from your customers is the easiest way to know how their experience is going, and it needs to be an essential piece of your customer service strategy. This brings me to more survey results: 25% of marketers cited that collecting enough data was a top priority for improving customer experience in the year ahead, and there are so many ways to do this.
Focus groups, surveys, feedback via your website and social media data provide different yet important avenues to hear from your customers. Focus groups are important because it’s hard to replicate face-to-face communication. Speaking to your customers one-on-one in small groups allows you to “hear” so much more than just what they’re saying, including vocal intonations, body language and more — which allows you to understand them better.
Surveys are another great way to get feedback because they are easy to implement and provide solid quantitative data. In addition, implementing a place on your website or a dedicated email address for feedback allows customers to go into detail on what their needs/ issues are and provides an avenue for more customer feedback. And lastly, social media and online review sites are great places to mine for data — your customers are likely already talking about you, and it’s essential that you are in the know about what is being said.
Related: How to Really Hear and Use Customer Feedback
3. Share the load
When customer relationships come to mind, it’s often assumed that your internal sales, support and service employees are responsible for making them great. And while it may be true that these teams spend the most time with customers, it should never fall solely on their shoulders to ensure solid relationships.
Customer relationships are everyone’s responsibility, and for an organization to live up to the standard of being truly customer-centric, it has to be so across each and every department and team. Sales, accounting, marketing, operations, support, product — everyone should be able to answer, “What is your company’s definition of an ideal customer experience?” relative to their role, and this means everyone needs to be working from the same aligned data.
If you’re shaky on this within your organization, you are not alone — in our recent survey, more than one-third said that aligning departments was the greatest challenge in improving customer experience.
4. Give the people what they want
Once you know it’s everyone’s job to foster these relationships, it’s time to give everyone the tools to do so. Unsurprisingly, nearly 40% of marketers in the same survey said that both training/coaching and improving access to product/service knowledge are essential for success. This probably seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how often these two items are put on the back burner when selling becomes the top priority.
Don’t make your teams’ lives harder than they need to be by making the tools they need to succeed harder to come by. Make professional development a priority. Find the right tools for your business that make it easy for your teams to communicate with each other. Alignment is key here; the more aligned your teams are, the easier their jobs will be. For example, give them customer relationship management software that gives them a unified view of the customer so they can provide informed, consistent service at all touch points.
Related: How to Give Customers the Digital Experience They Crave
5. Know that one service doesn’t fit all
Once your customers are your customers, it’s important to respect their varying needs, often based on what type of customer they are and where they are on the customer journey. Are you dealing with someone who made a quick decision in selecting you and needs minimal hand-holding? Even if they didn’t read the fine print and have qualms to solve, the service you give them should be different than to someone who wants to go line-by-line to understand the details of your product or service.
In the same way, how you speak to your best friend of 20 years will differ from how you speak to a coworker or acquaintance; different customers require different relationship management tactics. Make sure you empower your teams to know the difference.
Building and optimizing customer relationships start with creating exceptional customer service experiences, plain and simple. Easy? Not quite, but knowing the right steps to take toward improving your strategy here will set you up for success in both the long and short term.