We all have that one friend. The friend you only hear from when they have something to tell you. They contact you out of the blue and the conversation is over as quickly as it began. They never ask about your problems or come to your house. They don’t ask how they can help; instead, they ask you for money. It’s always all about them.
Wait, why are you friends with this person?
You’re not treating customers the same way, are you?
In honor of Customer Service Week, we are asking you to look at how often you communicate with customers and to question whether it’s enough. Are you being a responsive company that cares about your customers’ needs, or are you the friend they only hear from when you need a ride to the airport?
For the customer-brand relationship, no news is not good news, and no contact is even worse.
In this post, we’ll discuss not only why frequent customer contact is crucial to delightful customer service, but how to make it happen.
We’re living in a data-filled age. Through better tools and smarter technology, we can collect buckets of customer information without ever needing to speak to an actual person. Without picking up the phone or sending a single email, I can tell you:
This information can then immediately be used to inform marketing decisions. That’s great, and it should be used, but it doesn’t negate the need for real customer contact. It doesn’t mean I should only rely on this cold, lifeless data to learn about my customers.
Instead, I need to get out of my dashboard and on the phone to understand my customer’s pain points, their business challenges, and their plans for growth.
Delivering high-quality customer service means having real conversations with real customers on a frequent basis.
Businesses routinely send Welcome emails to introduce new customers and warm prospects to the company, useful product features, and to establish that they are a company that cares. These emails serve as a strong customer touchpoint because they are easily automated via most email platforms and they can be scheduled to arrive at the perfect time. The moment after a person becomes a customer is when they are most engaged with, and most excited about, your brand. Making contact in this moment further delights them and reaffirms that they made a smart decision by working with you. It also gives you an opportunity to answer commonly asked questions before they’ve ever experienced a problem.
Take It Further: Does the last line of your Welcome email invite people to reach out to leave feedback or to ask a question? Probably… but do you really mean it? Show you do by including your direct phone extension or by pointing them to the company’s most active customer service channel (live chat, Facebook, phone, etc.) to help them get in touch. What a great way to learn about your new customer/prospect and offer proactive customer service.
Working surveys into your customer relationship can be incredibly insightful and beneficial to your business’ ability to understand what current customers are looking for in a scalable, automated way.
Surveys can be automated to go out on time- or project-based intervals, allowing you to solicit feedback at exactly the right moment in the customer relationship. This can help you quickly identify what’s working, what’s not, and where opportunities exist for product or service enhancements. Because technology exists to help you efficiently survey customers, they can be used to spot patterns or trends, or to inform decisions related to branding, sales, or product development. They also show customers that you’re there, you’re listening, and that you care about their experiences.
As a caveat – just because you can automate the survey process doesn’t mean you should automate the review of its findings. This should be left to a skilled customer service professional who will not only understand what customers are telling you, but also what they’re not telling you.
Maintaining regular contact with customers doesn’t mean that you are always picking up the phone or that you are inviting them over for dinner. It can also mean putting your brand in their daily line of sight in ways that are useful to them or that reinforce your authority in the space. One way of doing this is by sharing regular content articles or updates via email or social media. This could mean putting together a regular newsletter with links to articles that educate them on their industry or penning content yourself to help them use your tool in a new way. Be the portal customers need to help themselves.
While you can’t automate the writing of new content, you can automate the sharing of it so it is being delivered by a time-, project- or action-based trigger. This, again, ensures that your brand arrives right when they’re looking for you.
Of course, not all customer outreach should be automated. It’s important to take the time to reach out to customers in direct, more personal ways, as well. Below are some ways to do that.
Kick that Welcome email up a notch by offering customers an initial consultation at the start of the engagement. This benefits the customer by getting their business-specific questions answered, and ensures they are set up correctly in your system and using your product to its fullest potential.
It benefits you by creating the opportunity for you to learn more about your customer’s needs on a deeper level. This will allow you to better serve those needs and to showcase your company as not just as a replaceable vendor, but as a partner who truly cares about their business.
Consults can be performed at the start of the engagement, and then repeated at set intervals. This provides both you and the customer with a regular touch base.
Do yourself a favor this week. Get off your own island and go find your customers where they are naturally hanging out and having conversations – like on social media channels.
Social media offers many great business benefits, allowing you to take off your brand mask and to act like the human you pretend to be. Use social channels to engage in conversations that have nothing to do with the product or service you provide and connect with customers in more intimate ways.
You should, of course, also use social media to listen for brand mentions. Most social media sites allow you to create “saved searches” or social monitors to track mentions of your brand, your product or your executives. You can then use social media to seek out these customer conversations/questions and to respond by solving their problem or pointing them to a helpful third-party resource.
Whether it’s a live chat on your website or simply the ability to talk to a real person on the phone, give your customers an easy, don’t-have-to-hunt-for-it way to access a living, breathing person from the company. While automated systems can save time and offer efficiency, they’re not always the right solution. A trained customer service professional will be able to answer the trickier “why” or “how” questions that a customer may have. The option to speak directly to a person shouldn’t just exist; it should be highlighted to make customers feel comfortable using it.
Another way to increase live support is to pick up the phone and call your customers. Groundbreaking, we know. But consider how powerful that could be. This may mean calling your five best customers every month, or maybe calling your five worst customers (or your five oldest or the newest). Pick up the phone and reach out to learn more about their needs, their challenges and their experiences with your company. Or use it as an opportunity to ask what frustrates them about your product or whether they find it truly valuable. Frequent customer contact isn’t only important for the customer, it’s important for you.
Your customers need to hear from you. Whether it’s a piece of content entering their inbox or a phone call from someone on your product development team, these touchpoints are vital in nurturing the customer/vendor relationship. They show customers you are invested in them and their success, and it helps you understand how your product is serving customers’ needs or updates that may be needed.
No one wants to be the unresponsive friend or the company we only hear from when it’s time to pay the next invoice. By working automated and manual outreach into the customer lifecycle you’ll not only cement your importance in their lives, you’ll ultimately create a better product. It’s win-win.