Marketers have long understood the need to build and foster meaningful emotional connections between businesses and customers. The quality of these human connections helps to define the most reputable brands within our local communities. But, as technology, data, and KPI’s have moved to the forefront of corporate discourse, the context in which to establish these emotional relationships have changed.
The net result of a connected world is that people are producing more signals about who they are, what they talk about, and the things they like. The temptation is to move away from individuals and look for human patterns I the tangled web of data. There’s value in doing that, but you can’t confuse those tools for what it means to build relationships with humans.
So, how do businesses do essential work? They acknowledge that they are living, feeling human beings at the beginning and end of every transaction and that a shift in thinking must be employed to build emotional connections with their customers (internal and external).
Whenever a person interacts with a brand, they experience milestones or feelings. It’s exactly like how they first interact with other people. At first, a customer will only know that a brand “exists” – they see it, they try it and form some early opinion about it, but that’s it, just like meeting new candidates or prospects.
Over time, these relationships can develop. Customers will attach more profound meaning to some brands, will think about them in particular ways, or will attach some new meaning to the brand. Now the relationship arc is developing; things are getting exciting as they move further up the arc, where customers might find themselves incorporating a business, product, or service into a part of their lives or think of the brand as something that shapes or defines them.
Very few companies (or people) are able to take the relationship beyond that, to a place where they are indispensable and would be forgiven no matter what happens. But it is possible.
Successful brands are the ones that find ways to move people up the arc — to go from merely existing to being something people care about, and something they’ll defend. This requires thinking about what moves people as humans, not just what motivates them as groups.
In the pursuit of building some truly human connections, several dos and don’ts to follow:
Anticipate Their Needs & Wants
Instead of merely listening to your customer’s needs, a business needs to understand their unexpressed wishes and anticipate their next move. Staying one step ahead of them—literally giving them what they didn’t know they needed—is how you will stand out from the rest. This builds exceptional rapport with your customers and makes them feel like you really, truly value their business (Forbes). They will want to come back, and what’s more, they’re going to tell their friends all about your customer service.
Show Genuine Interest
If you haven’t heard it yet, here it is: customers want to feel appreciated and they value an honest-to-goodness relationship. If your customer service staff can build, nourish and manage relationships with your customers, then you’re golden! One way for you to build the relationship and make them feel special is by genuinely caring about what they’re telling you. Listen to them grumble, show sympathy, laugh when they laugh and don’t be afraid to get personal (Inc.com). Something as minute as memorizing the name of their granddaughter or asking about their last trip to Hawaii will help solidify your relationship.
Digitally speaking, doing this well means using social media to engage in a conversation and being open and transparent online! Your online customer service is as important, if not more so than the face-to-face interactions. At the root of it all, the customer wants to feel that they’re spending their hard-earned dollar on a business that cares about them!
Have The Answers & Deliver
While it’s up for debate on whether customers are always right, the fact of the matter is, you are the expert and not your customer. You should always have the answers and be able to deliver. That is why product and service knowledge is the most vital skill a customer service representative can possess (Digitalist).
If you don’t have the answer, try your best to find it out or direct the customer to someone who can answer their queries. Avoid saying the phrase, “I don’t know” at all costs. Remember, you’re the expert. Having the answers and delivering them promptly and respectively will build trust and confidence in your customer.
Don’t Restrict The Customer
Customers hate to hear the word, “no.” It’s a fact of life. Though it’s not always possible to say “yes,” best practice dictates that you should be as flexible and accommodating as possible for your customers (Customer Service Manager).
If there’s one thing a customer hates to hear more than “no,” it’s that something is “company policy.” Why? First of all, the customer likely doesn’t care what your store policy is. Second, they don’t see you as a customer service provider following policy, but rather as the company as an entity restricting them from getting what they want. Another reason this is such a big no-no is that it’s like putting a big roadblock in the conversation. With both you and the customer at a loss for what to say, the interaction (and possibly the relationship) is subsequently squelched.
Don’t Make Things Overly Complicated
A good rule of thumb to follow is that getting assistance and service should not be more painful than the problem itself. Behold! The wonders of a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page! If this isn’t really your style, and as a necessary fall back, the next step is to make your customer service staff incredibly accessible. You know what they say: a quickly diffused customer service issue keeps the bad reviews away. Right?
Speaking of which…
Don’t: Ignore Feedback or Complaints
Feedback, no matter its form, is always a plus. Who better to hear from than the customers who are literally the lifeblood of your business?
Embracing the good, the bad and the ego-deflating will ultimately help you to strive for better, in the long run, we promise. You’ll be able to understand your customers better, identify and solve your pitfalls and grow bigger and better (MinuteHack)! So, the next time a customer wants to give you their feedback, don’t brush it off, but rather see it as an opportunity to improve.
How we can nurture human talent in the workplace and in daily life, beyond any traditional evaluation methods:
Have a Vision & Passion: People need to understand why you get out of bed in the morning. Then, discover and describe the passion in that vision. If you don’t really care about what you’re doing, neither will anyone else.
Vision and passion fall on deaf ears without persuasion — the ability to get others on board. And most important, embrace humility. This means bucking against the trend, fueled by data, of committing to being right and defensively closing yourself off.
Humility means being curious about other people, being open to what they offer, and realizing what makes us tick. This will go a long way in allowing us to treat each other properly. Not as data points, but as fellow human beings.