The art of dating your customer
Often when describing the customer relationship, companies talk about beating competitors to win and retain consumers. This is obviously true at a basic level – after all, you will be judged against rivals in terms of factors such as speed of service, helpfulness of staff and price of products.
However, it can only take you so far – you’ll match what they do, but it may mean you’ll miss out on bigger innovation that could dramatically change the customer experience you offer. A better way, according to Professor David Robertson of the Wharton School in the US, is to think of the customer relationship as being more like dating, involving a much greater focus on the consumer/date, rather than constantly thinking about competitors. For example, research suggests that around 71% of consumers express some level of frustration when their shopping experience is impersonal. And 44% say that they will be more likely to become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a particular company. Customers want you to focus on their specific needs and to deliver an exceptional needs.
Based on Eptica’s experience here are 7 rules that apply to them both:
1. Put them first
When you are on a date, you need to focus on them rather than the people around you. It is the same in customer service – if you are speaking to a customer on a call, give them your full attention rather than treating them as an afterthought. Businesses need to ensure that they have the resources in place that allow agents to focus on each interaction, holding meaningful conversations with customers that treat them as a priority.
2. Spend more time listening than talking
You need to build understanding and engagement, and find out what makes your date tick, or in the case of a customer what they are looking for. That means listening first, asking questions where necessary but letting them describe what they are looking for. Then you can provide the service or solution to their actual problem. In digital customer service this can be more difficult as you don’t have the chance to speak to consumers over the phone or experience their body language – technologies such as linguistics can help bridge this gap by analyzing digital questions and giving a better understanding of what they really mean.
3. Do what you promise
Live up to your word. If you promise to do something/be somewhere, then make sure that you do what you said. This is equally applicable in customer service – for example, if you arrange to respond within a particular timeframe make sure that you do. Equally, don’t make promises that you can’t keep. When customers have had problems, it can be tempting for agents to promise them that you can solve all their issues straight away, even if it is outside your direct control. Therefore, make sure that you are as helpful as you can be, but be realistic and follow company processes and procedures rather than disappointing customers by raising their hopes when you can’t fulfil them.
4. Treat them well
Always be polite, helpful and interested in your customer or date. Give them time and show that you value them and their needs. First impressions count – so make sure that their call is answered promptly and emails and social media messages receive a fast, helpful response, every time.
5. Make sure you are the right fit
Not every date leads to a long-term relationship, as sometimes people are fundamentally incompatible with different interests and outlook on life. In the same way, your brand and offering may not be right for every customer. Understand the value you provide and be clear about it up front – segment your audience and ensure you are delivering what they want, through their channels of choice.
6. Think long-term
If you find the right customer you want the relationship to be a lengthy one that benefits both sides. So, don’t just make an effort on the first date, but ensure that you take the time to keep working at the relationship over time. Many companies provide great introductory offers and then tend to take existing customers for granted – give all customers the same love and attention to build loyalty and trust.
7. Give them what they want but don’t set unreasonable expectations
Customers come to you for particular, specific reasons. Make sure you understand what these are and continue to provide the same products and services, delivered in the way that customers want. However, bear in mind that they’ve come to you because of your brand values – don’t try and change unnecessarily and try to be something that you are not. That doesn’t mean standing still – listen to your customers and use their suggestions to improve how you operate, in line with your brand values. This will help drive innovation and new products that can provide additional ways to engage and interest them in the relationship, without losing the core values that attracted them in the first place.
While dating and the customer relationship do share a lot of similarities bear in mind there is one big difference – consumers are being wooed by lots of brands at any one time, and may well be involved in multiple relationships. But don’t be disheartened – stay true to your brand values, focus on the customer and build a two way relationship and you’ll win their hearts for the long term.