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Are you aware that 88% of customers worldwide, irrespective of their age, think that customer service plays a significant role in their purchasing decisions? When we give it a bit more thought, it makes perfect sense! People get attached to brands, and since client support is the face of every company, it has a great impact on customer relations.
In the following article, I’m going to dive deeper into the question “What is customer relations?” and I’ll be looking at the benefits that good customer relationships bring. I’ll also share a few tips on building customer relations effectively. Let's get right to it!
What is customer relations?
Customer relations describes all the steps a company takes to guarantee the absolute best client experience across all steps of the buyer’s journey. It is not just the responsibility of client-facing teams like customer support and sales but also the PR, product, and marketing departments, all of which contribute to the way a company is seen by clients.
The secret to building great connections with customers? Taking a mix of reactive and proactive measures that let you not only assess your current relationships but also constantly improve them.
Why is it worth creating good customer relationships?
Before I discuss a few tactics, I’d like to briefly talk about why it’s worth creating bonds with your clients in the first place.
Nurturing customer loyalty
Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule in business? It says that 80% of your recurring revenue comes from 20% of your most loyal customers (with American Express claiming it can be even closer to 90-to-10 for some). When you think about it, it’s hardly surprising. The more you learn over time about your clients’ goals and their specific preferences, the better you’ll become at personalizing the customer experience.
Improving client retention
Maintaining a steady influx of new clients is tough, and I’m quite certain anyone who’s ever engaged in outbound sales will agree! It’s also up to six times as affordable to maintain your current client base than it is to acquire new clients. If you create a customer relationship strategy that promotes repeat purchases (for instance, one with a loyalty program or special discounts), you might be in for big savings.
Happy customers act as your brand advocates
If you’ve ever been blown away by a service and couldn’t stop talking about it among your friends, then you’re not alone. Satisfied clients are one of the best sources of leads and greatly build up your credibility. If your happy customers share an online review or give you a good Net Promoter Score (which we discuss further in this piece), you can even reach out and ask whether you could use their opinions as marketing collateral.
Got you even more interested in the subject? Perfect, let’s now discuss the tactics.
9 steps to building customer relations
With the question “What is customer relations?” now answered, and with a few benefits in mind, we can look at the steps you should take to build great relationships with your clients.
1. Understand your customers’ needs
The first step in creating good customer relations is knowing your clients inside out. This includes understanding customer needs, goals, and pain points. What do they value? What problems do they struggle with? While you initially might not know the answers to all of the questions, it’s crucial to continuously gather new insights. And there are numerous methods you can use to do so. For example, running customer surveys, reading product reviews, going through social media profiles, or conducting interviews. Whichever method you select, make sure to treat customer research as a continuous process rather than a one-off project.
2. Prioritize customer queries from most to least urgent
Do you realize that 60% of consumers admit that getting an immediate response to their questions is important to them? While it might be hard to answer all customer questions immediately, it’s crucial to put a process in place that will help you prioritize them. There are cases that require your immediate attention — for instance, when a customer is unable to log into the platform — and others that can easily wait.
I recommend tagging client inquiries in your customer relationship management solution and organizing them in terms of importance, from most to least urgent. In doing so, you’ll be able to ensure that the most serious issues are tackled before they escalate into a crisis.
Additionally, you can decide which issues should be addressed by your customer support team and which can be automated. More about this in the next point.
3. Decide which tasks/customer questions can be automated or resolved through FAQs
As mentioned above, not all customer inquiries have to be resolved by your team personally. Questions that frequently come up during customer conversations can be answered with an FAQ page, which will leave you more time to focus on complex customer problems. Queries such as “When does my contract expire?” or “How much does it cost to upgrade to a higher package?” can be tackled using a chatbot.
It’s crucial you don’t leave any questions unanswered. If you have customers from multiple time zones, but your support team isn’t available 24/7, then I recommend investing in live chat software or a chatbot. It will at least inform your customers that their query was received and will be answered shortly, or it will point them to a place where they can find the answer. Clients who are stressed or upset will always expect human interaction, and if you want to maintain good customer relations, then it’s necessary to acknowledge that.
4. Ensure you provide good quality customer support
Your customer support team is the face of your company, so it’s necessary to train them well, as customers can be merciless. Just one negative experience with your CS team can not only motivate customers to leave you but also to potentially bad-mouth you. From a psychological point of view, we process negative emotions in more detail than positive ones, and so we speak about them more frequently and use stronger words. Don’t let poor customer service be the reason for client discontentment.
Train your Customer Support team well, and regularly monitor their performance. If you use LiveChat you’ll be able to:
- Check customer satisfaction ratings
- Verify agent efficiency
- Monitor how your Customer Support team are doing in real time (and provide support if needed)
5. Be accessible to customers
Customers these days expect omni-channel service. This means that not only do they want to be given a choice of how they contact you, but they also expect a consistent quality of communication across all channels. According to Adobe, companies who succeed at this, experience a 10% growth year on year, a 10% increase in average order value, and a 25% rise in closed sales rates. There’s a lot to fight for, isn’t there?
While some clients, especially from the Millennial generation, will prefer to contact you via live chat, others will be keener on social media or email. You have to make sure that your communication stays consistent across all channels, irrespective of the medium that your customers choose.
6. Show empathy
As humans, we are naturally drawn to those who listen carefully and show compassion. The same goes for the companies we choose to do business with. And so, one of the most important elements that make or break your brand’s image is the way you communicate with your clients.
A great example of a company that strives to build good customer relations through empathy is eBay. The brand launched its “Up & Running” campaign in the Spring of 2020, when many businesses were forced to shut down their brick-and-mortar stores. The accelerator program pledged up to $100 million for struggling businesses, waiving commission and selling fees for small businesses.
On a per-customer level, showing empathy means acknowledging their point of view and seeking fitting solutions. And this holds true even (or especially) if you’ve heard about the same problem for the tenth time as it can point to an actual blocker your clients are encountering with your product or site.
Make sure that your customer support team knows how to fix issues internally, and that they create educational content in your Knowledge Base to “help customers help themselves.” Even the angriest clients will most probably change their attitude if they encounter a happy and helpful Customer Support team who makes the reported obstacles go away.
7. Go above and beyond to keep your customers happy
We live in a world of abundance where switching between brands is so easy due to the number of alternatives on the market. However, if you build close customer relationships, you’ll make it much harder for clients to leave you. How hard, you ask? According to research company Motista, consumers who have an emotional bond with a brand have a 306% longer lifetime value (LV) than the “standard” buyer.
In my brief experience in sales, I can vouch for this number being true. Many years back, I used to help out at a small bookstore on the weekends. Its most loyal clients would come by on Saturdays when they knew that the bookstore owner — who remembered each of their names, previous purchases, and preferences — would be there to advise them on their next buy. No wonder they wouldn’t even hear of ordering on Amazon!
So, knowing this, how do you feel about sending your customer a personalized discount code or gift to celebrate their upcoming work anniversary or birthday? I am sure it will put a smile on their face, especially if the gift is unexpected!
8. Ask for feedback to improve customer relations
Another important element of building customer relations is making a habit of measuring client satisfaction levels. In my experience, the best method is to run regular customer satisfaction surveys through your chatbot or live chat. I especially recommend measuring your Net Promoter Score (NPS), which lets you calculate the proportions between your brand promoters and detractors.
To learn how you can best improve your customer relationships, you should also add follow-up questions to your NPS survey. When someone gives you a low score, ask them to answer in their own words what you can do to improve their opinion in the future. The same goes for your promoters; find out what exactly makes them love you so you can use it in your favor when you interact with others!
9. Use a mix of proactive and reactive measures
In order to build good customer relations, you must also have a brand reputation strategy in place. To prevent any reputational crisis, you should engage in both proactive and reactive measures, such as conducting social listening and responding to comments and negative reviews quickly. Many times, it comes down to keeping your eyes wide open and detecting an issue with your product or service even before your clients notice it.
For example, if you learn that one of your products is faulty, immediately send out an email to all customers who purchased it. Acknowledge the issue instead of waiting for your clients to detect it themselves (and, perhaps, start reconsidering their opinion of you).
That being said, mistakes are bound to happen; after all, we’re only human! And if mistakes do happen, just make sure to conduct an After Action Review (AAR) with your team to make sure they don’t repeat.
Hopefully, after reading this piece, you’ll agree that building customer relations is essential if you want your business to grow. Remember that when it comes to selecting the brands we buy from, it’s not that different from how we choose our own friends and surroundings. It comes down to empathy, showing appreciation, and communicating in a way that speaks to your clients perfectly.
In order for your customer relationship program to work, it’s important for your client-facing teams to act as brand ambassadors. They should have clear guidelines, know which issues to scale, and where they can make the call themselves. I also highly recommend running customer loyalty surveys and always being a step ahead with what customers want and need. Take my word for it — strive to solve your clients’ problems and put a smile on their faces, and the rest will fall in place!