How can someone be loyal to a company with whom they’ve never had personal contact with?
Think for a second about the companies you’re loyal to. One of the major reasons you love them is likely because you’ve connected with someone there. It could be a dedicated manager assigned to your needs, or just a great experience with their customer service.
It’s easy to walk away from a robot or a web page.
But companies that connect people with people - those stick out in your mind, and make you more likely to stick around. It makes sense - people like to be treated like people, not just customers.
Yet today, many businesses are moving away from this model. They’re looking to have less person-to-person communication, instead relying on automated systems and online troubleshooting sections.
These days, trying to find a customer service phone number for most companies is akin to tracking down the Ark of the Covenant. It’s understandable, though. People are expensive, and responses to many customer questions can be automated, or presented in a self-serve format.
But to really win over customers, an old school approach has to be considered. The more personal the relationship, the harder it is for someone to walk away from it. Like a well oiled discount program, the added value is worth the investment.
Five Ways Any Business Can Add a More Personal Touch
We’ve already declared that bad personal touchpoints are the number one killer of customer loyalty. Here are five ways your business can create more of those loyalty-building personal touchpoints that make such a huge difference in the minds of customers:
Assign a rep for each customer
Assign each customer a customer service rep, with a name and number they can call. Give them this information as soon as they become a customer, and periodically have that person reach out to them (a process that can be automated). In fact, send every customer email from their rep - a far more engaging tactic than “donotreply”.
Connect customers with other customers
One lesson professional associations learned long ago is that it’s beneficial to build a community among your customer base. In recent years technology companies (SalesForce.com, HubSpot, ExactTarget to name a few) in particular have picked up on this, using major on-site events to educate customers on product usage and connect them with each other.
You don’t have to go that far. Create an online forum for your customers to talk with company reps as well as each other. You can create a subreddit on Reddit.com, one of the more popular forum sites. (For a good example, check out the T-Mobile subreddit.)
Encourage dialog through social media
Most customer complaints on social media are ignored. Smart companies have not only created systems for monitoring for these types of complaints, their names are added to each response. It’s not all that different from operating a call center, and it’s a simple way to show a personal touch in a virtual setting.
On a side note, another important reason you should set up a social media monitoring system: your competitors probably have one, and are using it to poach customers at their most vulnerable times. I can vouch for this tactic, because it’s exactly how I got connected to my current television provider.
Get employees involved in communities
Give employees time off to spend volunteering in their communities, sponsor local events, or anything else that gives people from your company the opportunity to shake hands with people from their communities. Bonus: employee volunteerism has a lot of bonuses, because corporate social responsibility is a big deal to consumers these days, especially Millennials.
Follow-up summaries from customer service discussions
Send customers a summary of every contact point they have with your company. On one hand, it’ll hold your organization accountable, which pays off when you follow through. On the other hand, it shows that the person was listened to - sometimes that matters as much as actually solving their issue.
Want to earn big bonus points? Make the follow up note handwritten.
Making Reality from Virtual
The internet is an impersonal place, for better or worse. For businesses, impersonal is more financially efficient, but that also makes it harder to reduce customer churn. Mixing in some old school relationship-building can make a huge difference.
It’s possible to use automated systems and still connect on a personal level, if you use the data available. In a recent ExactTarget survey, 84% of marketers report that personalization impacts customer retention and loyalty.
(See more customer loyalty statistics here.)
Yes, some of the tactics we mentioned require an investment in people, but the benefit is customers who are loyal and confident in the service your company - and the people behind it - provides.
The most important thing is to put a face, or at least a name and a voice, to a business. It’s easy to walk away from a business. It’s much harder to walk away from a business with people that clearly are invested in a customer’s great experience.