This contributed post is by Jason Dirkham
The internet means we are all much closer and more connected than ever before. We can instantly share photos with, and video call people halfway around the world. We spend time sharing our lives with strangers and stalking people we went to preschool with on Facebook. It’s much easier to keep in touch with our friends and family that move away than it used to be and everyone can know what everyone else is doing with a scroll or click of a button.
We feel closer to those we admire because we’re “friends” on Facebook or we follow them on Instagram. We can get the advice or help with a service by quickly sending a tweet to the right person, and we can book appointments online in seconds. The world is much, much smaller than it used to be.
While in theory, the world is more social, we are after all, all spending a huge amount of time on social media platforms, is it really true? When was the last time you had a proper conversation with someone you don’t live with? When was the last time that you used your mobile phone to actually have a meaningful discussion with someone on the telephone? And, when was the last time you went to a shop, asked a salesperson for advice or help, had a conversation with them, and remembered their name or face in the days that followed?
In this ever-connected world, customer relationships are suffering. We spend less time getting to know each other and the days of popping to the shops and having a chat with the employees we remember seem to be a distant memory. However, that makes building customer relationships more important than ever. Whether your business is solely online or you also have a brick and mortar store, taking the time to get to know your customers and developing proper, real-life relationships with them can be what sets your business apart from all of the cold, impersonal brands out there. It can be what gets you noticed, remembered and talked about. Here’s what you need to do.
Make it Easy
When a customer comes to a shop to buy something, the last thing they want is for it to be hard work. When it comes to brick and mortar stores, there is nothing worse than having to hunt around for your size or the color that you want. You may assume that the customer would ask a sales advisor for help but for the most part, they won’t, they’ll just go elsewhere. Keeping your store neat and tidy is a start, but you also need to make sure it’s easy to shop. That it’s layout makes sense and that stock is well presented. This not only makes the customer experience more pleasant but it means the staff can give more focus to chatting with and getting to know their customers.
If your shop is primarily or solely online, the same rules apply. Speak to an internet marketing company to find ways to get your site noticed. Then, make sure that you offer customers an easy and friendly user experience once they arrive. Like a brick and mortar store, your website should be uncluttered, easy to use and pleasant to look at. Don’t forget to ensure it offers the same great experience on desktop, mobile and tablet screens.
The art of simply chatting with strangers seems to have got lost somewhere along the line. We no longer just talk to people. We don’t say hi to people on the bus anymore, and we are somewhat suspicious of those that do. The best way to build customer relationships has always and will always be chatting with them. Try to remember a few personal details, like their children’s names and ask about them next time you see them. This kind of small personal detail means a lot in an anti-social world.
Use Social Media
You may be thinking that you can’t chat if your business is online, but you’d be wrong. Social media is meant to be, well, social. It’s not just a place to show off your products, promote your site and offer further sales opportunities. You can also use it to speak with and get to know your customer base. Wish them a happy birthday, share their posts and offer them help when you can.
When it comes to making a good impression and getting noticed, you need to wow. Do this by offering consistently fantastic service. One way to do this is by lowering their expectations. Give a 5-day delivery window and then get it done in two. They’ll be impressed, you’ll be under less pressure, and everyone is happy.
Solve Problems Quickly
While it would be lovely to think that nothing will ever go wrong, this would be unrealistic. Prepare for problems and have plans in place which allow you to deal with them quickly and efficiently.
More important than dealing with the problem quickly, is being honest about it. Customers, for the most part, aren’t stupid. If something is wrong, let them know. Tell them what’s happened, why and what you are doing to fix it. Then, make sure that you keep in touch and offer regular updates. From a relationship point of view, the worst thing that you would do is not give the customer enough information.
Keeping in touch afterward is something many people neglect but can make all of the difference. The transaction shouldn’t end when the purchase has been made. Follow up after a few days or weeks to see how they are getting on with your product or how they found the service that you provided. This is also a good time to offer further advice or promote a follow-up sale.
Rewards don’t have to be huge; you could simply offer return customers free delivery or a money off deal for one of your quieter periods. People love to feel valued, no matter how small the token is.
Building positive customer relationships will help your business to grow and thrive, and the best thing is, it doesn’t need to be difficult as long as you realize that they are just people too.
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