As technology advances to a point in our lives where robots can read our children bedtime stories and we trust Alexa to secure our homes, are we ready to use similar technology to help build our business relationships too?
You only have to look back 5 to 10 years to see how much technology has improved our day-to-day work processes. Take the administration of running a marketing campaign as an example. Now we can decide on a campaign, create the journey in Marketo, Intercom, Dotmailer or Mailchimp and let it run automatically while we concentrate on something else.
Project management more generally has transformed the way we work too, tools such as Trello, Asana, Monday and of course CRM software all keep you on track and in control like never before. Take Calendly, a simple tool that automates event booking with clients and saves a huge amount of time compared to the back and forth of old. AI can also be good for business too.
We have a love-hate relationship with chatbots, but if they answer common, simple questions quickly, they can work well for both business and their customers. A recent survey by Usabilla reports:
“54 percent of customers said they would always choose a chatbot over a human customer service rep if it saved them 10 minutes.
“While people seem positive about new technologies automating some interactions, only about a third (36 percent) report that they’d prefer to use a chatbot over speaking with a person when they have a simple request, question or issue, indicating that brands must work to balance tech-enabled automation with human interaction.”
We can use technology to automate a lot of our business admin or transactional work, that is clear. The benefit being, it actually frees up time to be more interactive with customers and well, be more human.
A great example of this happening is in the accounting industry. Over the last few years, cloud-based accounting systems such as Xero and QuickBooks have started to take care of the transactional work, giving accountants back time to spend with their clients to provide more profitable, advisory services. It’s a shift that’s working well.
Across all industries, the closer your relationship is with your customer, the less likely they are to move to a competitor. So understanding your business processes and automating as much as you can, will help free up your time to focus on getting closer to your customers.
Once technology has automated your processes, how do you build customer relationships as your business grows?
When you start your business every customer gets close attention, you tend to know everything about them because you need to. You find the time to connect with them and and are fascinated with what you hear. As you grow, this naturally becomes harder to maintain and scale so what do you do?
This is all about putting your customer at the heart of your business, understanding them deeply and thinking in their shoes when you make a business decision. When you’re customer-centric you create a positive experience for every customer from the very first interaction with your brand that runs throughout the whole customer journey.
The way you get to understand your customers is to connect and talk with them using the communications channels they prefer. Find out about their lives - their likes, dislikes, pains, gains etc. Whether this is through social media, email, online forums, face to face, on the phone or sending out surveys, it’s important to ask the right questions and take all responses on board.
It’s often said in business that we have two ears and one mouth and they should be used proportionately. Listening to what customers actually say rather than what you think they are saying, can have a profound impact on your relationship with them and future customers too.
Listening with an open mind uncovers interesting insights and you truly learn to see things from their point of view. This not only aids decision-making but it also helps you show empathy during every interaction, which is an important factor when building a relationship.
As you learn more about your customers, and as you grow, others do too, having somewhere central to store all your customer information is key. A CRM is perfect for this, especially one that allows you to categorize or tag your customers based on their preferences.
If part of your sales process is meeting your customer, pitching an idea or doing a demo, having a central place to store your research is super helpful. You can create a solid picture of your customer’s business before you meet, showing you value the relationship right from the start. Adding to your notes after the meeting, builds on this picture and helps lay the foundations of a strong customer relationship.
The more you interact with someone, the deeper the relationship. To help build trust, it’s important to ensure your communications are clear, simple and honest.
As you grow, it’s not always easy to communicate intimately to every customer but you can use your insight to personalize communications to a large audience. If you understand your customer’s preferences you can segment them based on the communication channels they prefer, the information they want to receive and when they want to receive it. Personalizing your messages in this way will resonate with your customer and have a deeper impact on their relationship with you.
Be creative in how you interact too, you don’t have to rely on written or video communications. Voice messages can be quite powerful and extremely quick to do. Instagram for example allows you to Direct Message a 60-second audio clip, and customers can feel pretty special when they receive one, it feels more personal and authentic.
When you discover the activities that have a positive impact on your customer relationships, make a note and repeat. Standardizing your approach to building customer relationships will ensure every interaction with anyone in your business is positive, which will help build trust and loyalty.
Every customer and situation is different and we don’t want employees behaving like robots, but standardizing key steps when delivering a service in either your CRM or other business software will give people a helpful framework to follow.
Customers expect decisions to be made by the people they speak to. Long gone are the days when you’re put on hold while they find a manager, it’s just not acceptable anymore.
Many of the companies known for their stellar customer service empower all their employees to make decisions - Zappos, Ritz Carlton, Virgin America to name a few. At Zappos, all employees have the freedom to do whatever they feel is right for the customer and guess what, it gives them great job satisfaction too. Happy employees equal happy customers.
If every customer’s experience with you or your business is enjoyable and consistent, your relationship will deepen and it will be a much harder decision for them to move to a competitor. If mistakes do happen, they’ll draw on their past experiences and if they’re positive, they will forgive you more easily.
We mentioned earlier about repeating what works but not being bound by a set process. It’s important to go the extra mile for some customers, to surprise and delight. When you do this, the commercial benefits are clear - people’s relationship with you will strengthen and they will want to share their experience with their peers and friends - the best form of marketing.
Delighting customers isn’t about spending lots of your budget either, it’s about knowing them well enough to do something that shows you care and appreciate their business. It could be as simple as a card with their favorite animal on the front and thoughtful hand-written message. If you use a CRM or other contact management software, it will be very easy for you to find this information and act upon it.
So, do we need more robots in our business lives? Maybe not just yet.
We certainly do need to make the most of the automation software available to us and choose the right tech stack to make us work more efficiently. This will free up time to build stronger, deeper relationships with customers through personalized experiences, making them feel valued and compelled to share their experience with others.
If you’re looking for software to help you understand your customers better, Capsule is a great place to start - try now for a 30 day free trial.