OK, let’s just get it out there. Giving your customers a good, useful, low effort experience (online) seems straightforward enough. In a similar way, guiding them seamlessly through each digital touchpoint along the customer journey makes sense too. But building meaningful customer relationships online? Using automated software and social messaging platforms?
Well, actually, if we look at the nature of customer relationships; what your customers expect; and the way your company interacts online can complement other areas of your business; building meaningful relationships through digital channels is not that much of a stretch.
Romance is not dead. The rules have not changed. But there are now significantly more tools you can use to attract your customers. Before we get into that, let’s consider the nature of a business-customer relationship.
Like any long-term coupling, a successful relationship hinges on having enough mutual trust to know that ultimately, you’re better together – and can overlook each other’s annoying habits. So how do you establish trust? Well, generally it is built over time, but to get to that point more quickly, your business needs to deliver on the promises it makes to your customers.
Say your company undertakes the ambitious objective of offering 24/7 customer service. That might sound like a big deal, but if doing so meant more customers would have an essential always-on point of contact, then why not do it?
However, keeping that promise does not necessarily mean working harder, regular caffeine infusions, or even having people in different timezones working around the clock. It simply means using available technology effectively – like messenger chatbots. Airbnb, Spotify, and Evernote have been doing exactly that on Twitter for a couple of years.
But how can an automated response tool help build a meaningful customer relation? Remember, you are not personally building the relationship; your brand is. Companies have more creative license than individuals (which helps). And now that machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) are sufficiently advanced enough to enable brands to offer more tailored responses to direct queries – in addition to human interaction – the information needed is delivered as required. It’s this combination of automation and personalisation that will enable you to keep your customer promises.
Familiarity breeds contempt – according to the old saying. Not the case in customer service. Consistency is an important part of the customer journey (as discussed in our previous article). Definitive elements assure customers that, no matter what your brand does – whether it launches an Apple Business Chat channel or branches out into RCS messaging – it is still the same business that they know, trust, and love.
Plus, customers are used to platforms like for instance Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, for personal interactions with friends and family, so they’re accustomed to the overall user experience. In addition, thanks to larger companies using them for customer service, users know that what they are communicating with is an AI, and know its limitations. Increasingly, they do not see it as a poor substitute for person-to-person contact; more an efficient way of troubleshooting in real time.
And if they want to talk to someone? That is when your other customer service touchpoints kick in – in a seamless and consistent way; without forcing customers to change platforms unless absolutely necessary.
While giving customers what they expect will put your brand in good standing with them, sometimes you have to do what they do not expect to keep them interested. It’s about going above and beyond the expectations set: think of it as surprising your significant other with a bouquet of flowers or box of their favorite chocolates. Sometimes it’s essential – when you’ve been away on a business trip, for example – but doing it impromptu will score you some serious brownie points. In business, this is otherwise known as customer loyalty.
Loyalty is often put in the same category as ‘rewards’. You can understand why. They are ways of keeping customers happy and engaged with your business. But loyalty is not necessarily directly linked to something tangible; it’s about offering something valuable. Sometimes that can be a discount code sent via email. Other times, it might the customer’s overall feeling that every aspect of their experience has been handled in the right way, across all of the channels and interfaces they have used. It could just be that the brand solved a particular problem that had been frustrating the customer.
Ultimately, customer relationships function in a similar way to banking. The more you put in, the better the returns. Sometimes you need to make withdrawals to pay a debt or to offer an incentive, but as long as the balance remains healthy and there is a constant exchange of goodwill, everyone remains happy.
Here at Mesaic, we work closely with businesses like yours to help build better, long-lasting customer relationships across all of your digital touchpoints. To find out more, drop us a note!