Well, no, actually. Don’t get me wrong, those are all great attributes to have, and they sure do look good when they’re printed out on a framed office poster accompanied by an image of a guy climbing a mountain. However, in reality, the thing that makes a business is the customer, plain and simple.What is it that makes a business. Is it drive? Is it determination? Is it the ability to persevere through the difficult times and to act as a shining beacon of hope in an often dark and treacherous market?
Without customers, your business just doesn’t exist. And yet, despite this, many businesses tend to treat their customer relationships as something of secondary importance. This is problematic, because without a steady supply of customers to throw on the fire (please, please understand that we’re being metaphorical here), the engine that drives your success will sputter to a stop. So, what can you do to take your customer relationships to the next level? Here are some suggestions for how you can turn your customers into your friends (and get them to give you lots of money in the process).
- Let them get to know you
Before the internet came along and changed everything, it was fairly simple for businesses to retain a visible face. Of course now, during the age of anonymity, it’s much more likely that your company (especially if it’s an internet-only business), will seem like a distant and faceless entity. Don’t be that company. Share information regarding your company history, contact information, and office locations. Consider sharing photos of company team members, as well as fun facts that will help customers feel as though your business is a friendly family.
- Protect their data
The customer-business relationship is kind of a strange one. On the one side, you’ve got the business which is (ideally) trying to be very open about itself. On the other side, you have the consumer who is doing everything in his or her power to keep personal information from being compromised. Of course, in order to do business over the internet, some of that information has to be shared. But like the kid in grade school who could never keep a secret, the internet just isn’t a very safe place to be sharing data that you want to keep to yourself. Businesses need to recognize this fact, andinvest in the advanced security measures to ensure their protection.
Those organizations that rely on cloud data storage should also consider looking in to additional protection, so that even information that isn’t kept onsite can still be safely contained. Once you’ve figured out your security issues, be sure to let the customer know just how far you’re willing to go to keep their secrets safe.
- Invest in CRM
Customers should know that they are important to you, but if you’re constantly mishandling their information, then it sends out a clear message to your consumer base that you don’t actually care about them at all. But what can you do? Is it possible to be BFFs with every customer? Well sure it is! Investing in a proper customer relationship management (CRM) system from companies like Salesforce or other cloud-based providers will allow you to gather, store, and analyze data to help you to personalize the customer experience. CRM can also be used to gain useful insights, so that you can quickly and inexpensively disseminate relevant information to a wider range of specific, potential customers. If you want to make your customers feel special, CRM is the way to go.
- Go social
Social media is one of the most useful tools out there for businesses both young and old. Social media allows you to connect with your customers in an informal way, and allows them to share their experiences with others. This not only makes customers feel as though they have a more intimate connection with the organization itself, but it also gives you free data that you can analyze to help improve your products and marketing strategies. Signing up for an account on each of the main social networks—especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest—is an essential step in getting closer to your customers and building up a community around them. Just make sure to keep it relevant and fun (and for the love of Pete, go easy on the memes).
- Be there
Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your customers is be there for them. Does that mean you should be willing to pet-sit their cat for them when they leave town? Probably not (although that would potentially generate a nice customer review). What is does mean is that you should always have a knowledgeable, helpful, respectful, and intelligible customer service representative that can be contacted at any time, day or night. Don’t simply rely on telephone communication, either. The companies that are able to quickly respond to emails and social media posts are the ones that customers feel connections and trust towards. People tend to define friends as those who are there for them when they need it, so be there.