Follow these smart strategies to build stronger customer relationships.
What’s your No. 1 priority when it comes to improving customer relationships?
If you answered surprising and delighting your customers, you’re on your way to positioning your business as a leader in providing a top customer experience.
Surprise and delight methods are commonly used to re-attract and retain customers for the long run. These tactics go hand in hand with efforts for nurturing customers and turning them into loyal brand fans.
But Why Is Surprise and Delight So Important?
When it comes to choosing and staying loyal to a brand, 95% of consumers say customer service is important. Clearly, the way you interact with your customers is critical.
It follows, too, that micro-influencers are likely to impact a purchase decision—in both positive and negative ways.
Here are some benefits to consider before putting together your own plan for delighting customers:
- Retaining customers significantly reduces your acquisition costs.
- Existing fans will aid in organic promotion and brand awareness.
- Happy customers are more likely to make recurring and often more frequent purchases.
- A positive customer experience lets you create better connections with your brand fans. You’ll later be able to tap into these opportunities as these people are likely to be more responsive when you need their opinions.
- Through positive interactions and meeting customer expectations, you may win back past or inactive customers.
- Impressing your customers is a strategy that helps you stay top of mind. This also increases your chances of getting more word-of-mouth referrals that will drive the most business.
So how do you surprise and delight your customers in a real conversation? Next are 6 successful methods to help you improve your customer relationships.
1. Be Available, Show Empathy, and Listen
Customer support efforts can become one of the many reasons why your customers will love you. This also becomes a huge competitive advantage and helps you strengthen your customer relationships.
At FreshBooks, we go the extra mile to be real with customers. Empathy is one of our core values and we make sure that everyone on our team resonates with this, and can provide honest and empathetic customer experiences on all channels.
One of our values on the support team is to be humans, not robots. “Chatbots and AI definitely have their place, but sometimes what really helps is speaking to a person who can connect with you. To stay available, we staff our team across multiple time zones to make sure we can deal with urgent requests,” says Jess Barker, senior director of support.
“Part of really listening is giving the frontline reps the time and space to do so—that’s why we don’t have performance targets around call handle time like many other support teams. We want to solve customers’ issues quickly and efficiently, but also want to leave space to connect as fellow humans.”
2. Follow up and Incorporate Customer Feedback
You’ve probably already got a wealth of customer feedback through your social media channels, newsletter, in-app, or direct surveys. But how do you follow up?
Start by being responsive to customer feedback and their preferences, planning ahead for feature suggestions, and making continual improvements to both products and customer service.
At FreshBooks, we’ve established a customer feedback loop that all teams are part of. “We’re a fairly unique company as we have a team dedicated to analyzing inbound customer interactions,” says Phil Decelis, senior product support analyst. “We capture support issues, sales inquiries, and onboarding questions and put together customers’ pain points and needs, common questions being asked, and new functionalities folks would like to see.”
All that input is analyzed and shared with the product and design teams on a regular basis. In those meetings, they examine what isn’t working, where improvements can be made, and what new features should be considered.
That insight is also used to improve FreshBooks’ self-serve options for customers. For example, when we notice a feature in FreshBooks is driving a lot of support cases, we often work to improve FAQ documentation for that feature and display in-app tips for users.
To close the feedback loop, it’s important to get back to the customer, says Phil Decelis. “Once a new feature is released, we’ll circle back to the customer to let them know that the thing they asked for 6 months ago is now in FreshBooks.”
3. Understand How Your Customers Want to Interact With You
Many companies maintain minimal support channels. Some even have their customers pay to receive timely support.
You can differentiate your brand and increase customer-seller trust by making their life easier and being present where they are. Social media, phone calls, in-app, email, and live chats are common choices.
Ideally, you’ll want to talk to your customers to find out their preferred communication channels and gradually implement a multi-channel approach.
Don’t be afraid to stand out and go the extra mile when it comes to connecting with your customers. Customer satisfaction increases when answer times are shorter (as in less than 2 minutes!). Although chatbots are getting better at providing the needed information, 86% of people still prefer human interactions.
One of the things we’ve done at FreshBooks to ensure the best experience for our customers is to simply answer their phone calls. Whenever they call, they get a support specialist—not someone at a call center reading a script.
Our customers (most of them busy small business owners) tell us that not having to wait for their call to be picked up and talking to a real person to help them immediately is one of the things they appreciate most. We essentially ensure they’re never alone in their jobs.
While answering every call in-house within 3 rings might not be feasible for you depending on your industry and stage of growth, it pays to do what you can to prioritize quick customer support, using the method your customers appreciate most. Even setting up a toll-free number and being ready to provide help within the same day can be enough.
If you don’t have the resources to be available 24/7 on multiple channels, stick to one or two contact methods, and make the most out of them. Take turns with your team to ensure full coverage of support issues, always answer on time, and be ready to pick up the phone or set up a video call to further help your customer with the problem they’re facing.
Tip: Always get feedback after interacting with a customer. This will help you improve your future communication and tweak your customer support strategies for future leads and customers.
4. Show, Don’t Tell, If You Want to Truly Delight
Simply thanking and acknowledging your customers isn’t enough to help you turn customer delight into your main advantage above competitors. Instead, consider breaking the virtual barriers and sending some swag their way.
From cookies for clients who’ve been with you from the start:
— David Hills (@DavidartHills) December 10, 2015
To free shirts for all people who go through your complete onboarding:
Some other ideas you can implement for your business include:
- Thank-you cards or handwritten letters with a special discount or access to exclusive campaigns.
- Cakes on their birthday or to celebrate an important milestone.
- Access to special online classes or training materials to help them take their business further.
- Tickets to a conference in their city or an online event.
- Other branded items like umbrellas, headphones, phone chargers, or water bottles. Just make sure these are high-quality items they’ll actually use in the long run.
5. Give Customers a Reason to Stick Around
Referral and loyalty programs are a must for most businesses looking to use their current customer base to spread the word. But you’re not limited to these when you want to surprise your clients.
You can also set up a community for your customers, give them a chance to become a brand ambassador, and create opportunities to help your customers’ businesses grow. For example, some companies display their experts or customers on a page where someone who wants to work with them can reach out:
You can then turn to unique ways of appreciating your most loyal customers by giving them access to beta programs, premium features, or special discounts and events. Flowrite, for instance, rewards their biggest brand advocates with some handy swag to surprise their clients.
If you’re wondering how well a loyalty program can work, all stats are in favor of customer loyalty programs done right. In the retail industry alone, 58.7% of Internet users said that earning rewards and loyalty points is one of the shopping experiences they value the most.
6. Avoid These Customer Experience Mistakes
With everything you’re doing to surprise and delight your customers, always think of what kind of experiences people want to avoid. Some of the most common factors that have customers leaving for a competitor with better support include:
- Taking too long to fix an issue or rushing through instructions
- Repeatedly receiving the same suggestions and feedback, and never acting upon it
- Sending links to the help page instead of directly sharing the solution in the email, chat, or phone call
- Not knowing your own product well (e.g., having people look through a list of integrations instead of offering this information directly)
- Making inconsistent promises
- Rude remarks and/or a disrespectful attitude from the customer service side
- Constantly delivering general or ineffective instructions that leave customers feeling stranded
- Not providing workarounds or alternatives for missing features
Final Notes on the Importance of Building Customer Relationships
A solid surprise and delight plan helps you develop meaningful connections over time. Some more strategies to keep in mind when improving the way you interact with customers are:
- Make them aware and a part of your company culture
- Tailor offers to every customer so they can feel valued for being a loyal brand fan and friend
- Have your customer support efforts represent your brand and voice
- Make it extra easy for them to use your product or service so they won’t have to check in with your customer service team every week
- Accept your mistakes and provide proper solutions
Finally, remember that you can only build a worthwhile customer experience by delighting throughout the entire client lifecycle—from client management all the way to turning your customers into your biggest promoters.