Today, we’re going to talk about the concept of customer intimacy. Which is really about finding ways to connect with your customers so that you can get business from them over and over while having them tell other people how wonderful you have been for them – effectively expanding your clientele.
But before that, let me introduce the “Spending 10 Minutes On Your Business” series where we hope you will learn lots of simple, easy-to-apply, straightforward strategies that you can immediately apply to your business. This post opens the series.
Customer Intimacy: Part One
The difficulty in today’s market is that customers are generally less loyal, more demanding and often driven exclusively by either price or service. One thing I often talk about is the importance of developing phenomenal innovative customer service to create raving fans out of clients. How this is done is related, in part, to how you develop customer intimacy. The whole idea of the intimacy concept is that you stop your competition from driving a wedge between you and your customers. You and your customer connect deeply enough that they feel that you have them in your extended family.
In our business we consider all our clients to be a part of our family. That’s whether they are working with us currently or whether they worked with us in the past. I have often joked that you don’t get off my mailing list unless you die. Obviously, the spam rule applies and you can get off it, but the concept again is that we make deep, lasting connections and we consider all of our clients to be a part of our family.
While we’re on the topic of mailing lists, it makes me look back to the time when there were only three ways to connect with customers: mail, face-to-face and telephone.
While we know that we still have all of that today, we also know that we now have newer ways of connecting with customers. Thanks to the internet we now have email and social media at our disposal. Email is fast and efficient. Social media has the potential of connecting your business with vast networks of people. Each connection made directly leads to more connections making the value of establishing and keeping them exponential.
Recent research in Europe showed that 56% of businesses prefer the client intimacy model, as opposed to some of the other models that exist. It’s really about finding ways to zero-in and connect with the specific, individual needs of customers, as opposed to the sort of “one brush approach” where the intention is to create something that appeals to entire markets. Whether your business is retail, service, charity or online, you’ve got to think about the ways to tailor what you do in order to create a product for individual customers versus coming up with something hoping to sweep-up everyone.
Simplify the experience
One of the simplest things you can immediately implement is to make sure that business with you is simple. Don’t allow things to become too complicated. No one ever prefers a hard time given the choice. People tend to stick with what they are used to and it is easier for them to get used to simpler experiences.
Here are some ways to simplify client experience:
Maximize point-of-contact avenues – Making it easy for clients starts at the beginning. Make sure there are enough options for them to make contact with your business. If they want to call, email, send a message via social media or drop by, the information to facilitate any of these should be available. You will, of course, still maintain a consolidated line of communication which will prevent mix-ups.
Reduce choices – This may sound limiting but as experts in your line of business, it isn’t a bad idea to filter out some of the really odd choices for your clients. This greatly depends on how much you already understand about the needs of a client (more on this later) but the less you put on the table, the less potential confusion, the simpler the experience.
Streamline processes – As much as possible, remove all the work clients have to do to easily access your product. For instance, if they must register an account on your website, give them the option to do it using a popular social media platform. If it is necessary for them to download a form, take the time to send it directly to their email instead.
Know thy clients
The other thing to do is get as much information as you possibly can. This means that when your customers come on board, start working with you or start trading with you; you need to find ways to draw from them as much information about themselves as possible. A great example of this is what a lot of coffee shops do by running business card draws for prizes. Sure, they look a little generous for running cost-free promotions, but they really are in it for database building. When you drop your card in to join the draw, they are getting your email address and phone number. They are also finding out a little bit more about you like what it is that you do for living. Now they can start building a profile on you. Another example is the major grocery store chains like Coles and Woolies and their loyalty programs where you scan the cards at the checkout. This enables them draw a profile of your spending and they now know which emails to send to inform you that a brand you prefer or an item you frequently buy is on special. The more information you have on your clients, the more you can improve your ability to nurture business with them.
Kurek Ashley says, “the fortune is in the follow through” and it’s absolutely true. There is no amount of follow through that is too much. Create increasing intimacy with clients by giving them a call, ask about their experience, try to find out from them how else you can improve your business with them and if there is anything more you can do for them. Following through also improves your knowledge about your clients which is never bad.
Listen to Customers
Recent research done in the UK showed that people preferred the company of dogs over humans for the single reason that dogs listen. Because the value of information is so crucial as established above, the need to be receptive to input from customers is paramount. Listening also involves understanding what isn’t directly said.
Any functioning business, at any level of development, will always have a way of advancing client intimacy. Take for instance Mr. Selfridge of the Selfridges department store in the UK, who used to handwrite cards to customers who hadn’t been to the store for some time. He would simply say “Dear Mr. Customer, we haven’t seen you in Selfridges, we’re missing you and would love to have you back.” The result: people went back to his store and the rate of people leaving Selfridges for other department stores was reduced.
Everyone is a Client Relationship Officer
Finally, you need to make sure that your whole team is on-board with developing client intimacy. You have got to make sure that everybody in your business knows that they are, in fact, client relationship officers. They need to know that they need to connect with the customers at every level.
Next time, we are going to chat about what it is you can do once you have collected data and how you can use it to help nurture customer intimacy.
Do make it a point to visit part two in the next blog post!
I’m Mark Creedon from Red Monkey Coaching.