Connecting with customers is more than just communication. Connecting is a strategic effort to create relationships beyond the initial transaction. It involves communication, but it is so much more.
Why is connecting important? Because connected customers tend to become repeat customers, and repeat customers are vital to business success. Also, it is less expensive, and therefore more profitable, to KEEP a customer than to create a new one. Connected customers may not need to be enticed to come back, they come back because they want to. They may make more frequent purchases and become advocates for your business.
Connection is a two-way street. Both parties, you and your customer, have different perspectives and different needs. You each seek something and you both have something to give. What do you want from a customer relationship?
- A sale, reasonable profit, loyalty and referrals.
What about your customers? What do they seek from you?
- Quality/value, honesty, information and support.
If your business provides what the customer wants, it is far more likely the customer will give you what you want.
The customer connection begins even before your first personal interaction. The image of your business plays a role in how you are initially perceived. If you present your business as friendly, knowledgeable, trustworthy and providing value, then the customer will come to you expecting a positive experience. Your website, advertising, social media presence and store appearance all have an impact on your image and customer expectations.
NOTE: 80 percent of “big ticket” consumers surveyed begin their product search online, and 28% of Synchrony big ticket shoppers go to a retailer’s website first. (Source: Synchrony’s annual Major Purchase Consumer Survey, 2017.)
The first actual meeting, the initial in-person selling experience, is an important factor in customer loyalty. This is where the connection begins, so it is essential to provide a great experience wherever that first encounter takes place: your store, in the home, at a trade show or on the phone.
The key to a successful initial meeting is listening. Ask questions, get to know the customer and find out their actual need, not just what they came in to buy. Their need is why your business exists, so meeting that need within their budget and to their satisfaction is essential for sales success. Remember that consumers typically want options, both in product choice and payment options. In your discussion, help the customer avoid potential problems, provide value and assure them of support after the sale. And, make sure they do a fair share of the talking.
This first encounter sets the stage for future interactions, so it is important to establish trust. If they trust you, they could be more likely to buy from you and perhaps become a repeat customer. They may also provide their contact information, which is extremely valuable in establishing a connection.
If they are willing to share their contact information, then you can begin to communicate with them on an ongoing basis. It is important that you do not abuse this privilege.
- Overcommunicating is a turn off and can kill the connection. When you communicate, here are three things to remember:
- Provide useful information – a special sale or discount, new product offering, seminar or something else of real value to the customer.
- Make it personal – use their name and pronouns such as “you” and “I.” Write as if you are writing to a friend, and keep it brief. And remember to acknowledge their birthday, purchase anniversary and other milestone dates.
- Online communication can be an effective way to connect with your customers – although which channel may depend on the age demographic. Younger consumers may prefer Instagram or a text, while older customers make prefer traditional email or Facebook.
Responding to customers is a powerful connectivity tool, too. If they reach out to you with a question or complaint, get back to them right away, the sooner the better. A same-day response is best, but certainly within 48 hours. In the customer’s mind, the swiftness of your reply reveals the value you place on their business.
You are an expert in your business. You know more about your products than anyone (or you should). Customers look to you for answers. Become their trusted advisor. But also beware; make sure you know the correct information. Make sure you’re up-to-date on all the latest industry innovations, trends and local news.
You can become a trusted advisor by sponsoring or participating in events. Host seminars or webinars. Become a media contact for your area of expertise. Use social media to create friend groups relevant to your business. The goal is to make your business a hub of information and activity for your area of expertise. This will encourage customers to value their connection with you.
It is great to feel appreciated. Show your customers their value by reinforcing their behavior through connectivity.
Service after the sale is a great way to connect with customers and make them feel appreciated. Any time you can solve a problem or make something right for a customer, do so, even if it doesn’t make complete financial sense for you. Going out of your way to make a customer happy can reap significant rewards for your business. Your customers will feel special, it adds value to the purchase and it enhances your reputation for honesty and integrity.
Reward programs are a great way to connect with customers. Points or gifts for purchases are good incentives and provide extra value to the purchaser. An in-store credit card program can offer several benefits to both consumer and retailer. Store cards promote ongoing communication with the customer through special credit offers and other member benefits.
Note: 82 percent of Synchrony cardholders surveyed say they are likely to shop the retailer more often because they have the store’s card. (Source: Synchrony’s annual Major Purchase Consumer Survey, 2017.)
Connecting with customers is not a campaign, it is a commitment. It is a business philosophy that impacts every aspect of your organization every day. Consumers are always looking for businesses they can trust. Earn their trust in that initial visit then grow it through strategic and consistent communication. Stay connected and you will make customers for life.