Keeping customer service relationships fresh and making on-going customer relationships unique and effective is a challenge. But Steve Cody with PepperCom recently outlined some great methods for keeping that customer relationship going strong, what Steve calls “romancing the customer”. I’ll outline his 7 ways to keep customer service relationships fresh.
Here’s a list of strategies to ensure that long-standing customer service relationships never grow old:
1. Keep customers involved in the product or customer service development process.
I periodically ask customers what “non-public relations” business issues are keeping them up at night. I want them to know I care about their entire job universe and, with a little insight, just might be able to help find a new partner to ease some of their non-PR pain. Customer service is the frontline in creating the customer relationship. Every action, word, and behavior in customer service demonstrate the value of the organization places on the customer.
2. Use customer service to seek customer feedback.
I take time to periodically ask myself the following question, “What can I do to make my customer look like a hero to his chief executive officer?” Again, sometimes I draw a blank. Other times, I come up with “Have you ever thought of doing such and such…” questions that show the customer I’m really thinking about him and his career. Great customer service requires a proper understanding of the customer. Each customer is different. Each organization caters to a different customer segment. Getting frequent, useful feedback from customers will help us carefully craft customer service to best meet the needs of the customer.
3. With every business decision, consider the overall customer service experience.
I put myself in my customer’s customers’ shoes and experience the brand from the outside in. The best customer service people know how to think like the customer. They say and do the things that THEY would want done if they were the customer. This is a game changer and never ceases to amaze a customer. So, sometimes I:
- Become a mystery shopper and experience the customer’s product in a neutral setting such as a Lowe’s or Home Depot.
- Visit the website to see how easy it to find critical information.
- Dial the customer service 1-800-customer service line to see how quickly my “complaint” is handled.
I then report my findings as well as any suggestions for improvement. I’ve yet to meet a customer of longstanding who doesn’t appreciate the sweat equity involved in performing any of the above.
4. Send personal notes to customers on special occasions.
Customer service is where you most easily connect with customers. Encourage customer service team members to follow up and personally let customers know they care. I send customers a “thank you for your business” note on each and every anniversary of the signing of our very first contract. For other customer types, it may be randomly sending out holiday cards, or in more retail settings, having thank you tokens in place at a store to show customers your appreciation.
5. Share interesting, pertinent information about the industry or related to the product or service.
I share breaking news on competitors. Nothing, and I mean nothing, motivates a chief executive officer more than beating her competition to the punch. One of the best ways to make your direct customer service report look good is by arming him with competitive news before the CEO knows about it. He, in turn, can then present it to the CEO and look smart (and strategic) in the process.
6. Ask customers to participate in the product or service testing process.
I ask if I can shadow a customer (or his sales force) for a day. Nothing delights a customer more than an outside partner’s willingness to invest time in learning more about the business of their business. Sometimes, nothing comes out of it. Other times, I’ve been able to uncover subtle nuances that enable me to tweak the public relations program in order to make it even more effective. Regardless, the customer always appreciates the extra time and effort invested.
7. Don’t just focus on acquiring new customers, make sure you’re developing for your existing customers too.
I hold periodic, internal account audits in which I invite employees who are not working on the customer’s business to review what we’re doing and suggest alternative approaches. Once again, I sometimes uncover pearls and other times turn up nothing at all. But, I always make sure the customer knows we’re investing additional time in thinking through creative solutions to his marketing challenges. These small steps can easily be overlooked, but they make a major impact on how customer service is perceived and contribute to an exceptional customer experience.
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