How to have a 24/7 relationship with your customers
Times are changing. We now live in a state where everyone and everything is connected. Where consumers expect more from the brands they buy from – more than automated messages from a blank face. They want something that is real, and which offers them value wherever they are and whenever they need it. They want a personal relationship.
Knowing this, it is little wonder that The State of Engagement (by Marketo) outlines email, websites, social media, live chat and apps & messaging (on mobile devices) as the top channels used by consumers to engage with brands and vendors. They are the easiest and most efficient way to connect.
Yet, for many businesses, particularly B2B or those in the insurance and financial sector, their main point of contact doesn’t occur in the digital world. No. Many still heavily rely on account managers and conversations over the phone to convey their message/advice.
Now, while there is no denying that this type of consumer interaction is personal and bespoke – everything consumers claim they want – limiting your main points of contact to phone conversations and one-to-one meetings (that can only occur during business hours), can be incredibly restricting. In one fail swoop you’ve traded accessibility for a false sense of intimacy.
That is why, if you really want to get with the programme and ensure you achieve the right balance between personal and remaining connected 24/7; you need to think outside the box and embrace all the advantages that come from using technology.
In many ways, technology can act as an interface, where customers can access your support 24/7, without ever having to know that the person behind the tool is not the same person. No waiting around for a call back. No having to wait until the next working day to hear from you. But the assurance that their query will be dealt with straight away.
In fact, by incorporating emails, live chats, messaging, apps and social media into your package; your clients can experience consistent and reliable levels of high customer service, whenever they need it, and never have to wait for a response.
In doing so, their relationship transcends from one between account manager and client, to one where they genuinely connect and become one with your business.
Why is it important to have a 24/7 relationship with customers?
FACT: 66% of B2B buyers and 56% of B2XC buyers expect interactions with vendors to be personalised.
Like we discussed above, client expectations are changing. While they crave personal relationships, they don’t want to be left waiting. If anything, they want fast and immediate responses, so they can move on with their day.
And this is evidenced in Marketo’s The State of Engagement. They discovered that 27% of B2C consumers and 24% of B2B consumers choose to not engage with brands and vendors because they feel like it is more work than it’s worth.
From having to listen to endless reels of sales spiel or reminders of company policies – when all they really want is their question answering – to having to deal with incessant calls from sales reps trying to garner repeat service; the prospect of these conversations makes them hesitant to pick up the phone.
Unsurprisingly, this lack of engagement can result in the loss of a lot of business. As proven by Marketo’s report. According to their research, only 51% of consumers will get in touch with a brand or vendor to request support, while only 74% will purchase something from them.
Add all of this together and what it evident is that if you want to remain successful, you need to bridge the gap and make customers recognise the worth of remaining connected. In other words, to build and maintain stronger relationships, you need to accept their desire for fewer sales rep calls and give them greater independence/freedoms whilst shopping.
And the easiest way to achieve this is to adopt customer-centric strategies and make yourselves accessible 24/7.
Take steps to improve their experience, drive their engagement, and boost their brand awareness, and not only can you satisfy their customer’s needs whenever they require your assistance. You can also remind them of the benefits your services can bring to their business, and keep them engaging with and talking about your company - which can lead to overall higher revenues later on.
The truth is, we are in the midst of a seismic shift. Every day new technologies are emerging which can help you to seamlessly build deeper ties with your customers, so you can address their needs the moment they arise (if not sooner). Instead, through customised digital interactions, you can offer them a friction-free experience that is efficient, convenient, cost-effective and tailored to their personal requirements.
How can you have a 24/7 relationship with your customers?
The first thing to remember is that the average lifecycle of your typical B2B customer is much longer than that of a retail one. It is not simple or straight forward; nor is it a simple process of exchanging services and products. Instead, it is deeper, meaningful and requires more time and consideration - from both of you – as your customers will view your relationship in higher regard. This can be seen in the various channels buyers will use in order to engage with your business. Twitter, email, filling in forms on your website...in their quest to remain in the know, they in turn expect consistency across every contact point.
Fortunately, you can meet these expectations head on by offering them an omnichannel experience using the following techniques. Adopt any of these strategies and you can ensure that you deliver consistent product information, customer service and details about their account whether they contact you online, in-store or speak to you over the phone.
Websites & Client Portals
It’s a given that in order to be discovered - and in turn attract new customers - your business needs a website. Yet, how useful is your website to your existing customers? Does it still offer them valuable information?
And herein lies the problem...
Consumers expect instant answers. They don’t want to spend countless hours searching for information. They want it at a click of a button. Knowing this, it stands to reason that having a website that regularly posts updates (about your business), and supplies FAQs or How-To Guides, will satisfy returning consumers, while also making a positive impression on potential new ones.
In one location they can find all the resources they need to answer all of their preliminary questions, without having to hop on the phone. But what about when it gets more technical, or when they need instant access to private/personal information? What can you do to ease their journey?
The simplest answer is to provide them with a customer portal. Not only does this eliminate the lengthy process of them having to wait for their account manager to gather the information they need (after trying to catch them on the phone in the first place); providing them with a customer portal will also:
- Enable customers to carry out generalised tasks on their own and in their own time – no matter the time of the day, they can complete their insurance claim, loan application or update their account information, without having to wait for your business hours.
TIP ONE: to enhance this service further, you might want to consider adding a chat function to your website. This can offer your customers a fast and efficient way to ask for support without them having to pick up the phone. In addition, by chatting to you through your site; there is no need for you to remind them of your policies, as they’ll already have access to it on your website. Instead, you can both get straight to the point.
TIP TWO: maximise their experience by minimising their effort. This means, you need to make navigating your website easy and stress free. From making products easy to search for, find and buy, to answering their questions in a concise FAQ; by creating an accessible interface that contains informative, transparent and engaging content, you will enhance their perceptions of your business.
TIP THREE: to help personalise customer experiences, it is worth evaluating their search and purchasing history. With the help of web analytics, you’ll be able to see which products they’ve researched or considered buying, as well as will be able to see their buying patterns. With this knowledge you’ll then be able to advertise customer-specific promotions on your website, including sales and deals.
Likewise, you can employ up-selling/cross-selling tactics which recommend products similar to the ones they’ve searched for. And this can make a massive difference to the relationships you form, as they’ll be able to see that you’ve taken the time to get to know them, their interests and their needs.
TIP FOUR: the biggest way to strengthen client/business relationships is to earn their trust. By supplying them with great customer service and reliable products, they will begin to believe in your business. Yet these are just your starting blocks. You need to consider their collective experience, as this will influence how loyal they remain to your company/brand.
Luckily, you can build confidence in your reputation, brand and reliability, by publishing useful content that can help them to better use and understand your products - as well as keep on top of industry trends. By becoming a figure of authority in your field – through reports, blogs and videos – your clients will look to you for advice and information.
Apps & Mobile
Most of the things you’ll be looking to do with a website – as discussed in the section above - can also be done through an app; which is handy if you feel that it would be more relevant to your consumers.
A prime example of this is client portals. With a tap of the app, they can jump onto their account and access the information they need, all whilst they are on the move i.e. travelling. And this same reasoning can be applied to other areas of your site.
The easier you can make it for them to gain instant access to relevant information, the more appreciative they will be of your business.
For instance, apps can also help you to:
- Send push notifications – these are designed to pop up onto their mobile phone screen and stay there until they see and dismiss it. This is quicker and more efficient than sending an email as there is no risk that it might be missed. Instead, as a bank or financial service, you can utilise this tool to send them notifications of when new statements on their account are ready to be read.
- Use location services to align your physical and digital presence – apps are a great way to attract clients into your physical store. Alongside using them to remind them of your existence and online deals; you can also send them notifications about in-store promotions when they are physically close to one of your stores. Simply set it up to activate when they are within a certain distance of your shop – so you aren’t always inundating them with notifications – and these message could prompt them into making a visit.
- Use smart personalisation and pre-qualifying factors on your mobile apps – the combination of these will shorten a customer’s service journey, as they’ll be taken to the correct person straight away (instead of being transferred from one department to the next). Again, this will enable them to access the products/services they need without any unnecessary delays or unwanted conversations.
- Messaging service – from live chat features, to supplying them with a text messaging service; these too can help you to maintain a 24/7 relationship with your clients, as you’ll be able to provide them with updates about the state of a case that is not only instant but written down (so there is no risk of miscommunication). Likewise, having a text customer support option, means they can reach out and not have to lose time phoning, explaining and waiting for a response.
FACT: according to the Content Marketing Institute, social media is the second most effective channel at distributing content to B2B audiences.
One of the key benefits to having a 24/7 relationship with your clients is being able to tell them when they need you, rather than you having to wait around for them to realise that they require your assistance.
Fortunately, social media can help. By enlisting the help of this powerful tool, you can reach out to your audience before they’re even actively looking for you. Instead, by positing a few carefully constructed messages, you’ll find that they’re the ones doing the chasing – not the other way around.
The trick to getting this right is first creating a strong social media strategy that aligns with your business objectives, before using content that will keep you at the forefront of your customer’s minds. With perfectly timed messages or references to newly published articles, you can remind them that they need you.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter... you can use these platforms to promote your company and products; post industry news/updates, and release authoritative pieces. At the same time, customers can use these networks to send direct messages, which your team can respond to straight away (without enlisting an account manager). In doing so, not only can you build up a repertoire with your customers; you can prove to them that you are responsive and willing to answer their questions/respond to feedback.
Another perk to social media is its ability to help you stay on the pulse. By encouraging customers to send you feedback and suggestions – positive or negative - you can use this information to ensure that you meet their needs and expectations. Likewise, social media can help you to come across as real and relatable, especially if you always respond and say thank you to their messages.
As you can see, ensuring that you’re customer-centric and readily available 24/7 can help you to build strong and lasting relationships with your customers. Instead, of them dreading picking up the phone; your apps, website, customer portals and social media accounts will make communication easy, instant and stress-free, while catering to their technological mind-set.
For assistance, implanting these ‘connected’ strategies and transforming them from ideas into reality, why not contact our team at Stunn today.