How to make every day feel like Valentine ’s Day by Carolyn Hall, Director, Confirmit

Relationships are a tricky business. Good ones can be hard to find in the first place, exhilarating in the early days, comfortable in the good times, hard to maintain when things go wrong – and potentially messy if a third party tries to get involved. But whether you are looking to woo your perfect Valentine or your first customer, certain home-truths hold true. Intent and sincerity are more important than financial issues. Consistency and reliability have more staying power than one-off gestures. Being the first one to say ‘sorry’ when you’ve done something wrong is always the right move.

Making each and every customer feel special, every day of the week and not just once a year, is getting harder and harder to achieve as the variety of ways they communicate with you increases. One-to-one relationships built up with individual customers over repeat visits are a rarity which means that the personal touch is harder to deliver – and yet customers still expect you to understand their needs and remember your history with them.

The best way to nurture these online relationships is to make social media and online communication work for you, not against you.

Remember the 5 key rules to a successful personal relationship, and your Voice of the Customer(VoC) programme will be a winner. Call it the Valentine of the Customer – just this once.

  1. Make every date feel like the first – Communicate with them effectively at every point in the customer journey.
    Context is critical so be careful not to silo customer feedback from past purchase information, customer service history and renewal data.Ensure that you link feedback to wider CRM and customer service data so that you can tailor each experience. Don’t make the customer repeat themselves or you will irritate and not ingratiate yourself with them, either resulting in a missed sales opportunity or no repeat business.
  2. Be attentive – Encourage your customers to speak their mind by offering feedback channels that suit them and listen to what they say so that you can make contextually rich comments and offer timely feedback and relevant products and services.
    Be sure to gather ALL feedback – structured and unstructured, online and offline, and increasingly via social media, in order to listen to larger groups of customers.Sentiment analysis of unstructured data gathered through sources like Twitter is now very possible, and can provide what effectively amounts to a focus group of millions of people to help identify what your customers really think and help to spot any potential problems early. This may seem counter-intuitive to building a personal relationship, but can provide insights that will improve the customer experience for all customers and that’s personal to them.
  3. Be the first to apologise – respond quickly to any questions, comments or complaints so that your customers know you care. If they are not happy with something you have done, do something about it immediately so that the rumour mill doesn’t have a chance to start spreading negative thoughts. Far better to let everyone know that you are working on a solution so that ‘friends of friends’ don’t turn one tiny problem into a viral tirade across social media.
    Many companies are now using text and social analytics to find out about issues like product defects long before the first complaints hit the call centre, giving them a head start on resolving issues and protecting their brand. It can also provide a guide on ways to develop your VoC programme – for example, identifying touchpoints you weren’t monitoring or ways in which customers would like to be able to interact with you.
  4. Say thank you – everyone likes to be appreciated so if they are complimentary about you, reward referrals and recommendations by continuing to add value to every interaction.
    Complacency must be avoided so be prepared to act upon all feedback – good and bad. Tell your customers that you have taken their advice on board, adapt processes if necessary and then tell them that you have taken direct action, as requested. Make sure that feedback drives change across the business or the promise of a better service won’t be delivered on the front line and your customers will never believe that you ‘mean what you say’ again and will stop providing their feedback.
  5. Be a grown-up – no relationship is static. The trick is moving forward and a determination to ‘keep working at it’.
    VoC Maturity takes many forms but the watch words here are vision (make sure you constantly check that you and your customers are on the same page, experiencing the same milestones along the way); design (strive for relevancy at all times, not just at the outset); engagement (understand your role in the customer experience, adapt as necessary and communicate at all times); action (early results are great but big wins in the long term are not impossible, keep focused on actions and change that have impact further down the line); and value (once initial goals are achieved, keeping looking for new ways to deliver value, whether it be operational, financial or cultural).

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