Consider, for a moment, your local coffee shop. It doesn’t serve frappuccinos like the Starbucks on the next block. It may not boast an extensive menu of pastries and sandwiches.
What this local shop does offer is a certain level of intimacy and connection. Each server knows your usual order by heart and even the owner goes to the register to ring up your bill and ask about your weekend.
These small interactions can add value to what may seem like ordinary transactions and let business owners connect more deeply with their customers. They can also help entrepreneurs sustain customer loyalty and gather crucial feedback.
Whether your company has 100 customers or 100,000, you can do six simple things to build stronger connections between your company and its customers:
1. Maintain an active social media presence.
According to a survey released in September by Domo and CEO.com, Fortune 500 CEO participation on Twitter rose 46 percent in a year. The more executives understand the value of social media, the more they can further capitalize on opportunities to engage with their followers.
Consider joining Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social platform that aligns with your core business goals, then connect with your customers on a personal level. Share stories that are relevant to your followers, reply to customers' messages and show your personality when appropriate.
2. Write to customers.
It’s often simpler to stay in direct contact with customers when your business is small. As your company grows, you may find that you need more creative communication tools.
Email-campaign managers such as Constant Contact and MailChimp can help you develop and distribute email newsletters. You might also wish to begin a blog for your startup or author a column in a publication read by your target audience.
Write in an authentic voice, and your clients will get to know you better and will likely gain a greater appreciation for the company you’re building.
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3. Make it easy to be in touch.
Make it simple for customers to reach you when they have something to tell you and let them connect with a real person within your business. My company, Varsity Tutors, for instance, relies on a messaging system that lets clients communicate with the firm using a messaging box located on their dashboard.
Clients can quickly message either a local team or me (the CEO) directly. The ability for customers to directly message the chief leads to greater accountability from client-service teams and serves as an important release valve if someone is ever frustrated.
This lets me devote more resources to a situation and ensure that the client concern is quickly resolved.
4. Solicit regular feedback.
With tools such as SurveyMonkey and Google Forms, you can easily and inexpensively collect customer feedback to apply to the company's improvement. Responses from surveys could also become a rich source of customer testimonials.
5. Meet your clients in person.
As your business grows, it can be difficult to find the time to meet your customers in person and listen to their stories. Consider making this activity a periodic event.
The methods selected don’t have to be elaborate in order for them to be effective nor do they have to be large scale. Just receiving some face-to-face feedback, as opposed to digitized feedback only, will help you better understand your clients' needs.
6. Clearly communicate with the team.
Ultimately, your most effective technique for connecting with customers is to engage the frontline staff. These are the people whom customers see and speak with every day. So ensure that members of your team understand your company’s mission, business strategy and how to deliver an incredible customer experience.
Building meaningful connections with customers need not be difficult. What it does require is a concerted effort from team members to make maintaining customer connections a priority.
Whether you’re interacting with customers through social media, over the phone or in person, keep in mind those conversations that happen within that local mom-and-pop shop. While you may not know each of your customers by name, that’s the level of connection you should strive for.