How to Build Real Customer Relationships in the Digital Age
Businesses that work to build relationships with customers can quickly set themselves apart from the competition. The power of customer marketing—through engagement, retention and advocacy—turns happy customers into a happier bottom line. Here's how to achieve it.
Do you live to work or work to live? Or does it even matter?
Because the truth is that we’re all people with lives outside of work. So the more you can mesh the two—combine personal happiness with professional fulfillment—the better for your total life.
The same is true for business. Customers, after all, are people, too.
As a customer marketing professional, my mission is to focus on the happiness of customers—their needs, likes, and dislikes, their environment, even their moods.
I’ve discovered this: Businesses that work to build relationships with customers can quickly set themselves apart from the competition. Happy customers make for a happier bottom line.
Simple, right? But understanding how to achieve this didn’t come to me overnight. You could say I learned it by happy accident.
As a student I loved studying French and had dreams of living abroad. But making that happen took effort and planning. Majoring in International Business was the first step. But that still didn’t guarantee me an international job.
Then I got the idea to scour lists of local businesses with global ties. That’s how I came to work for Arkeia Software (acquired by Western Digital), a small data protection firm with offices in California and France.
As Marketing Communications Specialist I communicated with customers around the globe. Working for an international firm with a global customer community provided valuable insights into how customers can differ in how they think and act, just by location.
I also witnessed how customer behavior closely followed the level of customer service they received.
But then it was time to follow my own heart—and a boy (now my husband)—and relocate.
The move led me to take a new job at Epicor Software. There I focused on building customer engagement and retention through in-person interactions and the tool of personalization.
• Understanding your customer.
• Understanding your customer’s industry.
• Tailoring plans to achieve specific results.
• Choosing content based on environment and location.
• Providing ongoing personal support.
• Being flexible to make changes based on customer needs or project growth.
Customer marketing is no longer just about grabbing new customers and generating leads. It’s all about personalizing the customer experience to engage and retain existing customers.
Once again, the rules of personal happiness apply to business happiness. In our personal lives, if we all ran around forging new relationships and forgetting our old friends, would we have any old friends left?
In the same way, businesses must work for customer engagement and retention. But it pays off—it’s always cheaper to keep an old customer than to get a new one.
The company which invests time and effort in customer communication, engagement, and retention can also achieve a connection of value and depth. Not only can you ensure a customer has a positive experience with your company, but by taking the time to talk and understand their needs you can pinpoint new opportunities for providing higher levels of product or service. That benefits everyone.
Today, as Senior Customer Marketing Manager at HireRight, I map the total value of customer marketing throughout our process.
Thanks to technology, that’s easier than ever. But how do you direct the conversation, or gauge its results?
HireRight uses Influitive B2B marketing software. It’s specially designed for customer advocacy marketing so it helps us not only engage with customers around the globe, but easily gauge the effects.
The results have been transformational.
Influitive’s technology allows us to engage customers on multiple fronts in different ways in a relaxed and continuing conversation. Its customer advocacy features allow us to measure how much customers are willing to give back to our company through writing reviews or performing advocate challenges.
It’s that continuing conversation—Influitive’s ability to build an engaged customer base we call HireRight Heroes—that sold both our CEO and CRO on the platform. In fact, they encouraged the customer marketing team to use it, and not the other way around! When technology makes it so easy to measure and gauge customer interaction, the entire company wants to rally around it.
It’s a thrill to hear from customers who appreciate us. We are finding happy customers we didn’t hear from in the past, and using Influitive allows us to reach and engage with them.
But not only are customers able to talk directly to our company, they also benefit from conversations with each other. They share best practices, insider knowledge, and practical tips.
We are finding a big percentage of customers who weren’t even aware of all of HireRight’s capabilities until they started participating in HireRight Heroes. This ability to offer added value to our base just through new modes of communication has been a huge win.
We’re now exploring the use of this technology to educate customers on frequent customer service issues to improve ease of use (and limit the number of customer service calls). Plus, we are engaging with our customers to decide what’s next for HireRight. We regularly ask customers to submit ideas then vote on each other’s ideas too. Another way we are able to engage more closely with customers and improve our business is asking what questions they had as a new customer. Let’s figure out how to make it even easier for new customers to join the HireRight family.
Being able to engage with customers also allows us sometimes to simply thank them.
This past Valentine’s Day, for example, we used Influitive to ask customers for their favorite kind of chocolate—milk? dark? white?—and then mailed each customer who responded their favorite chocolate bar. We included a handwritten note thanking them for being a part of our HireRight Heroes community.
The response was overwhelming.
We received so much positive feedback, with letters like: Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you just sent me a chocolate bar! That just shows how much you go out of the way for your customers! For the tiny investment of some candy and thank-you notes, that payoff is priceless.
But while working for happy customers, there’s another community which shouldn’t be neglected—employees.
The same techniques you use to reach outside the company can be used to engage with co-workers.
On National Superhero Day, for example, many of our employees dressed as superheroes at work. They used the platform to post selfies and engage in fun conversations that provided all sorts of positive feedback.
It’s all about building better relationships through better communication. With customers. With co-workers. Even in your personal life.
Here’s to finding your sweet spot, whether you work to live, live to work, or some happy combination of both.