Rodolpho Cardenuto, president, applications group at Vonage, examines the ways businesses can redefine their customer relationships.
Back in 1936, American author and lecturer Dale Carnegie wrote in one of the most popular self-help books of all time that people could “make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than…in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” It’s a statement that sounds simple, but reflects the value of a whole-hearted commitment to a desired audience, and meeting the needs of others first to forge a lasting bond.
It’s particularly important in light of the way our world has changed as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Customer relationships aren’t necessarily friendships of course, but there are definitely parallels and lessons that businesses can learn from enduring ones to get to grips with the idea of ‘customer commitment’. Such a commitment will be vital in the future to ensure growth.
Building and executing a trust-infused vision
As with any long-term goal, businesses need to define clearly what they want their customer experience (CX) to be. This can be practically achieved by compiling a clear vision statement, to create a point of reference for employees to direct them as to how to approach the customer on their journey together.
When drafting a customer-centric vision statement, it’s wise to focus on key expectations from customers. This requires a commitment to understanding who your customers are and what they expect, which in turn necessitates actions such as carrying out research into their likes, wants and needs. In this way, you’ll be more prepared to create a long lasting vision to guide you throughout the future.
Effective execution builds trust in the relationship by association as businesses acquire a reputation for good customer experiences – and the buzz around new technologies should not detract from this focus. For example, these days more elements of the contact centre are becoming automated – artificial intelligence (AI) is able to manage low level tasks, with agents managing more complex issues.
No customer wants to feel ‘managed’, and how agents interact with someone that is angry or upset is crucial, especially in the early days of a relationship. To ensure that is the case, providing training to ensure they’re confident in talking and dealing with customers is vital – both to their professional development and to build trust with customers.
Proving the relationship is valued
When reaching out, customers expect to access a business in the manner they find most convenient, whether that’s face-to-face conversations, phone or email, social media and beyond. If your offering doesn’t include an omnichannel service experience that accounts for all the ways people communicate in the modern age, it can give the impression that your business expects customers to interact with you only on your terms. This can demonstrate a lack of customer commitment, which is a recipe for resentment and lost sales down the line.
So how do you learn what your customer values in a relationship? Open and honest customer feedback is vital, and devising a systematic approach to gathering customer feedback gives your business the opportunity to hear what your customers think of the CX you provide. Building feedback loops into your communication strategy is a great way to listen to and learn from your customers. For instance, a well-integrated CRM can help implement automated tools such as post-call surveys that provide even more insightful feedback. Such methods allow you to optimise your customer service to ensure it’s as personalised as possible.
Listening to customer feedback is only part of the process. The key to progress is putting that feedback into action and tailoring it to the audience, which means your customer profiles must be kept up to date. Offering a personalised experience means continually reviewing your customers’ preferences and iterating accordingly as new insights are acquired, so that you’re able to burnish those deep customer connections.
Customer relationship management, like many CX disciplines, has been fundamentally altered by the rise of chatbots and automated self-service technologies. Today, customers are conditioned to expect 24/7 access to help and support with a smooth, friction-free customer experience – and won’t hesitate to go elsewhere if they don’t have their needs met. Automated self-service tools have enabled businesses to scale up their offerings to adapt to these needs – but the role of the human agent has not been completely rendered redundant.
In fact, they still hold advantages over machines in the most vital arena where managing the customer experience is concerned: developing positive relationships. The average chat-bot is programmed to run rule-based code, which means they use a list of pre-set rules to handle queries and can only respond to simple requests. When the conversation goes “off-script” as per the chat-bot’s programmed routines – if it mutates in terms of complexity or emotional demands for example – the bot will not be able to meet the customer’s needs at that point. To combat this, chatbot-to-agent escalation paths must be programmed to ensure a real person can connect the dots in your customers’ omni-channel journey, for an optimal customer journey.
The holy grail of customer commitment practice lies in synthesising all points of contact with the customer in such a way that it becomes seamless – and it should be the guiding principle behind actioning the above advice. In centralising all data inputs within one omnichannel contact centre solution, you are able to show that you value their business. For example, if you use Salesforce to manage your customer relationships, you’ll need a way to effortlessly transfer interactions from digital to voice in order to personalise conversations effectively, regardless of location, device, or channel.
As with all relationships of value, the key to harmony and growth lies in continuously listening, improving and valuing your contemporary’s contributions, fostering a deeper relationship. In business it’s the same – and doing so enables both sides to trust more deeply, intertwining for mutual growth and commitment. So why not take the opportunity to redefine your customer relationships and commit more deeply?