Creating a Culture of Connectivity

How to Make Customer Relationship Building Part of Your Company Culture

By Julie Escobar

Our economy is on the move and wise business owners are on the move as well to make sure that their customers are more than just a name on a mailing list – they’re real people with real connectivity to their organizations and the people who service them.  It’s no longer enough to “touch base” once a year, or to call only when you’re bottom line needs a boost.  The tough financial times faced by North Americans over the last few years created a much different consumer than of the past.

Today’s customer is more cautious with their cash, less tolerant of poor service or poor communication and quick to seek alternatives where there is no relationship to tie them to any one company for their product or service needs.  So how do you create a company-wide culture of truly caring for customers and building those solid relationships?

You take it one step at a time.

Step One:  Get it together. If you haven’t already (and you’d be surprised at how many haven’t)—really pull together your customer list.  Get your team together, brainstorm about it, review it, see who your best customers are and figure out WHY they’re your best customers.  What makes them different?  How did you find them or how did they find you?  Is everyone in your customer database?  If not – why not?  Review your system for adding new leads and new customers into your database and make sure you’ve put definitive measures in place to make sure you are capturing all of your customer information in a contact management solution on a daily or weekly level.

Step Two:  Good news. Every business has grumpy clients.  Those “tough nuts” and “pain in the rear” customers who everyone likes to digress about around the water cooler.  Smart managers nip the trash talk in the bud though and instead seek out the kind of good customer news or great experiences that motivate their work team to WANT to get out there and talk to customers.  Host a testimonial contest among your staff and let the good news grow.   It’s a great way to spotlight the success of your team members, talk about the good experiences of your customers and gain valuable material for future marketing opportunities.  Ask your customers first if they mind if you use their testimonial and then post it to your social networks, add to your blog or website, and include in your printed marketing materials.

Step Three:  WIIFM? What station are you tuned into?  Customers from the beginning of time until the end of time will always be tuned into WIIFM—or the “What’s In It For Me channel.”  Far too much you’ll find a company’s marketing, promotion, internal chatter and external sales pitch all about themselves and their company.  Customers don’t care what you know until they know that you care.  Make it all about them, direct your advertising, marketing and conversations towards what their biggest want and need is and you’ll soon find customers throwing up their hands to say – “Hey, that’s me – I want some of (your product or service!)  Talk to your team members about what they are hearing out there in the field from customers.  What do they want?  What are they asking for?  How do they feel about your product or service?  Then take that extra step – the one MOST companies fail to do.  Actually do something about it. Find new ways to give them what they want.

Step Four:  Technology tools. Social media has made networking and connecting easier than ever, but like anything else – it only works if you use it and use it wisely.  Learn the rules of engagement in terms of using sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for business applications.  Set up a fan page – share – but don’t be one of those people who “share too much” – you know who you are!  Have a generous blend of personal, professional, sales-pitch, helpful hints and one-on-one engagement.  If your page is only about you and pet — pictures of you in, well let’s just say, “less than adult behavior – or too adult behavior for some” or a testament to your mad skills at playing Farmville, Mafia Wars or Restaurant City, then it’s not something you want to share with your customer base.  By the same token if it’s ALL a sales pitch – people don’t want to be “friends” with that either.

A little personal lets them know you’re real and let’s people get to know what kind of person you are and your integrity level and makes you relatable.  A little business lets them know you are proud of what you do and that your customers and your profession are important.  It also keeps people aware that you are there when they need you.  A little sales-pitch such as special offers, coupons, events and promotions peak their interest and create a call to action.  A little one-on-one such as an individual email, a post on someone’s page, a recognition of a customer-or a team member are all great ways to promote an individual connection.

Step Five:  Front and center! Now, for those of you who grew up with a military dad, I probably just conjured up all kinds of memories, sorry!  For the rest of you, know that when you want the attention of someone (or a lot of someones – such as customers) – it’s important to make sure everyone is front and center.  Your customers, however nice, won’t remember you if you don’t make it a point to remember them and be consistent in your “presence.”  That means showing up not once, not twice but at least once a month in terms of mailings, phone calls, emails or social networking posts.  That “stealth” stuff is great for military guys like dear old dad – but will earn you zero in terms of top of mind awareness with your customer base!

Ultimately we’re all in a people business.  So get out there and start connecting and re-connecting and make that a practice that is celebrated and rewarded within your team.  When you do, your company will grow, your team members’ confidence will grow, and your customers will not only do more business with you – but they’ll happily refer their friends and family as well.   Connectivity – what a concept!

Wishing you every success this month and remember we’re here to help ensure you’re always building the career you imagined! Need help? Call us at 1.800.287.5710 today!