4 Tips to Reignite the Spark With Customers During Uncertain Times
It should be evident that a focus on customers is crucial for success, and that's especially so during this uncertain period. Without customers, there’s no business.
As with long-term romantic relationships, though, it’s easy for companies to become too complacent with longtime customers. Companies that fall into this trap eventually fail. If you can’t keep the partnership exciting, your customers won’t want to stick around.
So how can a company keep its existing customer relationships feeling fresh, both under normal circumstances and during the stress of a pandemic? Think of it like “dating” again in a long-term relationship. By reinvigorating your relationships with veteran customers, you’ll be able to serve them better and keep them coming back—even amid uncertainty.
The Customer Relationship Cycle
Like a romantic relationship, the first phase of a customer relationship is about making an impression. We wear our best clothes and present our most impressive selves to stand out from the competition. The concept is simple: Make a great impression, and you’ll have a solid foundation.
Early on in a romantic relationship, you usually find your significant other’s foibles to be cute or endearing. As time passes, your patience might begin to wear thin. The same thing happens in customer relationships: A longtime customer might tolerate minor inconveniences for a while, but the damage to the relationship can be irreparable once that tolerance reaches its limit.
Why does this happen? It’s surprisingly easy for partners—both romantically and in business—to slip into complacency. Companies can become too comfortable and relaxed with their not-so-new customers, leading to leniency and neglect. Follow-ups may take longer or fall off completely, and requests may be delayed or ignored. Once the relationship reaches this point, reviving it takes a massive effort.
When this happens, it’s time to rekindle the “dating” phase. Your job is to impress your customers all over again and to nurture those relationships until you once again feel sparks.
At this stage, proactive thinking and need assessments are crucial. According to a report from Salesforce, 73 percent of customers think companies should know their needs. Customers know their needs best, which means companies must continue to ask questions to get to the heart of the matter. A good partner stays up to date on the other person’s preferences—no matter how long they’ve been together or what’s going on in the world.
Bringing the ‘Romance’ Back to Customer Relationships
Once you understand your customers’ needs, it’s time to reinforce your relationships. Here’s how to do it during a pandemic (no romantic dinners required):
Relationships evolve. If your significant other is learning another language, exercising regularly, and earning a promotion at work while you spend every free minute on the couch, he or she might not be happy. In the same way, a company that doesn’t seek to improve itself will lose customers to companies that are pushing forward and innovating to stay relevant during this pandemic.
Where should you begin? Let customers be your guide. Their perspectives can spark and influence your growth. A great example of this is Netflix. The media juggernaut has millions of customers, and it uses behavioral data to listen to them. Netflix uses this information to determine exactly what customers want and then deliver that content.
Engagement keeps any relationship on track. Customers want the same attention that impressed them in the first place. Thankfully, the benefits are noteworthy: Engaged customers lead to 23 percent higher profits, according to a Gallup study.
Creating lasting engagement is tricky since the methods are always changing, and this is especially the case in the disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the best ways to provide engagement, though, is with omnichannel marketing. It ensures customers have seamless experiences regardless of whether they’re browsing your website, using your app, or visiting one of your stores (once the need for social distancing has passed). Good relationships are built on communication, and omnichannel tactics allow for an easier back-and-forth between you and your customers even when you can’t do it in person.
Of course, engagement alone is not enough. Some couples see each other every day, but the spark between those partners may still be dimmed. If neither person is bringing energy to the relationship, it’s sure to flame out. The same is true of relationships with customers.
Admittedly, some industries have it easier than others: Sports teams naturally bring energy every time they play. Win or lose, positive or negative, fans—the customers—have an intense experience with the brand. Companies in other industries can spark similar relationship energy, though. A customer engagement team might be able to create more personal connections and positive experiences away from the screen. During a pandemic, team members could reach out to customers individually to ensure they’re getting what they need.
To maintain a strong customer relationship during these uncertain times, find ways to demonstrate your empathy, sensitivity, and flexibility. Everyone is feeling the strain of what this pandemic means for their families, friends, and businesses.
One way to connect with your customers is to show that you genuinely care about your partnership by offering leniency with invoices. Give customers who are struggling financially the option to pay in installments or extend deadlines, for example. By showing that you understand what your customers are going through, you will make them that much more likely to stick around now and in the future, despite economic uncertainty.
Customer relationships are so much more than transactions. Companies that remain successful in the long term are the ones that woo their customers and find ways to keep them happy during uncertain, stressful times. If you evolve, engage, and bring energy and empathy to your relationships, your company will enjoy similar success.
Vince Dawkins, president and CEO of Enertia Software, has worked with industry-leading organizations, and he has been integral in developing the Enertia application into a resource used by more than 150 leaders in the upstream oil and gas industry.