We can find a hundred articles a day online today about “customer engagement” but to me, a good deal of it sounds like lip service – slick advice about how to appear deeply interested in and connected to your customer, and how to “convince” (dare I say “trick”) customers into thinking you really care. “In reality, says Zendesk’s Founder and CEO Mikkel Svane, “many organizations still view customer service as a cost center that is an unfortunate necessity.”
I was intrigued to learn about Svane’s new book, Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea into a Global Business that shares the real-life story of how he and two thirty-something Danish friends started a company in the kitchen of a Copenhagen loft. It’s a modern “making it in Silicon Valley story” that will resonate with founders just getting started to serial entrepreneurs with similar battle scars. It’s a story of people who pursued their dream—and who against a lot of odds had a chance to live it. It’s also a story about growing up—and how balancing vulnerability and curiosity isn’t always easy. Now, Zendesk is an 800-person company based in San Francisco that has made a significant impact on the customer service industry in just seven years, with over 45,000 clients in 140 countries.
Svane shares this:
“You often hear this advice heading into marriage: don’t stop working at making the relationship better, and don’t ever take the other person for granted. Learning how to build a great customer relationship is not that different from learning how to build meaningful relationships in our personal lives. The sooner we are able to understand that we are not the center of the universe, and that it is a privilege for us to be in the lives of our customers, the better our company will do.
In my new book Startupland, I chronicle our entrepreneurial journey from three guys in a Copenhagen loft to launching and building Zendesk, a global cloud-based customer service platform. It’s a very personal story about how we started in the early days, but most importantly, it’s about all the relationships that shaped us along the way. These experiences have deeply impacted our company culture and values and how we interact with our customers on a daily basis.
Along this journey, we learned some great tips on how to build better relationships with customers. Here are five of my own customer engagement secrets to help improve your business.”
Svane’s five customer engagement best practices are:
Consider the entire customer experience.
Customers have a much better memory than companies do. The better you are at putting yourself in their shoes and having empathy to see what the entire customer journey looked like for them, the more successful you will be. The customer who was extremely excited and waited in line for hours to buy the new iPhone is the same person who tweets and blogs about it when it breaks. Those two moments are connected, and you must connect the dots.
Recognize the right relationships and adapt.
Not every relationship is created equal. Some friends are great to meet up with at the bars, others are lifelong friends you keep in touch with despite differing geographies, and others simply wave when you pass by. The goal is to have the right relationship with each individual – and being able to speak to each person in a language that resonates with them. This requires becoming skilled at reading people. Figure out how to accept and improve the relationships you have, and say “no” when a customer relationship is unhealthy.
Tip: Ever heard of the book, The 5 Love Languages? The New York Times bestseller posited that people give and receive love in different languages, and that it’s all about making sure two people are speaking the right languages to each other. Although the book is meant for personal relationships, it’s a great concept you can apply to customer relationship building. Each customer is unique and can feel “loved” in different ways. Does one customer care more about the tone to which they are spoken? Or another care less about tone and more about a quick solution? Think about what these categories are and how you can speak the right language to the right person.
Be something actual humans can relate to.
People like talking to humans, not robots. Back in the day, when we were first starting out with the company, we tried making fancy emails that were perfect and without typos. No one responded. Then we decided we would change it up a bit. We’d craft more personal and unique opening sentences. We added spelling errors. Soon, we realized that we were getting a higher response rate. Once our customers saw that there was a human being (and not a robot) writing all these responses, they were more willing to write us back and interact with us.
If you asked any customer to choose between a “bot” that worked behind some virtual customer service desk versus a real, smiling, human being, of course they would choose the latter. It is not just a “nice to have” when it comes to having a personality as a company, it is vital, when customers have so many other choices in the marketplace. Many companies don’t succeed because they forget to be human.
Tip: In every message that you send to customers, leave one line where you add in something unique and personal. Is your customer back in the east coast going through the worst storm of the year? Include a line wishing that they are staying safe and warm this week. Talk to them like you would talk to your friend.
Empower people to do what’s best.
You should always encourage your employees to act like people. This means giving them the freedom and room to be who they are – listen how they would listen to a friend – or solve a problem creatively, with their special touch. Did you really screw up on an order? Send them a pizza with the words “I’m Sorry” spelled out in pepperoni. I am sure your customer would appreciate this much more than a canned “I’m Sorry” email. Little mistakes or inefficiencies will inevitably occur when you allow people to make their own decisions, but the business can embrace these as the very things that make the business easier for customers to relate to – and ultimately, more human.
Tip: Encourage each member of your customer service team to come up with one thing that is their “personal signature.” Do they love inserting funny GIFs into messages to get a smile from a customer? Do they have one “grand gesture” they can offer if there is a key customer you’re trying to make happy or win back (i.e. spontaneous pizza delivery)? Empower them to bring to the table how they can best help customers in their own personal, unique voices.
Be truly transparent.
Once you lift the veil between you and your customer and they see that you are being real with them, you’d be surprised how much more empathy you will get from their end. People relate to and appreciate organizations that are open and honest. It’s not a perfect world, and sometimes you will not be able to serve up a solution on a silver platter in exactly the way they would want. Give them all the information you have – good or bad – and in a timely manner. We are up against years of people feeling like companies are not on their side and that they are out to get them with hidden fees and confusing return policies. The only way to build the kind of trust that lasts is to show your cards.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to share reasons for a delay in response. Are you understaffed because a team member had a personal family emergency? Share that. Once you show that behind your brand is a team of real, breathing people, just like them, it becomes easier to build a mutual understanding of trust and empathy.
Finally, remember there has never been a more important time for a company to focus on building authentic, real, relationships with their customers than now. For a lot of businesses, building customer loyalty means rewarding repeat behavior. You buy a sandwich five times and you get the fifth one free – but are they coming back because they love your sandwiches and the interactions they have with your employees, or are they coming back for a free meal? Customers are people who have a very tangible experience with your product and brand, and it should be the mission of your company to make sure it is an authentic and meaningful one. The customer voice has never been louder.
To view the original article please visit: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2015/01/19/5-customer-engagement-best-practices-that-will-dramatically-boost-your-business/3/