In the world of online business creating a relationship with your customers can be difficult.
As the world today becomes more automated and everyday tasks are performed in virtual environments, face-to-face interaction has become more scarce than ever. For instance, I bought dog food over the weekend and didn’t have to talk to a single person to get it! However, today’s virtual world is a vacuum of interpersonal relationships, and that is one of the things customers are quick to criticise when it comes to the online marketplace. Online businesses today are all faced with the question: how do you maintain the convenience of your online store while still giving customers that personal touch that keeps them coming back?
First, let’s talk about brand voice and how you can use it to engage your customers. Consider the type of language in your customer-facing interactions. If you’ve developed auto responses to common queries, you need to make them sound like there’s nothing automatic about them. Use conversational language, as though you were writing to a friend. A little dose of casual speech goes a long way: consider the difference between, “Your request has been received and will be processed in 24-48 hours,” and, “Thanks, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can, usually within just a couple of days.” Even when customers know the message has been sent automatically, using friendly language can make them feel like they’ve interacted with a human, and can strengthen their loyalty to your brand.
Next, keep in touch when it comes to orders that have been in placed, and in as many ways as possible. Customers love to be updated on what they have ordered (even if it’s just dog food). I recently received three separate alerts that a package has been delivered to my home – and I loved all of them! In fact, I want more: I am still waiting for a delivery company to provide a GPS tracker so I can see where the delivery truck is at all times. Customers are excited about receiving their purchases, so make sure they know the status of their order every step of the way. Give the customers the ability to select how often and in what way they want to be contacted, then give them all the information you can. When I recently had a ring made, we received photographs from the jewellery maker at each phase, and it was one of the most fascinating things to see, as well as being an incredibly personal touch. Customers can choose to opt out if they’re feeling overwhelmed with all the messages, though I suspect they probably won’t.
It may seem like a cheap shot at getting on a customer’s good side, but sending an email to say happy birthday, happy anniversary or any other congratulatory message will go a long way with your customers. A customer receiving an email like this will get many subconscious messages: that your company has a relationship with them, knows them on a personal level, cares for them, and is genuinely interested in their happiness. The more a perceived relationship is nurtured, the more the customer will be loyal to your business.
Finally, one of the best ways you can keep customers coming back is by investing in customer service. When problems arise, which they inevitably will, you need to have a dedicated and well-staffed team to resolve the issue quickly and effectively. Customers want to feel that your company is willing to do everything it can to right the wrong, and the best way to show them this is by putting them in touch with a real, live person. If you really can’t afford to staff a team of phone representatives, online chats are a great alternative that has recently come onto the scene and will make your customers feel they are truly being taken care of. Customer service is one area of your business that you simply cannot skimp on, especially since irate customers are quick to turn to social media to vent their problems and that can potentially tarnish your company’s name.
Even though the norm nowadays is to limit person-to-person interaction, a few personal touches throughout the customer journey will go a long way in securing brand loyalty. Use the tips above as a virtual handshake to your customers and they will not only be customers, but friends as well.