5 Ways to Connect with Your Customers AND Learn From Them

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    [Updated January 25, 2022]

    Customer needs and expectations are constantly evolving, and those expectations are based on the sum total of ALL their experiences. Your customers are no longer comparing your product or service to the best in your industry. They compare you to the best of their experiences, which means your business competes against the world’s best brands. And compared to them, you are….well, you get the point.

    In addition to global competition, businesses must connect to and learn from the NOW Customer, the “always-on” consumer, to remain relevant in their lives. And what the NOW Customer wants is speed, trust, authenticity, and an emotional connection. 

    “Post-COVID, 59% of consumers care MORE about customer experience when they decide what company to support or buy from. 38% care the same as they did pre-COVID (which was a lot). In other words, customer experience will dictate purchasing in 2021. In 2021, if your business does not care about customer experience, you are not in tune with your customers. And you will lose them when you need them most.” – Liliana Petrova CCXP

    This is not a blog post on ways to connect with customers through sales tools and a sales process. The Internet is already overflowing with information about connecting with customers through digital marketing. This article will focus on connecting with customers as people, not just as a user of your product or service. Read on to learn how to connect with customers and create that ‘bridge’ of trust.

     The Top 5 Ways to Connect With Customers

    1. Learn From Brands Who Spoil Your Customers
    2. Discover Something New About Your Customers
    3. Establish An Emotional Connection
    4. Engage In Authentic Conversation
    5. Innovate and Co-Create With Your Customers

    1 -Learn From Brands Who Spoil Your Customers

    A common mistake most companies and business owners make is they compare themselves to the industry competitors. Instead of focusing on how your competition meets customer needs, look for brands exceeding your customers’ expectations regardless of the industry. The amazing experiences your customers have with these brands will be imposed on you.

    In a recent Simplr CX survey, 61% of consumers said that their customer service expectations are based on the best experiences they’ve ever had.

    An example of a best-in-class brand that most people can relate to is Walt Disney World.  With a vision of “We create happiness,” Disney consistently sets the bar high for exceptional customer experience.  One would think that the reason Disney is on top of its industry has so much more to do with its rigorous advertising. The company, after all, can afford to employ the best people in the marketing field to launch alluring email marketing campaigns and other methods to boost its brand. But the use of targeted advertising can only do so much for any business.  People pay premium prices to be immersed in an experience that only Disney can provide because the management understands what their customers need. In addition to a strong focus on employee engagement, Disney keeps improving its CX by following three principles:

    1. Create an organizational common purpose
    2. Understand your customer holistically
    3. View exceptional service as a revenue-driver rather than an expense.

    As you look to reinvent your customer service, the real question your business needs to answer is not “what is your competition doing”, but instead who is delighting and spoiling your customers. The answer to this question is almost always outside of your industry.

    2 – Discover Something New About Your Customer

    It is tough to exceed expectations based on old assumptions. To connect with your customers on a deeper level, start by renewing your customer base knowledge. 

    • Learn more from your customers by asking questions you have never asked before. 
    • Seek to understand how your customers live and work and what motivates them or causes them to worry. 
    • What are the emotional, social, and identity-related elements that surround your customer?  

    It is only with new insight that you can create new opportunities to surprise your customers and make them fans. Use different market research techniques like surveys and interviews to learn what’s on the mind of your customers. Joining an Internet forum that your customers are likely to visit will also help you gather additional information. 

    Most companies prioritize face to face meetings as a way to build and retain customer relationships. In-person meetings, trade shows, and events are all great ways to get to know each other. The NOW Customer, really all customers, communicate with the businesses they frequent through multiple channels – the company website, email, live chat, and social media. Each point of interaction with a customer presents an opportunity to learn something new about them, especially now when nearly everyone has a smartphone to easily contact a business

    A great example of an organization using customer information to deliver a personal touch is the Australia Red Cross. Knowing that giving blood is a personal experience, the Australian Red Cross leveraged AI to make the donation process as personalized as possible. By collecting participant information like blood type and location, the Australian Red Cross communicates with each donor on an individual level, expressing its appreciation and building relationships that help the nonprofit meet its unpredictable demands. The result is a win-win for recipients and donors alike.

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is no stranger to the manufacturing industry. It’s now being used to improve quality and service delivery, as well as automate processes. In no time, more industries will adopt AI, not only to easily identify potential threats and data breaches but also to improve customer experience just like what the Australia Red Cross did.

    3 – Establish An Emotional Connection

    Emotions can be a scary and uncomfortable topic for companies. In business, most people prefer a rational and predictable world where decisions are made logically. But the reality is emotional behavior is the foundation of every brand. Emotions are what make customers pay a premium, experiment with something new, get excited, and share their experiences with others. Generation Z, in particular, highly values emotional connections with a brand. Being an expert on your customers’ emotions increases the probability of your business lasting longer in your industry.

    In fact, customers who feel an emotional connection with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will recommend that brand 26% more than the average. So design meaningful experiences with customers that create opportunities for your brand to establish an emotional connection with them. Encourage your call centre agents to go the extra mile when handling customer interaction. Make sure they truly know everything about the services or products that your company is offering and not just rely on chatbot data to answer customer questions. This will not only improve the agent’s response time but also increase your customers’ level of confidence in your business. 

    When Mack Trucks introduced the Mack Anthem™, it’s first state-of-the-art truck in over 15 years, the company knew it needed to add value and show that they understood their customers’ needs. Mac Trucks brought the 40-ton semi to life digitally and virtually to put prospective buyers in the Anthem driver’s seat. They did this by distributing thousands of Google Cardboard virtual reality sets to prospects and produced a live-streamed reveal event. The company executed a massive social media campaign that teased out clips of the Anthem and crafted social content that resonated with millions of people, tapping into the pride, grit, and strength shared by those who drive long-haul trucks, day in and day out. Mack succeeded in establishing an emotional connection, not just to sell its trucks, but to reinvigorate their brand to mass appeal.

    4 – Engage In Authentic Conversation

    Customers are attracted to authentic people, and the human side of communication has re-emerged. Even the digital natives seek a more personalized, empathy-friendly world of tech-enabled communication and connection.  In essence, customers want to be recognized as unique individuals, not just as a user of your product, an order, or a series of cookies tracked on a website.

    “Customers who are engaged by a brand make purchases 90% more often and spend 60% more per transaction than those who aren’t engaged.” – Rosetta Consulting

    To meet NOW Customer demands, brands increasingly communicate with consumers directly through helpful AI and customer-service automation. Thanks to the constantly improving Information technology, people don’t have to wait longer in accessing data or contacting support. Still, brands should make sure a human element is maintained throughout every interaction, and customers can access real people when needed. Customer trust demands both the responsiveness of AI and a human touch.

    Part of engaging in an authentic conversation is building rapport with customers. In eCommerce, this is a big thing. No matter how good your telephone operator is in upselling and making an alternative suggestion, the customer would still not buy anything with the use of pushy tactics alone. This isn’t surprising, as online advertising abounds. The last thing that a customer needs is another talking advertisement via email, chat, or phone support. 

    Happiest Baby, a customer-first company, strives to sell products and be a source of encouragement and expertise to exhausted parents. The company understands the sense of urgency in dealing with their customers and the need to ensure that they feel heard and supported.  In the company’s original support model, the customer care team did everything and answered all types of questions, with help from hired sleep consultants and specialists. However, as high-touch sleep questions via email and phone increased, customers who had quick, transactional inquiries were left waiting for too long. Happiest Baby leveraged Simplr Specialists to handle the company’s tier 1 email and live chat inquiries, giving the in-house team more bandwidth to support the sleep and safety questions. Now all Happiest Baby customers – no matter their inquiry – are treated with great care and respect for their time.

    5 – Innovate With Your Customers

    A business’s success will depend on the holistic experience it offers. CX crosses departmental lines, from marketing and commerce to sales and service. In fact, customer experience drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, outperforming brand, and price combined.

    The best way to design an outstanding customer experience is to co-create it with your customer and cross-functional teams. By inviting your customers into your innovation process, you learn from their experiences with your company, employees, products, services, and the overall brand. Ask your customers:

    • What are we doing well, and what can we do better?
    • How do you define an outstanding customer experience?
    • How can we deliver an outstanding customer experience?
    • What best practices can we adopt from other brands?

    The goal is to learn from your customers first hand. Find out how well you know your customers, if you are meeting their expectations, how you can create value, and what it takes to deliver an exceptional experience.

    In recent years the Volvo brand has undergone a complete transformation, and we are not talking about just the cars. With dealerships serving as critical partners in translating Volvo’s brand promise to customers, Volvo Car Canada made a commitment to transform the company’s customer experience through its retailer network. As part of the Evolution Volvo-Rising Together program, the Volvo Car Canada executive team conducted a Co-Creation Innovation Workshop with its Retailer Network. The workshop allowed cross-functional dealership employees across Canada to share ideas, brainstorm solutions, and define opportunities to create a cohesive brand experience for employees, partners, and customers at every point of interaction. The results from the co-creation workshop served as the foundation for CX training across the Retailer Network.

    Make Connecting with Customers a Priority

    These five ways to connect with your customer and learn from them are not the end all be all. Companies should explore the current ways they connect with customers as people and assess what resources, time, and money are needed to invest in expanding customer base knowledge. Then align CX initiatives to the business strategy and measure results on the bottom line.

    Customer needs and expectations are continually evolving, and the NOW Customer compares your services to the best of their experiences. To connect with customers as people and create a ‘bridge’ of trust:

    • Conduct customer research beyond your business to learn about the brands your customers frequent and the activities that form their expectations. 
    • Discover something new by soliciting customer feedback and input through formal and informal channels. Curate stories (positive and negative) and share them on social media, in a newsletter, or blog post on your site to acknowledge your customers and employees. 
    • Create opportunities to establish an emotional connection with your customers through meaningful experiences. Recognize customers as unique individuals and see them beyond a sale.
    • Review your market segmentation and re-evaluate your marketing strategy to ensure that you’re effectively reaching your target audience using the right approach. 
    • Lastly, invite your customers into your innovation process and learn what it will take to wow them, so you have loyal fans for life.