Online business is fast paced and at times chaotic. Before making purchasing decisions, consumers draw from extensive touch points, such as previous experiences, recommendations from peers, personal research and brand marketing. While brands work hard to win customers over with complex marketing strategies and last-minute deals, the customer experience itself can often fade into the background. But businesses that take the time to personalize customer engagement and respond individually to support inquiries can encourage a customer’s trust throughout his or her relationship with the company, which establishes an invaluable connection between brand and consumer.
Do Your Customers Trust Your Ads?
When you’re browsing for a deal online or in a store, what’s more likely to resonate with you: a product you remember from a commercial, an online ad that blares its corporate messaging at anyone who's paying attention, or an item you’ve heard of through one of your friends or family members? If your preference leans toward the recommendations of your personal network, you’re in the company of 84 percent of respondents to Nielsen’s recent “Trust in Advertising” report. What’s more, Forrester finds that merely 15 percent of people trust online advertising, or feel that companies generally tell the truth in ads.
To reach customers, smart marketers leverage contextual marketing tactics, such as demonstrating the brand’s promise rather than showing it. They also make themselves available for customer interactions, in order to cut through the noise of traditional advertising and establish personal connections with their end users. The reason is clear: time and time again, happy customers pass along brands’ positive messages to others.
Customer Service for the Individual
To humanize customer service, companies need to forgo automated responses and wait times in favor of brand representatives who care about the individual. Every customer issue is unique. Even if two support inquiries are the same, each customer has a different perception and expectation of the brand based on his or her individual interactions with it. Responding to customer inquiries requires an equally individual and personal response -- there is no one-size-fits-all message that can be sent out en-masse.
While not every customer service interaction is positive, all are useful for learning how customers interact with your company. If your support team is contacted because a customer was disappointed in the results or products provided by your brand, but he or she was pleased with a certain part of the experience, your business can enhance this positive aspect as it works to solve the issue at hand in order to turn the negative experience around.
Additionally, consider technologies that will help you monitor and analyze customer support conversations in order to highlight patterns and trends in the feedback your brand receives. Perhaps your numbers are stellar in a certain sales region, but when you browse feedback from customers, you notice frequent complaints about response times from your sales staff. The more you learn about the impressions your brand is making, the more opportunities you will uncover to improve business processes -- even if they didn’t appear faulty to begin with.
Know Your Audience – and Let Them Get to Know Your Brand
Corporate transparency is almost always an asset to businesses, but when applied to service, the practice sends a strong message that makes customers feel like they know your brand on a more personal level. This reaction helps inspire loyalty and positive word-of-mouth advertising, and it promotes an image of your brand as a customer-centric organization.
One way to incite direct conversations between a company and its audience is to invite customers to leave detailed, honest reviews about their experience with a brand following the time of a sale, and then display those reviews on the company’s own website. Some marketers fear this practice, as negative reviews and opinions from unsatisfied customers are bound to work their way into the mix. However, as we found in a recent survey of nearly 2,000 consumers in the UK, many customers report that reading public responses from brands to other negative reviews actually causes them to form a positive impression of the company. They recognize that the brand in question is willing to resolve its mistakes and work with customers to ensure their satisfaction.
The Value of a Happy Customer
The customer lifecycle is full of influences and opportunities, but personalized marketing tactics that form lasting, transparent relationships with customers help turn it into a positive experience for all involved. Once those relationships are formed, there is little that can compete with the advertising power of a happy customer. For example, when presented with the ability to share a customer review via social media, many satisfied customers do so in order to share their opinions of a brand and its service. As more brands recognize this value, some go the extra mile and appoint certain customers as brand ambassadors. In an age when branded messaging has lost its power, the use of these tactics can be the difference between a successful, growing company and a stagnant organization that cannot figure out why its marketing budget isn’t pulling in results.