mother and daughter walking up the street  with matching umbrellas
PHOTO: Ian Battaglia

From teaching children to say “thank you” and how to tie shoes, to deciding what courses to take and which colleges to apply to, parents offer an important sounding board throughout their child’s development. "Helicopter parent" represent the extreme version of this — parents who do too much and do not allow children enough space to learn and grow on their own. Parents therefore struggle to strike the perfect balance between providing support while also respecting boundaries and encouraging independence.

As the mother of twin boys, I know this internal conflict all too well. What’s interesting, though, is how I see the complexities of the parent-child relationship mirrored in relationships between companies and their customers. As someone who works for a technology company that helps brands and their customers communicate, I’m always thinking about how to strengthen the customer experience (CX). And just like many parents, I see brands struggle to balance under- and over-communicating — especially now that CX teams have access to technologies that allow for more frequent and varied modes of communication than ever before.

I’m certainly no expert parent — I’m doubtful such a thing exists — but I do return to a few mantras when trying to parent in a way that’s helpful and supportive without being stifling or overbearing. Inspired by my always-evolving parenting playbook, here are three steps that CX teams can take to ensure they connect with customers by providing value — without being a “helicopter.”

Be There When They Need You

As a parent, I hope my children will come to me when they need support, and they know I will always be here with a shoulder to cry on, a word of advice or even a corny joke to lighten the mood. That said, I don’t want to overwhelm them by rushing in to offer support that's unwanted.

Similarly, businesses looking to build meaningful customer relationships should be available at a moment’s notice to field calls, answer questions and address customer concerns — but customers don’t want to be bombarded with constant communications. Instead, customers should have the information needed to reach out via their preferred method — whether over the phone, by text or email — knowing that help is available whenever they seek it out.

In both cases, it’s important to make it clear that you are there to offer guidance and support, and when and how you’re available. Be sure to publicize how someone should signal the need for help — for kids maybe a text, when you’re at work, and for customers, the 24/7 chatbot or customer service line, for example. That way, when support is needed, the customer (or child) knows it’s available, knows exactly where to turn and feels empowered to reach out.

Related Article: How to Engage Customers in Times of Uncertainty

Speak to Them on Their Own Terms

Successful communication is essential to the development of a positive relationship between parent and child. This is complicated by the fact that the way someone communicates changes drastically as they age. A 3-year-old child communicates very differently than a child that’s 12, for instance. But no matter how old your child is, or how they communicate, it’s important to speak to them in a way that resonates with where they’re at.

In the context of CX, the importance and spirit of this message remains. Companies striving to connect with customers through productive conversation should allow customers to speak naturally, in their own language, tone and via whatever mode is most comfortable. Omnichannel capabilities, for example, provide cohesive, integrated customer experiences that are free of bumps or restrictions while also allowing every customer to communicate with companies on the platform of their choice.

Related Article: Build Your Customer Experience Strategy Around Customer Communications

Respect Their Privacy

Some parents may be tempted to peek at their child’s diary or texts every once in a while to “check in,” but where possible, this sort of snooping should be avoided. Instead, strive to prioritize open and honest communication, and establish a foundation of trust.

In the context of business-customer relationships, privacy is a hot topic. Companies have the opportunity to personalize experiences with data collected directly from customers as well as access to data sourced from third-parties. When communicating with customers, make it clear that you respect their privacy by disclosing how specific personal information was gathered, and how exactly it’s going to be used for their benefit. Otherwise, you risk alienating the customer and threaten the potential for a trusting relationship.

Like good parenting, customer care is no simple feat, and takes thoughtful effort every step of the way. With timely advice, common ground and respectful boundaries, you’re guaranteed to drive productive, reassuring and convenient customer experience — without making your audience roll their eyes.