How can you build and maintain a relationship with your customers across multiple channels, different contexts, moods, experiences and environments?
Many software vendors and digital agencies will say — “we have a tool for that, an application that can help or a process that will capture everything your customers do, when they do it and how they feel…”.
One of the great unsaid truths of understanding customer behaviour is that you can’t really know what people are going to do — certainly not over the lifetime of any relationship you may have with them.
Humans are inherently contradictory, confusing, emotional and disinterested. Sure, we know that making a call to action orange may get more clicks, that by writing FREE results in increased ROI and that providing seven day trials to you SaaS product will increase sign-ups.
But over a number of years, when their life changes, when they get fed up with certain services, ask you to delete their data or when they turn off more and more of the wonderful cookies and tracking tools that you put on your site and into their browser — how are you going to build a valuable relationship with them?
Start with the people at the centre of the relationship. Not your user. Not your customer. The human.
And you as a business should consider focusing on three iterative needs in any relationship that involves a human.
Attention. Respect. Trust.
Not hard really.
We hear a lot of people discuss that the most valuable commodity today — greater than gold, saffron and yes even Bitcoin…) is a customer’s attention. Their attention is being fought over by advertisers, newspapers, start-ups, corporates, content providers (i.e. everyone) all for the magic click, like, share and purchase.
The problem is very, very few businesses actually truly focus their own attention to their customers and their needs from a relationship.
They, target, segment, funnel, convert customers — they bombarded them with incentives to start a relationship and much like the partner with a wandering eye, they pay less and less true attention as the relationship stagnates — thinking that presents and flattering words are a substitute for commitment. They ask for loyalty and give none in return. Then when the relationship comes to an end they make it as difficult as they can for anyone to leave — ring any bells?
And heaven forbid that if customers change their mind, needs, opinions or behaviour that may undermine some trend analysis — then they are put down as edge cases , dropped into a new segment or seen as ‘low value’.
It’s a completely disrespectful way of treating anyone — but treating those that pay your wages, that keep you in business and will tell the truth about you and your business in that way? Are you nuts? You don’t need a multi-channel approach, an influencer plan, a UX team, a marketing strategy if at your business core — you have no respect for customers — you need to respect them, understand their individuality and their human behaviour — and yes, their contradictions. Use their behaviour online and in their interactions with you to learn from them — rather than try and gather as much information from them at every step — build a progressive picture of them, gather information little and often, respectfully and at each interaction in a manner that is easy for the customer to understand.
And when you understand them — accommodate and dare I say celebrate the fact that you are a business that can build relationships with a diverse range of customers.
Once, you have paid attention to your customers and treated them with respect in their interactions with you — you build true memorable and fulfilling experiences. From fulfilling experiences, trust is built. The golden goal, the holy grail — a customer that trusts you, a customer that comes to you, one that will pay more attention to you than your competition and one that respects your services, products and opinion (your content marketing strategy may then even work).