Ready to hear your new edge in business? It’s customer love. The key is simple: Stop selling and start connecting with customers.
Going beyond the transaction is what keeps you in business. According to LendingTree’s analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “20.8% of private sector businesses in the U.S. fail within the first year.” At 10 years, just over 65% of businesses fail. I’m proud to be one of the exceptions, with over 20 years behind me as a speaker, author and coach. Before starting out on my own, I spent years in hospitality, even working at the Disney Institute, so I have a deep appreciation for great customer service. My years as a solopreneur have only furthered my belief that relationships are the currency of professional success.
By turning introductions into opportunities and moments into memories, you can create clients for life.
Unforgettable experiences improve customers’ brand perception and increase customer retention. I am convinced that this is the greatest time in history to level up your business. I challenge you to think of your interactions as connect-the-dot experiences that entice customers to do business with you instead of experiencing the bland customer service they might expect from one of your bigger, stronger competitors.
To understand how to truly connect with your customer and provide the ideal service experience for them, get to the bottom of three key questions:
- What is the experience of your business, brand or service?
- Are your client connections meaningful or money-oriented?
- Where can you create an above-and-beyond moment?
Once you have drilled down on the answers to these questions, you can get to work connecting with people, creating a positive emotional imprint on your customers and giving extra effort with no strings attached.
How to connect with your customers
There are a few principles I learned early in my career and use in my own business to this day. I know they’ll help you, no matter whether you’re moving real estate, working as an independent marketer or coach or trying to find the true believers in your startup.
1. See customers as guests.
Provide a warm and gracious greeting to everyone you come into contact with, thus creating a customer love environment.
Action tip: Use your customer’s name whenever possible; if you don’t know it, ask.
2. Personalize the experience to connect with customers.
Be prepared to individualize how you create a platinum service moment. This can be done in almost any type of business. There was an Uber driver who delivered me to the airport once in Columbia, South Carolina. He made it a point to ask if I enjoyed my visit and promptly provided a laundry list of vetted suggestions regarding local restaurants, scenic sites and other off-the-beaten-path goodies for me to experience should I decide to return. That gentleman created an impression that lasted long after our meeting. He understood how to create an appetite for return travel. Now that’s customer love.
Even if you mostly connect with customers online instead of face-to-face, you still need to create a positive customer experience. David Crystal, a renowned linguist, wrote in his book, The Stories of English, about how modern technology has affected language. He explains that email, chat rooms and other forms of communication have utilized “netspeak” and visibly changed the way we interact with language.
Although the digital age allows us to work and communicate globally, “netspeak” shorthand could be a quick way to cause confusion and disconnect during those interactions. Keep that in mind, especially when you’re replying to customer reviews or questions on social media.
3. Anticipate and uncover needs.
Success in today’s competitive business environment is impacted by the prediction and understanding of customer behavior. Only after identifying what the guest of your brand or business wants are you able to customize solutions to suit their needs.
A great example is the speech David Packles, former senior director of product at Peloton Interactive, gave at Amplify 2020. I recently had a chance to speak at a virtual event for Amplitude and learned that Peloton has been brilliant enough to leverage the behaviors of their most active users. They developed a framework to harness emergent activities: “observe the behaviors, validate them with different personas, and learn from trying new things,” according to Amplitude’s article discussing Packles’ presentation. These emergent behaviors are also known as “usage patterns or ‘hacks’ that appear organically within a highly engaged subset of users.”
Peloton posed two questions, according to the article: “How are our most engaged members using our product?” and “How might we productize these behaviors and make them applicable to the widest possible audience?”
How could you ask the same of your business or brand?
4. Respond with immediate and appropriate service.
Take a vigorous approach to improving customer experience and resolve issues in a way that demonstrates a commitment to customer love. If you can’t fulfill your promise to your clients, immediately communicate with them in order to manage expectations. According to a survey conducted by PwC, 37% of participants would stop buying from a business if they “had a bad experience with products/services,” and 32% would stop buying from a business if they “had a bad experience with customer service.”
5. Connect with and keep customers loyal through acts of kindness.
Surprise is a powerful emotion. When you delight a customer, you strengthen their loyalty and create powerful connections to your brand.
The customer love mindset is about investigating the value of random acts of kindness—deciding where you can do more or go the extra mile instead of the extra inch. Customer love is seeing your current and prospective clients as guests, personalizing their experience, realizing their needs and operating with appropriate immediacy, all while also engaging in random acts of kindness.
My parting advice for you would be to take time to See, Help, Infuse and Praise your clients and customers.
See clients for who they are, instead of who you think they are or who you want them to be. Pay attention to the language they use, the questions they ask and what drives or excites them.
Help the people you interact with where they are, not for what you can gain from where they are going. If your default is to only initiate what you perceive as advantageous relationships, remember the potential opportunities and valuable connections you may be passing up due to professional hubris.
Infuse them with hope. Equip, empower or encourage the guests of your brand or business with the tools to harness their potential and get the most out of what they are doing or where they want to go.
Praise them for the value they provide and the difference they are already making. Never underestimate the power of celebrating others for the little things they do. When you empower your customers, you create business success.
This article appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine and was updated June 2023. Photo by PR Image Factory/Shutterstock
Simon T. Bailey is an international speaker, writer and personal transformation strategist. He is the author of Shift Your Brilliance: Harness the Power of You, Inc., and Be the SPARK: Five Platinum Service Principles for Creating Customers for Life. When he’s not working, he enjoys rooting for the Buffalo Bills (his hometown team).