Business relationships are increasingly inseparable from business. CMS Wire has gone as far as to suggest that we have moved beyond the B2C and B2B marketing, to H2H—human to human. This shift has been accelerated by the pandemic. “The two foundations of customer loyalty, trust, and confidence are being put to the test,” Deloitte said. “This global crisis is truly about customer moments that matter.”
The search engine has put the customer in control of most businesses. Gone are the days when a shopper for a new car, for example, is dependent to the dealer for information about vehicles and prices. Everyone searches for information about what to look for in a product and how to get the best deal possible.
The Customer Experience is Everything
At the same digital communication and marketing tools have made automate, personalized, authentic communication an expectation, and made customer experience a competitive advantage. PwC found that 86 percent of buyers would pay more for a product that delivers an exceptional experience, and Deloitte has found that “customer-centric” businesses are 60 percent more profitable.
In fact, much of Deloitte’s advice for how manage through the crisis have to with customer relationship management, and these recommendations are applicable all the times.
Be true to your brand. “Every interaction with your customers and partners is an opportunity to demonstrate what your organization is all about.” You create the customer experience with every touchpoint, so make sure that they all reinforce your brand’s promise.
Communicate to customers. “Be in touch with your customers. Let them know how much you appreciate them and care about them—even if they are buying fewer goods and services from you.” People are paying heightened attention to messages coming from company’s especially from their leaders, and they care about the values of the companies they do business with.
Do your best to take care of your loyal customers. “Every business has its most loyal customers, so decide what special services and resources you can supply to these valuable customers.” Personal outreach to your best customers should take priority.
These are things you should always do. But you also have employees, investors, job candidates, partners, advisors, and more relationships to manage. Plus, you have a business to run. If you are a large business with lots of stakeholders, this can be overwhelming.
Here are some ways to automate, individualize, and deliver authentic customer relationship management at scale while minimizing the lift.
Automate Routine Communications
Often, the hardest part of relationship management is having enough time to regularly engage with all of your stakeholders. Luckily, marketing automation is getting smarter and smarter, making it possible to build behavior-based workflows for routine communications.
Automation opportunities include:
- SMS and email reminders for appointments
- Time-based notifications when someone is likely to be running out of a consumable product or need a service
- Timely messages with recommendations for how to get the most out of purchased products and services
Automating these kinds of standardized messages allows you to keep your relationships active and dedicate time to more impactful conversations.
Include Individualized Messages in Your Communication Cadence
Automation does not have to be impersonal, as the examples above are about messing to customers based on what you know about them. But personalization also must come from your end.
Sending a mix of automated and individualized messages is critical for maintaining strong relationships with your customers. Here are some options that are easy to incorporate into your contact management system:
- Quarterly check-ins to stay up-to-date on your stakeholders' needs and feelings about your relationship
- Small group video calls to support customers with similar challenges or interests
- Quick messages at milestones such as birthdays, work anniversaries, promotions, etc.
These individualized conversations, though often brief, allow you to maintain critical two-way dialogue with your stakeholders.
Find Authentic Communication Opportunities
It is not just millennials. Across the generations, 86 percent of consumers value authenticity (ok, 90 percent of millennials). The pandemic quickly separated the authentic from the opportunistic in a time of crisis. We all saw examples of authentic communication that are replicable including:
- Occasionally leading zoom meetings with kids or pets in the background
- Talking about the challenges your business has faced and what's been done to resolve them
- Sharing personal anecdotes in email and video messages
These kinds of messages help you connect with your customers and other stakeholders on a deeper level than just your value proposition.
You Could Do It Yourself, But When?
All of these recommendations come at a time when you are already swamped. Where will the time come from? One way that busy business leaders can scale their time and communications with customers is with a virtual assistant. With a virtual assistant, you get the dedicated time of a skilled employee without the hassle of recruiting and hiring, and without the added management overhead.
Virtual assistants can help with customer relationship management in two ways. First, they can take other tasks off your plate, so you have more time with customers. Second, they can respond to emails on your behalf, schedule meetings, manage marketing automation and CRM platforms to implement automation and personalization efforts.
To learn more about how a virtual assistant can help you manage your relationships, download our guide to leveraging a VA for networking.