80% of consumers say they are more likely to do business with companies that personalize their experiences. It’s 2021, and trying to find ways to personalize relationships can be trickier now than before. Companies are now responsible for managing interactions on more platforms than ever before. There are different strategies for strong customer interactions in 2021, and it might be different based on which connection platform you are utilizing.
2021 is off to a quick start and there’s no time for stalling or holding off on creating stronger relationships with customers. Unfortunately, a recent study found that most businesses have no strategic plan in motion for customer engagement. That’s why we decided to compile a list of 21 tips for success for customer interactions in 2021:
Know Your Audience: To effectively meet the needs of your customers, you need to know your customers. You need to know what services of yours are most valuable to each one of them. You need to know how often they use your services. You need to know their basic demographics and their preferred communication channels. Customer expectations are heightened and the digital world has taken over. Businesses need to adapt and change, by storing and understanding customer data, and in-turn knowing their audience well enough to effectively communicate with them.
Be Accessible: Is your business easily accessible to its customers (past, present and future?) Being accessible means that your business can be found anywhere online that someone would possibly search for your services. Accessibility also includes the method of contact that your customer chooses. Allow them the opportunity to interact with your business in the way that is most convenient for them: text, phone calls, webchat, etc. People spend a lot of time on their phones. Because of this, 85% of consumers prefer messaging a business to emails or even phone calls. A business owner’s job is to understand their customers and what it means to them for the business to be easily accessible. Allow your customers to reach you when and where they want to.
Be Engaging: In today’s world, there’s no room for customer interactions that aren’t engaging. There are over 300 billion emails sent every single day. Many of those emails will be automatically deleted simply because the content isn’t engaging. When you are interacting with customers between services, it’s absolutely critical to send information that is relevant to them and their needs. For example, if you are a plumber, try sending your customers tips on keeping their plumbing systems clean and running smoothly. Send them a list of the best at worst at-home products for simple clogs. If there’s something in the news that is interesting and pertains to your industry, give your customers a rundown and your take on the situation. When you are interacting with your customers between services, whether it’s through text messages, emails or social media posts, keep it engaging, informative and interesting to read.
Stay Relevant: Staying relevant in the service industry today means that your business is active on social media platforms and regularly engaging with its customers. We live in a time where consumers can search for what they need and instantly be served a plethora of businesses who can help them. Your business has to stay relevant through strong customer interactions across multiple channels. Do you have a Facebook page set up for your business? What about an Instagram profile? Are you posting regularly and responding to comments and messages on those platforms? Do you regularly check and respond to your reviews online? If you didn’t answer yes to all of these questions, the time to change that is now. Make sure your customers know that your business is actively working to provide them with the most up-to-date information and helpful tips, so they continue to build trust in your business.
Start the Conversation: The general goal with any and every conversation we have is to learn, to teach, to engage and sometimes to simply enjoy someone’s company. The same is true when it comes to business-to-customer interactions. There are some ways to start conversations with your customers that create instant connections, among these are:
- Staying Positive. With the current state of the world and the dragging on of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are tired of hearing negative messaging. Instead, focus on starting the conversations with your customers on a positive note. Share some good news, let them know about an upcoming special or provide them with helpful information to create a connection right off the bat.
- Reminiscing. Everyone loves to reminisce about happy memories, right? Your customers are no different. Interact with them by reminding them about the awesome service you provide. If it’s time for them to schedule another service with your business, send them a quick reminder. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge for a customer to want to schedule with a business they’ve previously worked with again.
- Showing Appreciation. Over 90% of consumers say they are more likely to do business with a company that shows appreciation for their customers. And who wouldn’t? We all love to feel appreciated and valued. Start your conversation with your past customers by telling them how much you appreciate their business and how much you enjoy working with them. What better way to engage someone in a conversation with you than to send a quick thank-you?
- Keeping it Short and Sweet. Nobody wants to read long emails, and the truth is, they won’t. In fact, a study conducted by SleekNote.com suggests that the ideal number of words in a marketing email is between 50-120. Keep your virtual interactions with customers short and sweet. Get to the point and provide the message that you want them to hear, then give them a way to contact you to finish the conversation.
Be Attentive: We’ve all heard the saying, “Listen to understand, not to respond.” This rings very true in the world of customer interactions. Consumers come to your business because they have a problem that you can fix. You are the expert and the one who will be assisting them and making their lives easier, so it’s important to pay close attention to what they have to say. Being attentive when interacting with customers helps to set your business apart in a world where consumers have an abundance of choices. After all, there are no memorable one-sided conversations.
Make it Fun: When you’re interacting with customers, whether it be through text or email engagements or in person, be yourself and let them see your personality. Nobody likes to “interact” with mundane marketing messages. Instead, talk how you really do (of course, in a professional setting.) Let your customers get to know YOU, and feel like they are connected to you as a person. Talk about your family, ask about their job, and capitalize on your quirky customers. We’ve all worked with really outgoing, talkative people. Go the extra mile and try to take mental notes from how they made you feel and what types of conversations they started with you.
Yars ago, I was at a training for business professionals. I remember one of the speakers saying that before she enters a room, she mentally tells herself, “Everyone in here is so excited to see me. My conversations are going to make their day. I’m so confident.” Even if that’s not how you really feel, fake it until you make it! Have fun with your customers and make interactions fun.
Automate Your Messaging: Automated Messaging refers to a system that delivers an email or text message to multiple phones automatically. This type of system eliminates the need to waste time manually calling or texting multiple phone numbers one at a time. What are the benefits of automated messaging? There are several advantages, including:
- Save time and costs by eliminating the need for you or an employee to manually send out engagement messages to customers.
- You can be more creative in your messaging. Saving the time on manually sending out emails and texts gives you more time for formulating messages and being creative and strategic in your customer interactions.
- Refine your marketing process. Many small businesses have yet to put an effective marketing process into place. This is unfortunate, as customer engagement is the best way to bring customers back to your business over and over again. Refine this process by making it as easy on you as possible- automating the process.
- Better conversion rates come from customers who are frequently interacted with. If you want to keep your customers coming back to you rather than your competitors, there is no other way than to be interacting with them. Your past, current and future customers need to hear from you in order to stay interested in your business. Better conversion rates and higher profits come from automating your customer engagement process.
- Easily offer omni-channel communications. Of course you have noticed that not all of your customers are the same. There are different wants and needs based on the ages, financial status and stage of life that your customers are in. If you’re interacting with a millennial audience, 75% of them prefer texting over talking on the phone. Adversely, 77% of baby boomers agree that their preferred channel is through phone calls and/or emails.
Text, Text, Text: Over 60 billion text messages are sent every single day. In other words, if your business isn’t texting, you’re missing out. Especially with the pandemic our world has seen this past year, people have really moved to a contactless-interaction preference. Consumers value convenience and that means being able to schedule a plumber or HVAC specialist while also helping their children with online school, or while working from home (or both!) Making life easier for your customers is the name of the game when you are in the service industry and allowing customers to text with your business online increases the level of customer convenience you are offering.
Be Consistent: Whether you have 1 employee or 1,000, consistency is key to strong customer interaction and overall customer service. How frustrating is it when you contact a business and hear one thing, only to hear something completely different later on or from another employee? Keep your customer interactions consistent by always making them feel valued, listened to and hearing the same information across the board.
Follow-Up on Expectations: If you’ve committed a certain time or price to a customer, it’s increasingly important to follow-up and deliver on those expectations. Did you know that over 70% of people say they feel so busy that they become overwhelmed? We’ve all felt that, especially a business owner. If your business can help a customer to feel less overwhelmed, even just by showing up how you said you would, that will go a long way. People have to understand that sometimes things don’t go as planned and jobs will take longer than expected, but be sure to communicate that to your customers beforehand. When you’re on a job that’s running long, reach out to your next customer to let them know what to expect and reset your expectations. Otherwise, follow through and make sure your customers know they can depend on you.
Focus on the Customer Journey: A customer journey is the path a customer takes from the very first time they find your business in an online search, to the time they purchase from you and beyond. Each interaction with your customers is a part of their customer journey. Focus on creating the most satisfying and convenient customer experience each time to ensure your customers will have a journey with your business worth raving about. Here are some tips for creating a strong journey for your customer through each interaction:
- Know your customer. Know their age, demographics, needs and where they found your business.
- Understand your customer’s needs. Are they a homeowner, renter, landlord or other? What benefit do they gain from working with your business?
- Update your customer along the way. This means keeping them updated throughout each service and then continuing to reach them between purchases to follow up about past services, remind them of upcoming service needs and give them tips along the way.
Be Intentional and Authentic: Being authentic and intentional means you’re not reaching out and interacting with customers just to check a box off your to-do list. Rather, you are sending messages that are valuable to them and worth their time. “Having a deep understanding of your audience’s pain points allows your brand to stay ahead of the curve by offering better services than your competitors.“
How can businesses be intentional about their messages and understand the audience’s needs?
- Teach them Something
- Ask for their Feedback
- Send Updates about Your Business or Industry
- Give them Your Professional Opinion on News Pertaining to Your Industry
- Provide them with Coupons, Specials and Deals
- Share Tips and Tricks that will be Valuable to your Customers
Provide an Omnichannel Experience: If your business isn’t reachable on multiple platforms, then you’re not providing an omni-channel experience for your customers. Businesses should be reachable anywhere that customers want them to be, including:
- Text Messages
- Phone Calls
- Facebook Messages
- Instagram Messages
- Social Media Comments
Learn from Feedback: What’s worse than receiving a negative online review? Receiving negative feedback and not learning from it! If you find that you have many customers complaining about the same thing, it is time to visit that particular process or service and figure out what needs to change. Of course every business receives negative reviews no matter what, because some people will just never be satisfied. Those reviews should still be addressed, but maybe no changes are needed. However, customer feedback is your most valuable feedback. They’re essentially offering free advice to your business from the most valuable source- the customer. Learn and grow from negative experiences in business, as you would in any other area of life.
Show Gratitude: Over 50% of customers say that being regularly contacted by a business makes them feel more appreciated. Everyone loves to feel gratitude towards them and your customers are no different. Here are some of the top ways businesses can show gratitude to their customers:
- Engage regularly through texts, emails and social posts
- Simply say “thank you” to them for choosing your business. Keep in mind that today’s consumer has unlimited options and they chose you. That’s definitely something to be grateful for!
- Implement a customer loyalty program so they can earn rewards each time they choose your business and services.
- Allow customers to reach you in whatever way is most convenient for them. Whether that be phone calls, emails, webchat, text messages or social media messages. Businesses that are available on a variety of platforms are most likely to please their customers.
Be Transparent: Have you ever received those coupon mailers that advertise a certain price and then when you call the company, the price is actually much higher? When a customer trusts your business, they are much more likely to refer friends and family members to you. Being upfront about your pricing in any messaging is going to work to your advantage. Stand out from the crowd by sending offers as they really are, instead of making them seem too good to be true, because they are. That said, consumers understand when unexpected costs arise on a job– but being clear and communicating those things to your customers will ensure they continue to trust your business and its transparency.
Ask for Reviews: The best way to get what you want is to just ask. Over 70% of customers agree that if they are directly asked to leave a review for a business, they will go on to do just that. It sounds so simple, right? That’s because it is. After each service you complete, ask your happy customers to help you out by leaving an online review for your business– then follow up with them about it.
Personalize Interactions: After each interaction with you, every customer should feel like they are your favorite one. Roughly 70% of consumers expect businesses to personalize interaction with them. This doesn’t just mean being on a first-name basis (though that is a great start!) But your business should be tracking customer and transaction data so you can target your messaging based on the specific needs of your customers.
Create a Loyalty Program: Customers who are part of a loyalty program spend, on average, 13% more per year with that business. Interacting with customers through a loyalty program is a great way to connect with them while also providing them with an incentive to come back to your business.
Be the Expert: You are the expert in your industry, which is why your customers trust you and your business. Show your customers that you are the master of your art by providing them with powerful interactions that are full of information and helpful content. Over half of the consumers interviewed in a recent study agreed upon three things that make them trust a business:
- The business offers quality service and/or products
- The business has positive reviews and online ratings
- The business charges fair prices for their products and services
Business owners should use that list to determine ways to show that they are the expert.
Customer interactions in 2021 are unlike any year before. Consumers have become accustomed to extra measures that businesses have put in place to offer them further convenience. Follow these tips for success to interact with your customers regularly, intentionally and effectively for a successful 2021.
If you are ready to make the most of your customer interactions in 2021, schedule a free 15-minute demo today!
For more insights on marketing strategy that actually works for small business, subscribe to the FreshLime Newsletter here. Connect with Jay Bean, Founder of FreshLime and Small Business Marketing Expert on LinkedIn and Twitter. And last of all, if any of these tips have helped you or if you have anything to add please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!