Think back to your last new relationship: whether it was a friend, a work colleague, a child or a romantic relationship, building any new relationship takes time, effort and dedicated focus.
Relationships with your customers are no different—and yet, many businesses assume they will happen automatically. When they don’t, it can be easy to just assume it’s not happening. But customer relationships are essential to your business. Good customer relationships can:
- increase customer retention and decrease churn
- grow Customer Lifetime Value
- improve customer loyalty
- increase average purchase value and frequency
- improve NPS scores and word-of-mouth referrals
- reduce CAC
- and more!
A key—and often overlooked strategy—to developing these relationships is through your call center. Call centers aren’t just for solving customer problems and upgrading customer accounts: they’re essential channels to develop customer relationships and loyalty.
So, how can you do this effectively? Here are six tried-and-true strategies from our decades of experience in call centers and customer service.
Personalized and Customer-Centric Interactions
Step 1: treat your customers like the valuable individuals they are.
As the saying goes—your customers make your business. And though you may have a lot of them, customers want to be treated like more than just a number. Personalized and customer-centric interactions make a significant impact on the quality of your customer relationships.
Consider an analogy: If you go on a series of first dates, and you start every date in the same way, without referencing anything personal or specific to your date, not even their name—you’re going to struggle to develop a relationship with the person you’re on a date with. The same is true of your customers!
Personalization starts with understanding. If you understand your customer needs and preferences, you’ll be able to create experiences that are relevant, unique and personal to the individual or group of customers you’re working with. How do you get this data, though? For one, you can ask your customers directly—through surveys, individual feedback, and so on. But you can also use information they’re already giving you—through customer data, behaviors, purchase history, account preferences and more.
Once you know your customer preferences and needs, you can also implement customer segmentation strategies to improve personalization at scale. When you sort customers by what they want, how they behave, and so on, you can market and communicate to them effectively, creating more relevant and personalized experiences. You can also provide more tailored solutions and recommendations, based on what makes sense for each customer or segment. This requires accessible customer data—but it also creates a stronger customer relationship, where the customer feels understood, known and taken care of by your brand.
And of course, where customers feel known and valued, they will spend more—and the data backs this up:
- 49% of customers say they’re more likely to “become repeat buyers” after a personalized experience.
- 59% of customers value personalization when it comes to customer service, even more than speed.
- 71% of customers now expect experiences and interactions with brands to be personalized.
The more you’re able to personalize your customers’ experiences, the better relationships you’ll be able to build—and the more loyal customers will be to your brand.
Proactive Communication and Engagement
Back to our dating analogy: to build a relationship, both parties have to make an effort to reach out as well as to respond when the other does. This is Relationships 101, right?
And yet, many companies seek to build better relationships with their customers without ever being the ones to reach out. Sure, they’ll send marketing communications or promotions for sales, but what about reaching out for feedback? Or sending along recommendations for getting more value out of their subscription? Or reminding customers when it’s time to order a refill?
Reaching out proactively to your customers to engage with them with your service, provide support, and engage with your audience. What should you reach out about?
Get feedback and follow up. If a customer has reached out for service or help, don’t assume all is well because the ticket is closed. Solicit feedback on their experiences with your support team, follow-up to ensure the concern is resolved, or get feedback on the process as a whole. By reaching out again to follow up, you assure customers that you are taking their concerns seriously, and not just checking them off a list.
Offer proactive support and assistance. Outbound support adds another layer of engagement to your customer support team. Customer success teams—as outbound service is commonly known—engage proactively with customers to help them get the most value out of their products, services or subscriptions, and alleviate customer support requests by catching problems and questions before they balloon. Outsourcing your customer success to a team like Global Response can help round out your team with outbound support and give you the resources you need to proactively engage with customers.
Provide timely updates and notifications. Sometimes proactive communication simply looks like providing updates to customers to keep them in the loop. If something’s taking longer than expected—whether it’s a hold while you run a report or a refund that’s processing—continue to communicate with the customer and provide updates on the process.
Resolving Customer Issues and Complaints
In any type of relationship, if there’s a problem, it’s best to resolve it proactively—and empathetically. If someone comes to you with a problem and you dismiss them, or tell them it’s their fault, the relationship won’t last long.
Customer service works similarly. Since resolving customer issues is a key part of customer service, many brands focus on this aspect of relationship building above many other aspects. Still, there’s a few key tactics you should use to ensure you’re resolving customer issues in a way that strengthens and supports their relationship with your brand.
Address any issues promptly. This includes issues that are brought directly to your service team, as well as indirect ones, such as ones found in online reviews or complaints on social media. But what exactly does “prompt” mean?
- Over 40% of customers expect to receive “real-time responses,” regardless of channel.
- 90% of customers said an “immediate” response was important or very important when it comes to customer service.
- 46% of customers expected an email response in less than 4 hours.
In short: the faster you can respond to customers, the better, in most cases. If you’re finding response times lagging in your customer service, you may want to consider outsourcing to speed up response times , improve CSAT and develop stronger customer relationships.
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Respond with empathy and efficiency. Speed is of the essence—but don’t miss the opportunity to empathize with your customers and build loyalty and trust during your customer service interactions. Practice active listening, demonstrate empathy, and use positive framing and phrasing to create experiences that leave your customers feeling cared for.
Go the extra mile. Sometimes, building customer relationships requires doing just a little bit extra. Giving your employees flexibility to make choices and deliver solutions based on customer needs and preferences can help you “surprise and delight” your customers. Brands like Chewy have nailed this aspect of customer service, regularly sending flowers, handwritten notes, drawings of people’s pets and pet toys to their customers after a customer service interaction.
Cross-Selling and Upselling Opportunities
Cross-selling and upselling is often considered part of marketing—which it is—but it’s also a key element of building good customer relationships.
Think back to the other relationships in your life: when you have an experience or use a product or a service that would be relevant for someone you love, don’t you usually tell them about it? Maybe you’ll even let them try your product to see if they’re like it, or buy them one of their own.
Cross-selling and upselling works in a similar way—effectively, you’re connecting customers with more products or services that would be valuable for them based on their needs, preferences, concerns, previous purchases and so on.
In order to do this effectively, you again have to know your customers’ needs and preferences. Without clear and accurate customer data, you can’t recommend relevant products and services. But when you do have this data, you can increase value for the customer while also increasing business value. In doing so, you also make them feel more connected to your service or product.
Amazon is a great example of a business that has maximized their cross-selling with targeted offers and personalized recommendations. Whenever you view a product page on Amazon, you’ll see the now-familiar, “Frequently Bought Together” and “Similar Products” recommendations below the product details—suggestions that are based on a combination of product, audience and personal data. Finding ways to leverage customer data and purchase history to provide more tailored recommendations strengthens your customer relationships, your value to your customers and your customer’s lifetime value.
Gathering Customer Feedback and Insights
Another key way you can leverage your call center to build stronger customer relationships is through customer feedback and insights.
Your call center is likely already sitting on loads of customer insights and data that hasn’t been fully tapped into—but there’s likely still more that can be leveraged. Here are some key ways to leverage customer feedback:
Solicit it directly. Don’t wait for feedback to come to you—instead, proactively conduct customer surveys and feedback programs. CSAT and NPS surveys are two of the most common, but there are other types of customer feedback you can collect as well, including:
- social media feedback
- online ratings and reviews
- customer effort (measuring CES)
- agent-specific feedback
- live chat / self-service feedback
Respond to customer feedback regularly. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, take the time to respond, especially if it’s shared publicly. Not only does this give you a chance to connect with customers 1-on-1 and build relationships, it also signals to other prospective customers that you value your clients. If the feedback is positive, thank the customer for the feedback and express satisfaction in their good experience. If the feedback is negative, do what you can to resolve the issue or encourage the customer to reach out directly.
Implement feedback as often as possible. Not only does implementing customer feedback make your product better and more relevant to your audience, actively listening to and implementing customer concerns and suggestions deepens customer trust in your brand and encourages customers to provide more feedback. When you do implement customer feedback, make sure you let customers know of the new changes or features, and thank them for their contributions and feedback.
Building Trust and Loyalty
Finally, all relationships—including those with your customers—should be built on a foundation of trust and loyalty. Developing that trust and loyalty with customers requires both proactive and reactive tactics.
For example, you should ensure that you are consistently delivering on promises and commitment. Being true to your word—whether that’s the timeframe of a refund, product availability, or a service update—enhances trust in your brand and reassures customers that you will take care of their concerns. Similarly, be transparent and honest in your customer interactions—don’t promise what you can’t (or won’t) deliver.
Loyalty can be encouraged, but it’s built from who your brand is and how you treat your customers more than what you provide or sell.
However, once you’ve built the foundation for loyalty and trust (proactive tactics), you need to encourage and reward that loyalty in your customers. Recognizing and rewarding loyal customers often takes the form of a loyalty program , which can be incentivized in various ways:
- tiered rewards
- refer-a-friend programs
Figure out what rewards and incentive structure makes the most sense for your customers—i.e. would your customers prefer premium service or discounts on products? Free samples or early access to new products? And then build, reward and retain customer loyalty through a well-managed and valuable loyalty program.
If you’re struggling to build a loyalty program that actually drives results, an outsourced team like Global Response can help. We’ve built loyalty programs for clients that drive actual results, increasing customer retention and loyalty, improving sales and more. And with an outsourced team, you can spend more time on business-critical projects while still ensuring your customers are taken care of.
Can Outsourcing Create Better Customer Relationships?
Many companies who are struggling to connect effectively with their customers turn to outsourcing to build stronger customer relationships. At Global Response, our customer-centric models ensure that our agents work as brand specialists, operating as an extension of your brand with human-powered and customer-centric techniques.
With outsourcing, you can:
- improve FCR and other service levels to provide excellent customer service
- strengthen CSAT and NPS scores
- increase services, such as cross-selling, outbound support or loyalty programs
- get deeper data analysis for customer engagement and personalization
- implement omnichannel and personalization strategies to make customer experiences more seamless for customers
- and more!
To see how partnering with an outsourcing provider can improve your customer relationships, connect with an expert from Global Response today.