Customer relations are the bread and butter of a strong brand strategy.
Or at least they should be. You can have a large enterprise, hiring the best talent, and working with celebrity influencers to promote your products, but if your customers aren’t satisfied your efforts can fall flat. That’s why building stronger, meaningful interactions at every stage of the customer journey is imperative for fostering stronger customer relations.
Like with any relationship, you need a strong foundation of trust and communications. Your clients are the most important relationship for your brand, that’s why you must ensure that your customer relations are strong enough to hold your brand. In this article we will identify exactly what customer relations, the benefits of a strong customer relations strategy, and offer tips for building customer relations. Additionally, strong customer relations can pave the way for collaborations with influencers in your clientbase.
What is customer relations?
Customer relations is the way in which a brand manages the relationship with current and prospective customers. Many brands have a team dedicated to managing how the company interacts with people. When building a customer relations strategy, there are many things to consider.
Promotions let customers and prospects know the type of service they can expect from your brand and can help set you apart from the competition. Policies that are consistently delivered are a way of showing customers that your promotions are honest. And, the promptness of your customer service is a great way to show clients and prospects that they are valued.
Don’t underestimate the importance of customer relations. There are some brands whose primary branding is their successful customer relations strategy. Zappos, the online retailer, is one of the pioneering brands leveraging strong customer relations. The brand’s customer relations strategy is so strong that not only is it one of their key selling features, it has shown other brands the importance of emphasizing customer interactions. Now, more and more brands see customer success as one of the key pillars which will define the success of their brand.
Difference between customer relations and customer service
It’s important to understand the difference between customer relations and customer service. While they both play integral roles in the overall customer success strategy; customer relations are focused on problem-solving and relationship building while customer service moderates the customer’s experience with the brand. Together the two will impact the customer’s overall view of the brand.
Many people believe customer relations and customer service are one in the same, but there is actually a very clear difference between the two. Customer service is reactive while customer relations is proactive. Customer service is a service. It is an assistance you provide to your clients to ensure their success. While customer relations is a proactive strategy that facilitates your customer service. It requires analysis of your customers and an understanding of their painpoits, in order to ensure that your customer service is productive.
TL;DR? Your customer relations facilitates your customer service.
Benefits of a strong customer relations strategy
There’s no doubt that a strong customer relations strategy is vital to the overall success of your brand, but there are some clear ways to see the impact of your work. Here are the benefits of a strong customer relations strategy.
Improved customer retention
One of the scariest words for any business is churn. That’s why retention is so important. The idea that you can not only get new customers but turn them into lasting customers is the ultimate holy grail. If your business is having an issue with churn, customer relations can be your saving grace.
Taking the time to understand client problems is vital. It will show your clients that you care, and help build solid relations, and allows you to discover and correct problems you may not have been aware of. Improved customer retention is based on a strong foundation. Taking the time to learn about your customers is a two-way street, and will bridge the path for retention.
Amplified customer satisfaction numbers
Brands will often score customer satisfaction in order to identify areas of improvement. This most common way to do this is with a survey, in order to generate a CSAT score. A CSAT score is the simplest way to gauge customer satisfaction when they interact with your brand.
It is a survey methodology that measures customer satisfaction by asking them a direct question during a purchase or interaction. Customer relations and CSAT scores are often extremely correlated. The more support customers receive the more satisfied they will be with their service.
CSAT scores not only help you learn about your customers, and areas in which your brand can improve their experience, it lets you identify ways to improve your relationship. Review customer answers and find relevant talking points. This will show your customers that you care and improve their faith in you as a provider.
Customers who have trust and faith in a brand will more likely to offer recommendations or public endorsements. This is a two way street. Your customers will reap the rewards of an improved experience, and you will in turn feel the benefit of clients that enjoy working together.
Leverage the intersection between customers and influencers
Many think of influencers as celebrities or social media users with millions of followers. Influencers are really just social media users with the ability to drive impact and engagement with their network, regardless of audience size. Many of your customers could be influencers, and improving your customer relations strategy can help
Collaborating with influential clients is a great and easy way to promote your brand’s customer relations. When your brand’s customer relations are improved so too is brand loyalty and customer evangelism. And, say one of your clients is a public figure. If your brand has poor customer relations it is unlikely that a client would be willing to speak or promote your brand.
But if a great relationship is already in place, there is already an established communication channel and a solid foundation to develop new and interesting ways to collaborate. Also, influencers can be expensive. Collaborating with client-based influencers can dramatically increase your ROI by replacing spend with incentives like freebies.
It is important to recognize that there are many types of influencers, and if your brand does not have any celebrity clients, it does not mean you’re lacking influential clients. In fact, some of the most influential users are micro-influencers. While micro-influencer have a smaller audience size than most big-name celebrities, usually between 5-30K followers, they tend to receive 47% more engagement on their posts than celebrity influencers, and 3X more likes per follower than celebrity influencers.
In fact, in 2019, micro-influencers made up 90% of influencer activity. The appeal of micro-influencers is actually their smaller audience size. But, a smaller audience means a more focused network. Micro-influencers are typically experts in a specific industry, and that means their followers are definitely interested in their content.
How to discover influential clients
Discovering influencers in your client-base can actually be creative and fun, and can help bolster your customer relations strategy by creating another communication channel with your clients.
One way to identify influential clients is by launching a social media campaign that your clients can participate in. Ask your clients to create a social media post with a relevant hashtag. Then, monitor the hashtags to identify the clients that are driving the most impact. Look at metrics such as “comments” and “likes” rather than follower count. Many people associate follower-count with a user's ability to generate impact, when in fact, there is little to no correlation between a social media user’s audience size and their influence. If your brand is new to influencer marketing.
How to engage influencer clients
Once you’ve identified influencers in your client base, the next step is reaching out. You may feel like you don’t know where to start, especially if influencer marketing is new to you. But, if you’ve already established the foundations of a meaningful customer relationship, this should be a piece of cake.
As mentioned earlier, some of the benefits of a strong customer relationship strategy can be used to engage influential clients. Review if influential clients have repurchased your products, and thank them for their loyalty. Or use feedback for your CSAT score as an opening for communications. There are many ways to reach out to your clients, and showing you care will surely go a long way.
3 tips for building long-lasting customer relationships
So, now that you know the benefits of a strong customer relations strategy, it’s time to begin implementing it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to get started, here are some easy tips that can help you build long-lasting customer relationships.
1. Treat your customers equally well across the board
Your customer relations strategy should be an overarching strategy, not something that just applies to top tier clients. Treat all of your clients equally from Fortune 100 enterprises to small, local businesses. Taking the time to devote the same attention to all clients will speak volumes of your customer relations etiquette. It positions you as a brand whose bottom-line is caring for clients, not securing a new deal. Your ability to treat customers equally will leave a lasting impression on your clients, and play a key factor for retention.
Get inspiration from brands you admire. Pay notice to their customer relations. Is everything automated, if so do the automations have an overarching tone? Does the brand use a live chat feature that makes it feel like you’re talking to a friend? After you registered with the brand did they send an email asking about your experience? Learning from peers is a great way to improve your strategy, and to identify points in your customer relations journey that may be overlooked.
2. Be tuned in to how your customers are feeling
Be attuned to your customer’s sentiment. Some brands forget that customers will express sentiment on places other than a helpdesk. Review your social media messages and comments, and look online for various brand reviews. If you find anything, it’s important to identify takeaway from customer sentiment, but more importantly, respond to your customers. Offer appropriate solutions and feedback, and make sure they feel heard. A quick answer to a Facebook message goes a long way.
3. Build informative content for your customers
Start getting proactive. Once you’ve identified some problems your customers may face, or if there is a recurring question that is consistently asked, create go-to resources your clients can use to navigate your product. Create a how-to blog post to help clients navigate confusing elements of their workflow, for example, how to create a marketing plan. Or produce video tutorials that can be easily shared with clients. As educational content tends to be evergreen, these can be ongoing resources that benefit your clients.
Once you’ve created a catalog of useful content, aggregate everything into an easy-to-access learning center. Customer relations is about having meaningful and productive communications with your clients, but it is also about understanding and solving their needs. Having go-to answers for their basic needs shows that you're one step ahead. And, such resources will shorten the time it takes to answer a client, as well as ensuring all clients receive the same information. This creates an umbrella strategy for all your employees and maintain equality in customer care.
Customer relations is hard work, but the benefits are incomparable. Even the smallest improvement to your customer relations strategy will have an immense impact on your brand. It will help you get to know your customer from onboarding to reselling, and make predictive assessment that will facilitate successful customer service.
More importantly, strong customer relations will improve customer loyalty, paving the way for client collaborations. Now you have a tool to get started. So, whether you’re going to begin with a CSAT score or creating educational content, remember all of your initiatives should have your clients' interest in mind, because they are your most important relationship.