We all know why it’s important to stay close to our customers throughout their customer journeys. So, I’ll leave the obvious to another blogger. But how do you go about it? And just whose responsibility is it? Those are entirely different questions.
For those of you who work B2C markets, the answers are simple: Large B2C companies usually delegate responsibility for the customer journey to Marketing, and the preferred modes of contact are advertising, social media, and email. Small B2C companies, especially single-location retailers, tend to go the same route, but shouldn’t.
In smaller companies, the owner (or at least the operator) is fairly visible. And though (s)he may not know each customer individually, the customers all think they know the boss. That puts a certain onus on principals of small businesses to ensure a positive customer experience by reaching out throughout the customer journey. After all, loyalty can’t be delegated.
On a recent trip to Tuscany, my wife and I were directed to a tiny, family-run restaurant for dinner – just six tables and only one seating per night. None of the staff spoke English, but the menus were bilingual, and everyone knows how to point. In this restaurant, all the cooking is done by the family matriarch – grandmother to the servers and dishwasher. After the entrees were served, grandma emerged from the kitchen and, through gestures, asked each guest if the food was acceptable. Her kindly face and genuine concern spoke volumes. As guests would leave, she thanked each one with a hug. Judging from the patrons’ faces, I would not be alone in saying it was the best meal experience in all of Tuscany.
Grandma’s approach to customer relations applies equally well in the B2B space. Nothing sends a clearer message than the owner’s touch. But having the owner maintain contact with every customer may not be practical, and in the case of some business owners, may not even be wise.
Some customers will bristle at the thought of being “handed off” to Marketing, and rightly so. Marketing departments seldom earn the right to keep in touch. Their messages are often impersonal and self-serving. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.
We recommend someone from the Marketing department reach out as soon as the sale is made – or earlier if the sales force will allow. But beware, the first contact will set the tone of the entire relationship. So make sure your message is both plausible and customer-centered. One approach would be, “We have built our success on long-term relationships with a select group of customers. And we understand the only way we can ensure your long-term satisfaction is to remain humble, listen attentively, and maintain a spirit of learning. That’s why I’m reaching out now, at the beginning of your customer journey – and why I’ll be reaching out periodically, throughout our relationship. I’m here to listen, to learn, and to help you realize everything you were promised. That’s my commitment to you.”
Try that approach for six months, and you’ll be amazed at your new levels of customer satisfaction.