Keeping track of customers should be a top priority for any company. After all, your customers drive your business; it makes sense to pay attention to how they interact with your brand.
Jessica Alba, founder and CEO of The Honest Company, believes brands can learn a lot by staying connected and listening to their customers.
"I think it's important for brands, especially brands [that] are really consumer centric, to stay connected," Alba shared at the American Express OPEN Success Makers Summit for Business Platinum Card Members. "Customers tell you so much from their behavior and how they shop with you."
But it's not enough to collect customer data and feedback. Cultivating positive relationships with customers is critical to success, said David Reiling, CEO of Sunrise Banks.
"The key is to meet customers where they are at – whether it's on Facebook or at the local coffee shop," he said. "In the end, it's all about developing a trusted relationship."
Here are four effective ways to connect with your customers and build lasting relationships that will keep them loyal to your band.
1. Keep it personal, not transactional
Peelu Shivaraju, the owner and operator of a Money Mailer franchise in Michigan, says being more personal with customers creates and strengthens your bonds with them. When thanking clients for their business, he often includes a photo of him and his family in the envelope.
Rather than being aggressive when selling, try to be more consultative and conversational so clients understand your intentions are pure, Shivaraju recommended.
"Nobody likes a sales person," he said. "Don't go in talking about your product; go in and ask them questions about their business."
2. Focus on face to face
It's common to experience miscommunications when using technology as a main source of contact. While emails and telephone calls are convenient, nothing beats face-to-face contact.
You can understand your customers better in person than over the phone or through a screen. Shivaraju makes it a point to drop in on clients to introduce himself and establish both a professional and personal relationship with them.
"I like to get to know my clients, what their businesses are all about," he said. "I do a lot of research about their business and ask them lots of questions to genuinely show interest. I want to learn everything I possibly can so that I know how best to help their business."
It's easier to learn about a client by talking to them in person. However, some people feel more comfortable speaking to you from a distance. Shivaraju advised asking your clients what their preferred method of communication is and then sticking with that.
"Human connections are everything, in your personal life and in business," said Dr. Kathryn Smerling, Ph.D. She recommended establishing and maintaining eye contact, offering a firm handshake and smiling.
3. Grow with your current clients in mind
If your customers are happy, your business will continue to develop. Shivaraju said not to get too caught up in quick growth, especially if it means giving less attention to clients and jeopardizing your customer service.
"I understand that business owners are always busy, so I always try to work around their schedules," he said. "All new clients get a follow-up visit after the first mailing goes out as well as another in a few months to see how it's going. As long as [clients] give me a reasonable window of time, I'll always make myself available at a time and place of their choosing. My clients always come first."
4. Show your appreciation
Just as you would with supportive friends and family, make sure your customers know that you recognize their importance. Shivaraju states he shows his appreciation to two important groups of people:
"The first is to my clients; they pay me money, so it's my responsibility to create the best possible ad I can for their business and get them high quality new leads," Shivaraju said.
"The second is to the consumers of my product; I need to have my envelopes filled with quality hyperlocal content, filled with businesses that me and my family are comfortable doing business with so that they get opened and used."
Shivaraju mails out envelopes to his consumers, thanking them for purchasing local goods and services. He also recommended sending holiday cards and discounts to show gratitude.