Building customer loyalty starts with building customer relationships. It all starts with understanding who your customers are, what they want and need, and what makes them tick. Customer Relationship Marketing, or CRM for short, is an important part of gaining a deeper understanding of one’s customers or shoppers and the various data around a customer’s interaction with your brand. If you don’t have a customer database starting with names, emails, addresses and basic preferences, now’s the time to start. It’s the cornerstone for building customer loyalty. However, having a database doesn’t equate to building customer relationships. It’s how you use the data to create better customer experiences, online or in your stores and in all possible marketing communications.
What type of customer relationship do you want to have? Personalization & CRM to Enhance the Customer Experience
Let’s start with a basic question: What type of relationship do you want to have with your customers? For starters, it will vary by type of business. Does a gas station need a personal relationship with customer or is a transactional relationship sufficient? If the gas station has convenient locations and in-and-out service, that’s probably good enough. For beauty salons, the customer relationship is likely way more personal, where you have people connections and relationships that span years. The brand is driven by the people who care for customers, often on a very personal level. What about grocery stores, or local hardware stores or fitness clubs? I’d argue that for many brands, the human touch is the key to building meaningful customer relationships. Whether good or bad, front-line sales and services employees are the ones who create, make or break customer relationships.
Most customers value time and money. If front-line employees can help them save both, that’s a great start to building customer relationships. Furthermore, relationships are built and strengthened based on trust. If customers trust the advice of the brand or its employees, everybody wins. So how can brands build trust with customers? It’s all about the personal touch, adding value, and solving customer problems.
Most customers value time and money. If you can help them save both, that’s a great start to building customer loyalty. Furthermore, customers tend to be loyalty to brands that “get them,” or understand their individual preferences. That’s why hospitality companies like hotels and airlines, want to know what types of seats or rooms you like, meal preferences, drink preferences etc. However, having that data is worthless if you can’t use it to build customer loyalty. A simple use-case of hotels welcoming you when you check in and telling you that they have a great corner room on a high floor or a quiet room away from the elevator are little things that use what they know about your preferences to delight you. How great would it be if we didn’t need to remind them every time we check in? That’s what personalizing the customer experience looks like in a very small way. Now how can brands and retailers to do the same?
Personalization of the customer experience goes beyond data, marketing and technology. Most retailers aren’t using their data to deliver personal experiences because they lack the human touch. It’s not that hard. As a potential solution, retailers in certain categories have invested in personal shoppers to deliver this level of personalized service and experience. Nordstrom’s does a fantastic job at this. Hair stylists in beauty salons know intimate details about a customer that go way beyond hair color. In each case the customer trusts the people who represent the retailer. There’s a problem, however. All this personal information is recorded in people’s heads more often than in a system that any employee can access. What happens when the employee turns over? My guess is that customer often follow that employee to their next company because the trust and relationship is stronger than with the brand itself. There should be systems that can help record these details so that brands and any employee can build the right customer relationships without starting from scratch every time.
There are plenty of other ways to deliver more personalized experiences. In the grocery industry, Publix is well-known for great customer loyalty, and they don’t have a loyalty program. At specific stores, store managers will help carry your bags to your car and put them in your trunk. Small acts of kindness go a long way in building customer relationships with employees and the brand. Kroger, as a grocery retailer, for example, delivers personalized coupon mailers to shopper with targeted offers based on what the customer buys or might be inclined to buy. Does anybody like getting random or completely irrelevant offers from a retailer for things they would never buy? I doubt it. That’s a great way for brands and retailers to destroy customer relationships by saying “I don’t know and understand you.” Despite good intentions to offer money-saving deals to shoppers, lack of relevance can turn off shoppers versus building customer relationships brands so desperately need.
If you are not using CRM and data to build customer relationships, then you are missing the big opportunity. People are the difference-maker that can truly differentiate brands, especially in a physical store environment, from pure-play ecommerce or online competitors. The right systems need to be paired with well-trained and caring human beings on the front-line to build lasting customer relationships.
If you are interested in discussing how CRM programs and customer loyalty strategies can be leveraged to personalize the customer experience and build stronger customer relationships, please contact us today. We partner with forward-thinking marketers like you to bring strategic thinking and digital innovation that build the type of customer relationships that empower meaningful growth.
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