Here’s one of the most common comments I get about building customer relationships: “We never see our customers face-to-face. We’re lucky if we get them on the phone, and most of the time it’s by email, or even by text. We can’t build relationships with our customers.”
The truth is: Yes, you can! Phone and email communications make relationship-building more difficult, but not impossible.
For most everyone reading this article, the majority of customer interactions are mediated by phone, email or other remote communications. We only see our customers face-to-face a minority of the time, yet a strong relationship is still the best way to differentiate ourselves in the minds of these customers.
How do we create strong customer relationships when we are not sitting in the same room with our customers?
Ready for the answer?
Do the exact same things you do face-to-face.
Sure, it’s harder to build relationships through email or over the phone, but, fundamentally, it’s not different.
Let’s explore how six basic relationship-building principles apply to remote communications.
Alertness is the most fundamental element of a relationship-building encounter. When you pay attention to every detail of your customer conversation, you will inevitably notice ways to advance the conversation. You wouldn’t look at your computer screen if you were sitting face-to-face with a customer, so don’t do it when you’re on the phone. When you are reading an email from a customer, give it your full attention, discerning exactly what your customer wants to say to you.
An email dialogue should be a real dialogue, not just a trading of electronic monologues. An email conversation may happen over a number of days and iterations. Be sure to keep the thread of the conversation strong, even through a long chain of emails.
Explore and heighten
On the phone, and especially by email, it’s harder to identify issues your customer really cares about. Try extra hard to explore and discover the things that really matter to your customer. Then, heighten the conversation by focusing on the details of what your customer cares about.
Focus the conversation on the customer
Often, in short, written communications, people conserve time and space by focusing on communicating information about themselves or their offerings. One of the surest ways to lose someone’s attention is to talk about yourself, so be sure to focus the subject matter of the conversation on the customer.
Use callbacks for conversational continuity
A callback is a reference to a topic that came up earlier in the conversation. Comedy writers use callbacks to get laughs, and you can use them to keep your customer engaged in your remote conversation. Referencing things your customer told you in earlier conversations communicates that you were paying attention, and helps tie your conversation together.
Put a mirror on your desk
You can’t see your customer’s face when you’re on the phone or writing an email, but if you can see your own face, you’ll remember what this is all about: human conversation.
The goal of every customer interaction is to build your relationship. Look at remote communications as another set of opportunities to build a customer relationship. It’s a challenging way to build a relationship, but imagine the dividends if you can manage to do so.