Just as delighting your valentine requires more than grabbing a box of drugstore candy on your way home, showing your customers your care with, say, a 10% off coupon, isn’t going to cut it. Building lasting relationships with your customers takes patience, consistency, and, yes, love, but the great news is that the little things can go a long way.
1. EXTEND A WARM WELCOME
If you're sending a welcome email, skip the fancy branded template and make it as low-key, warm, and personal as you can. Send it from an actual person if you can instead of a "no reply"--for example, your founder or your customer service lead.
If you're selling a physical product, consider how to make the "unboxing" moment delightful. My husband recently ordered jeans from denim crafters Imogene + Willie, and they arrived in gorgeous packaging with a hand-written postcard on top. Warm and welcoming, just like their flagship store in Nashville.
2. ASK FOR FEEDBACK
Ask your customers for their input and ideas frequently, and sincerely--through surveys, emails, on your blog, in person.
That "sincerely" is key, however--this is only effective if your customers feel that what they have to say is valued, and that you're actually going to listen. The important thing is that they feel heard.
3. SHOWCASE THEIR WORK AND IDEAS
4. RESPECT THEIR TIME
Any time a brand--even one that I love--asks me to take a "quick" survey that turns out to be 25 questions long, or requires me to call a 1-800 number during certain hours to resolve a simple issue, it puts a strain on our relationship.
When you're asking your community for feedback (really, when you're asking them to do or read anything), keep it short, simple, and focused. If someone has a question, do your best to respond directly and succinctly, right there.
5. PRIORITIZE LISTENING AND RESPONDING
Many brands invest significant resources to plan in elaborate detail, far in advance, what they're going to say on social media. Yet some of those same companies leave tweets and posts unanswered, often due to a "lack of resources."
I believe this is backwards. Listening and responding to your customers should be top priority--even if it's just a quick thank you or brief acknowledgement. This doesn't have to be dull, though--for inspiration, check out how much fun @Eat24 has interacting with their customers!
6. GET TO KNOW INDIVIDUALS, NOT JUST DATA POINTS
I hear a lot about big data, and of course data is essential for illuminating trends and showing the big picture. But I'm a fan of the small data, too. I make it a point to get to know individual customers, especially the ones who are really engaging and advocating for what we're doing.
Lunch with Haiku Deck superfans Steve Peha and Margot Lester
At Haiku Deck, we have an extremely broad audience. I picture specific people when I'm considering our feature set and our communication--the busy sales and marketing speaker, the tech CEO, the design blogger, the high-school counselor, the communications professor. Note that these are not brand personas; they are actual people we've gotten to know through social media, customer service, or, sometimes, by picking up the phone. They keep our team informed and inspired.
7. BE GENEROUS
Generosity is a powerful tool for building customer loyalty--but being generous doesn't always have to take the form of dollars. It might be spending a little extra time to really understand what's going on with a support request or tweeting a customer a coffee if they've been particularly helpful or patient.
Sometimes we create custom Haiku Decks or offer to do a Hangout to support a particular cause or event. These small gifts of time and creativity are always appreciated, and they build stronger connections with our community.
8. DON'T JUST TALK ABOUT YOURSELF
So many of the marketing emails I receive are incredibly narrow in their focus. See our new product! Read our exciting news! Buy this thing!
As in any kind of relationship, this type of one-way communication (or, more accurately, monologue) gets old, fast. I have a particular appreciation for companies who share valuable information with me--who teach me something or inspire me. Canva does this perfectly with its Design 101 email series.
9. SAY THANK YOU
If a customer does something awesome for you, don't miss the opportunity to say thank you! And in an age of digital noise, handwritten notes really stand out, and are that much more likely to get shared--like this.)
10. APOLOGIZE IF YOU NEED TO
As is the case in any lasting relationship, apologies are sometimes necessary. Whether your misstep is tiny or colossal, apologize promptly, sincerely, and graciously, and you'll be remembered for it. Just ask JetBlue.
11. LOOK FOR OCCASIONS TO WOW
We always keep an eye out for occasions to really wow someone. This doesn't always work perfectly (case in point: trying to have a pizza delivered from across the country is tricky), but it can win you lifelong, loyal fans.
12. EXCELLENT SERVICE
I can't emphasize enough how important great service is. Haiku Deck's CEO, Adam, reads support requests first thing every morning, and gets on the phone if he needs to do help get a time-sensitive issue resolved quickly.
This extends to the realm of physical products too, of course. Rapha makes gorgeous, high-quality cycling jerseys, backed by some really creative guarantees--if you try it and don't like it, if your garment is damaged in a crash, or even if you lose weight and need a new size--they've got your back.
How do you show your customers you care? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.