On the one hand, they love each other, and on the other, they are increasingly growing apart. Yet they need each other. Open focuses on relationship problems in partnership with customers and advice in the search for answers.
1. Customers are just people, too
They talk, laugh, cry and derive pleasure from things. You should therefore avoid simply making them another number: a telephone number, a customer number or a number in your customer relation management system (CRM). Customers will notice this and it is not something they generally like. The more clearly you manage to avoid this, the greater the chance that the relationship will be maintained and has a real future. In general, shared positive experiences strengthen the feeling of belonging together.
2. Loyalty has its price
If markets are saturated and new customers are rare, companies like to think back to customers they have had in the past. Loyalty is required, precisely because it is increasingly difficult to come by. In these times of consumption-driven promiscuousness, relationships that are created this way would regularly be candidates for couple therapy. All means possible are explored to fit customers with invisible straitjackets, because loyalty has its price. Entire industries, products and service providers live from “managing” customer relationships. But can loyalty be institutionalised? High rates of separation would suggest otherwise. Our suggestion: Don’t panic. It goes without saying that your customers may be disloyal, that is in their nature. Be sad, but don’t be mad. They will come back when they notice that things were better with you. And that is precisely what you should be focusing on – that your customers have it better with you. Installing a new piece of software or appointing a friendly customer relations manager will only be of minor interest to your customers. They are much more interested in whether you take the time to take them and their needs seriously – at least more seriously than others do.
3. Online is great, but offline is better
The Internet is the new dating paradise – including for customers and companies. But in the real world, romantic online relationships often prove a disappointment. A perfect online profile which is not backed up and maintained in the true light of day soon fades to grey meaninglessness. Even Werther noticed that he and Charlotte had no future in real life.
4. Be authentic
Authenticity is the only thing that promises long-term success in relationships. Therefore a few words about so-called “social media”. Uncertainty grows quickly when you come to realise that everyone only projects an image of the way they want to be perceived on social media platforms, even old schoolmates. This disparity between the virtual and real is not only irritating; it also quickly fuels disinterest and mistrust in a medium that makes this type of self-presentation possible with ease. That is why social media is much more “media” than “social”. Instead, be more “social” in the real world and less “media” in the virtual world: after all, a sustainable customer relationship needs a reliable, credible partner. Hit the right notes, avoid contradicting yourself and try to keep your promises.
5. Respect fear of commitment
Statistically speaking, an increasing number of customers suffer from a fear of commitment. But that also makes them interesting. They are discerning, sensitive and have probably had their fingers burnt before by bad experiences. It is therefore difficult to fool them. Sensitive customers with a fear of commitment are not interested in conventional propaganda. That’s too crude for them. First and foremost, they are driven by the satisfaction they experience when they use a good product. Patience, quality and customer service are relationship guarantees. Fear of commitment is therefore best addressed with understated, relaxed quality. Give it a try.
6. Don’t gamble away trust
Trust is the capital that you cannot gamble with, otherwise you risk having to start from square one again. And not every new beginning has the charm of a first love, especially if you have already aged somewhat and lost everything before. But you no doubt know this already.
7. Don’t be an island, be the ocean
Many people still assume that customers are islands to which bridges can be built. Yet they are the ocean, and we are the islands. Building bridges is not much help, and draining the ocean is certainly not a good plan. Instead, diving, swimming and getting wet is the order of the day, even if this means risking losing sight of land.
8. Make yourself a little scarce
Even the best relationships become worn down over time. Stay true to yourself by reinventing yourself time and again. And remember: You don’t have to please all of the people, all of the time.
9. Mindfulness is important
Less CRM and more EMR: Effort, mindfulness and respect. Your customers will appreciate it. Take this on board as a mantra and say it out loud three times before every customer meeting: Effort, mindfulness and respect.
Experienced couple therapists emphasise the importance of rituals for a happy relationship. They say that it is important for couples to take time out to talk about everyday life. This is something you can also take to heart. Make time to talk to your customers. Whenever you have the chance. Talk about football, the summer or the new neighbours.