Do you remember this 1989 commercial from United Airlines? The quality of this copy is not very good, but take 30 seconds to listen to this video before reading this article.
How does this video make you FEEL? Can you relate? I love how the actor refers to his customers as “Friends” and explains the reason they lost this account was because their customers “just didn’t know us anymore.” He laments on how business had been reduced to a phone call or fax, followed by another fax. Sound familiar? The only difference is that now we send an email, followed by a text, then a comment on LinkedIn. The times have changed but the problem has not; business relationships still need the human touch.
This month, our Renaissance Executive Forum members will be focused on applying the principles of Ken Blanchard’s Raving Fans book. As it is titled, it is a “Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service” that has us rethinking our vision of Customer Service. In the book, Ken challenges the reader to take your vision of what you want customer service to look like, and compare it to what they customer wants. Seems simple enough but too often we get busy cranking out orders that we forget that business success is built on relationships.
Throughout my career, I developed and maintained client relationships based on the trust we established through times of talking, planning, and being with them when they needed me. Yet, over time, and as my business got larger, it is a tendency to rely on things other than human interaction to cover the minimum required interaction that make us feel like we’re doing the right things.
We see examples of companies that seem to have lost touch with the pulse of their market. Right here in DFW we can find many examples of companies that seem to have become “Tone Deaf” when it comes to understanding the needs of their market. Radio Shack and JC Penney chose paths that their customers did not want to follow and we saw where that took them. (I do however enjoy this commercial about the 80’s wanting their stuff back and you can see this by clicking on this photo.)
So how do you keep connected to your market in order to provide them what they really want in this digital age? Listen to them.
Go Where Your Customers Are
I’m not saying that we abandon the use of digital marketing, but I am saying that we need to know our customers we’ll enough to connect to them where they want to be connected, and with a message they will receive. If you’re using Social Media Marketing on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, don’t constantly push your message or products. Engage your market by offering information they are interested in and invite them to get involved in the conversation. Find things THEY care about and become a help to them. Step into their world and they will be more likely to step into yours.
If you don’t already have a Social Media plan you can read this HubSpot article and this will help you create one for posting content on these platforms. Just keep in mind that Social Media is there for you to LISTEN, so find topics that will engage your market and create dialog that can help you understand their needs and desires.
Listening to your market will provide you with insights into customer sentiment, trends, competition, and help you find creative new ways to connect with prospects. Use search tools like Transgility Review Engine Service, a simple cruise through Twitter feeds, or a visit to Topsy can give you great insights to whats going on in your market. This will help you keep up with the needs of the market and be ready to offer what they will want.
Don’t forget about Face-to-Face
Find creative ways to get in front of your customers. Exhibit at Trade Shows and conferences for your industry. Set up events of your own and invite your customers and prospects to come learn about something THEY would find valuable and not a sneaky sales pitch.
The CEO of Skyline Sector 5 is a member of our Top Executive Group and they recently hosted an Open House to show off their new building in Arlington. They invited their clients and key partners to come see and play with their new resources for integrating digital technology into Face to Face events. Instead of making feel like a sales pitch, Jeff Meisner had members of his leadership team mixing in the room with their guest. The event was a buzz with give-aways, food, drink, and conversation. This gave the entire team face to face time with their market and opportunities to listen.
The Analog Version of Social Media
I am obviously a big fan of Digital Communications, but at the core of every really great business, is the need for Human Connection. Your team is the “Face” of the company and it’s your job to make sure they understand and will live out the vision and culture that defines your Brand. This happens best as we interact and network with our market, and can be that toughest area for a team that is more skilled in digital communication than personal interaction.
Train your team to rise up to the level of care and excellence that is your vision of Customer Service, and empower them to deliver on this promise 100% of the time. Then every truck driver, customer service agent, account receivable clerk, and sales person, can be the Human touch to your market that builds the loyal customers, brand advocates and Raving Fans that you always wanted.
To steal a line from this great United Airlines commercial, if you’re the kind of company that believes “Personal Service” deserves more than “Lip Service”, take steps today to evaluate how you are doing in this area and make plans to keep a focus on this for the year ahead. Call me if you want an Objective opinion and I’ll come visit you.
ABOUT ROBERT HUNT
I am a Business Owner and Forum Leader for Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas. My role is to find the best members for our CEO Peer Groups, then lead each meeting so that our members become Raving Fans. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also email me at info@REFDallas.com or call me at (469) 269- 5148.
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