Customer Obsession: Being Real, Sensitive, and Personal is a Requirement Now
The latest post to take LinkedIn by storm wasn’t an announcement about a startup raising millions in funding or an A-list executive joining the board of an industry titan. Rather, a highly personal story by self-employed writer, Niharikaa Kaur Sodhi, quickly went viral on the professional social networking site. Sodhi shared her courageous journey during the 45 days following reconstructive surgery on both her knees.
As of today, the post has gained a staggering 58,614 reactions and 1,826 comments. While such a decidedly non-work focused post may have been a rarity on the site just two years ago, the success of Sodhi’s story and how much it resonates with users represents just how much the pandemic has broken down the divide between personal and professional, especially in the digital space.
While the oversharing, TMI-style of Instagram and Facebook is rightfully still unwelcomed on business social media channels, corporate Zoom calls, and in-person work holiday parties, it's now more than OK to get a little bit personal in business environments. With social distancing plunging many of us into isolation and loneliness, people are more eager for connection than ever before. When asked by Forbes Coaches Council to predict business trends for 2022, Dr. Patrick Williams, CEO of Transformational Living, said empathy is no longer a luxury but a powerful skill for conquering both life and work challenges.
This sea change in business goes by many names — empathy, personalization, authenticity and more — but no matter what it’s called, it’s instantly recognizable. As bosses and employees are encouraged to adopt more personable ways of relating to each other, customers have also come to expect a more “human” touch when interacting with their favorite brands. A lack of authenticity or just plain “being real” has emerged as a major turn-off to consumers, and that’s raised the stakes for businesses looking to streamline their customer relations strategy and brand voices.
Customer obsession has evolved from providing the best products, services and solutions to fostering a sense of personal connection with your target market. And that connection is widely expected to pay off with a boost to the bottom line. According to Forrester, investing in customer obsession will yield at least a 700 percent return on investment over 12 years. To save you time in understanding what it takes to achieve this goal, Nir Eyal — through his deconstruction of how Netflix cracked the code on customer obsession — explains it best through the following chart:
This chart was written before the pandemic. If it was created today, it would absolutely include "connecting personally" with your customers. Whether you’re a B-to-B company selling artificial intelligence, business intelligence, or cybersecurity solutions to Fortune 500s or a manufacturer selling smartphones directly to consumers via an e-commerce site, connections are crucial in today's climate.
Looking to up your customer connection game? Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Prioritize connecting before the pitch. While being careful not to cross boundaries, get to know your customer on a more personal level. Embrace small talk! For example, ask them about their hobbies and passions before pitching them your product or solution. In return, let them get to know you a bit deeper without, of course, turning them into your therapist and oversharing.
- Get personal for product development. Beyond gathering customer data from the open web to create a perfectly crafted device or solution, use intelligent data to get to know your customer on a personal level. That could mean taking a deep dive into TikTok or LinkedIn profile reviews, depending on your target market. This initial investment will pay off when customers feel like you truly understand their preferences and needs on a deep level.
- Keep engaged during the customer lifecycle. It’s one thing to snag a customer through a person-first acquisition approach. It’s something else entirely to maintain that authenticity and connecting once the sale is done. Customers that feel like brands see them as more than a number are much more likely to be loyal, repeat customers and evangelize your brand, creating organic positive buzz and excitement for your business.
- Leverage tech tools as a direct gateway to your customers. Marketers are notorious for seeming as though they prioritize sales over their customers’ needs. Thanks to ad fatigue triggered from more hours in front of screens, consumers are wary of slick marketers and traditional techniques are less likely to hook them. In response, marketers can take a proactive, sensitive and caring approach via anticipatory customer service.
A great example of this personal connection in action was an exercise in which parents using smart baby monitors partnered with an IoT customer experience provider to see how often they're up during the night. The business sent those sleepless parents Starbucks gift cards and other incentivizing rewards, showing real compassion and understanding to their customers.
The bottom line is that the customer-business relationship is more emotional than before the pandemic, with the key to customer obsession found in staying attuned, responsive and reactive to the feelings of clients. Building brand loyalty through connection that meets both consumers’ practical and emotional needs is critical for businesses looking to make the most of the trend towards personalized marketing. Sensitivity, compassion, and even a little vulnerability are now important tools in your marketing toolbox to keep your customers satisfied and win over new markets.
Sharel Omer is the CEO and co-founder of Affogata, the leading customer intelligence platform.
Related story: Customer Loyalty is Earned Through a Personal Understanding