Relationship building with customers doesn’t just happen. And it doesn’t simply revolve around a sale. A relationship is built by a company filling a need that people have—or didn’t know they had—and developing a role in a person’s life to help them solve a problem. Over time, a customer realizes how much that company can help them beyond solving that initial problem, or they realize that the problem that they have is much larger and they need more help to solve it beyond the basic product.
As we know, to build a relationship, you need to have conversations. My favorite illustration is this picture I found in the Dallas Entrepreneur Center when I was recording my third attempt at creating a video class. “Business is socializing with purpose.” How does this apply? To socialize effectively, you need to have a conversation. And the end result of socializing is always relationship building. So, in a way, this poster graphic supports the idea that successful businesses have conversations with customers all the time, and the outcome of these conversations are a business relationship and that relationship somehow materializes into revenue.
But in this digital age, we have realized that conversations don’t need to always be between people and the definition needs to be expanded to include actions as well as words. Over the past 20 years, we have been transitioning to a world where a conversation includes interactions.
In a TED Talk, Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT, talked about communication through new media and how we edit and censor ourselves. She explained how it wasn’t a very human way to communicate in the first place.
One example she gave includes texting and how you’ll see someone typing a response with the dot dot dot for what seems like an eternity, only to read “Yes.”
We know that is edited conversation, trying not to be messy but direct, polite and to the point. But if you think about it, this type of interaction introduces a different type of communication.
Should you listen to the action for long typing to determine if there is more to the message? Or simply the text someone sent? Which is more meaningful to the person and to you?
It’s not that straightforward.
In our digital age with the various communication styles available, we may like to have cleaner communications and conversations, but is that really how we work as humans?
This is why I think it may be time for us to expand our definition of conversations beyond verbal or written communication.
A conversation is really an interaction between two people or entities that build a relationship….it could be through an online app, social media engagement, a focus group, survey, purchase activity, or a support center call. This means that listening should include observing. And we shouldn’t forget that actions speak louder than words.
For interactions, our customer’s communication to our employees and companies comes to us through metrics and results. That’s why we should approach them with curiosity—it’s a way for us to listen.
And sometimes in business we get so focused on improving the bottom line or we want to prove that our assumptions about our audience were right that we often miss what our customers are really telling us in that data.
We overlook trends that may not fit our narratives or contradict our understanding of our customers. We may dismiss outlier data as a fluke because it doesn’t support the main story that we or our managers want to see. But in doing this, we miss key insights that lead us to customer experience nirvana, which we often will attribute as experiencing empathy for our customers, but I think it is better described as our employees having compassion for them. And it is in that state of having compassion for our customers that we can best solve their problems.
I created this grid for the book and this set of videos because it is time for us to expand our definition of conversations beyond verbal or written communication.
In this set of videos, we cover the types of conversations and interactions you can have between your company’s employees and customers and describe the tools that will get you different results. We all know what these communication tools are, but this type of grouping may inspire you to brainstorm options and ideas for better interactions with your customers that help them solve their problem while building a relationship with them. In the relationship lifecycle videos, we’ll show you how to develop the compassion you need to determine what content topics will help you build that customer relationship by helping them make decisions, by helping them understand the value your company offers by solving their problems, but mostly, by helping them understand how your solution, a product or service, will change their lives.
Using this approach when considering customer communication activities may simplify the process of choosing activities and tactics to create an engaging marketing program. It may be easier to define a program by first determining the desired result you want and then considering the various approaches to achieve it rather than identifying a series of activities that you prefer or find innovative, which may or may not allow you to achieve your goals. It may also provide you the inspiration necessary to develop a creative solution to more deeply engage with customers and prospects emotionally, building that connection and relationship to become more than a vendor, but a resource in their lives.
Further, this will help you consider what happens outside of a customer journey. How could a customer potentially connect with your company that’s not on your main path? By focusing on what you want to achieve rather than how you want to achieve it, you could offer a number of ways to engage a customer in a conversation with your company to build trust, demonstrate your company’s compassion, and develop a customer connection that moves a relationship to a deeper level.
I hope this was helpful. More to come. Have a great day!
At-a-Glance Summary of the Four Quadrants
Automated, Digital Individualized Experiences
Potential Content Creators
Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (analyst firms, review and content creation companies), press, potentially customers
Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (search engines, social media, chatbot companies)
Customers and influencers unlikely
Company (employees), influencers, third-parties (call centers), customers
Mainly companies and third-parties (event hosting companies, analyst firms, store fronts)
Less likely: customers, influencers (e.g. Meetups)
Customer discovers general information
Customer finds information that solves their problem
Customer gets referred to a person or resource
Customer discovers specific information that solves their problem
Employee can connect emotionally with the customer
Customer discovers how a product or service could help him or her
Employee can connect emotionally with the customer