The number of companies in the world is astounding. Car manufacturers, real estate agencies, ice cream makers…the list goes on.
No matter the industry, every one of these companies has something in common: they all have customers. Whether it’s a small business with a handful of clients or a massive corporation with millions of followers, every company in the world exists to help other people in one way or another.
The car manufacturer doesn’t just make cars; it helps people get where they need to go. The real estate agency doesn’t just sell houses; it helps people find a safe place to start a family.
The ice cream maker doesn’t just make desserts; they help people relax and unwind after a long day.
Unfortunately, this sentiment can easily be lost when companies focus too hard on things like revenue, sales numbers, KPIs, and all that other business-related stuff. We forget that our customers are, in fact, people. And they’re not just “people”; they’re individuals.
And, more and more, consumers want to be treated as such. According to data collected by Evergage:
- 77% of consumers choose, recommend, and/or pay more for products or services when a company provides a personalized experience
- 78% of customers will only engage with offers that are tailored to their previous engagements with a company
- Anywhere from 50-60% of consumers actively want companies to use their personal data if it results in a more personalized and overall better experience for them
On the other hand, a generic approach to customer communications can be incredibly detrimental to a company:
- 74% of consumers are often frustrated by irrelevant offers and other content
- 84% of customers report they would stop patronizing a brand if they were not treated as an individual
Simply put: If you don’t treat customers as individual human beings, you run the risk of losing them for good. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
4 Simple Ways to Treat Customers as Individuals
Below are the best practices for treating customers right and increasing the chances of maintaining and growing your customer base.
Learn About the Customer
It probably goes without saying that businesses must know as much as possible about their customers before treating them as individuals. But let’s break down the most important factors.
First and foremost, understand who they are as people. To do this, gather information relating to their:
- Geographic location
Demographic information is an individual’s “on-paper” characteristics, such as age, gender, occupation, and marital status. While this data provides an overview of a customer’s general persona, it’s most valuable when used in conjunction with other collected data to truly get an understanding of who an individual customer really is.
Geographic data is, of course, information about where a person lives. Again, this data might add to the general picture of an individual’s persona – but more info is needed in order to avoid assumptions about a specific person’s character and way of life.
Psychographic data is the most essential information for truly learning about customers as individuals. Psychographics include information about someone’s personality, lifestyle, and social class.
(A quick note: Compared to demographic and geographic information, collecting psychographic data is a much more involved process. For instance, an individual’s personality and lifestyle aren’t exactly easy to define or categorize. But, it’s possible to create your own categories for each of these data points depending on the information gathered.)
After defining your customers based on these character traits, dig into who they are as consumers using behavioral segmentation.
Behavioral data essentially answers the following questions:
- What do your customers buy?
- When do they make purchases?
- How do they shop/make purchases?
- Why do they buy the things they buy?
On the surface, the answers to these questions (combined with the above information) determine the best way to market a product or service, optimizing the chances of making a sale.
Data clarifies how to meet customers exactly where they expect to be met.
Make Their Success Your Success
It’s pretty easy to get too focused on making sales and generating revenue when running a company of any size. It’s also easy to forget about why you’re in business in the first place: helping people (remember?).
Shift away from defining the company’s success by the amount of money it makes, and begin defining it by the degree to which the business helps consumers overcome their pain points. There is, however, more to it than just solving someone’s problems.
Figure out ways to continue providing value even after helping them over that first hurdle. Otherwise, they’ll simply leave once they realize they no longer need these specific services.
The trick to doing so is: Never stop onboarding.
It’s easy to think a customer is ready to “go it alone” once they’re acclimated with the product. But the moment they stop receiving attention is the moment you stop learning about what else they may possibly need.
Yes, enable customers to autonomously use the services as needed, but always remain at arm’s length in case they encounter a situation where they need extra help. Believe me: There will always be more that can be done for customers.
Now, you might be thinking, “They might need something that my company doesn’t offer.” That may be true, but don’t use that statement as an excuse, use it as motivation. If it’s clear that customers are in need of a certain service, start working immediately to provide it for them.
Proactively respond to customers’ needs and put in the effort to improve the company’s offerings. This sends a clear message:
We notice you. We hear you. We want you to succeed.
(Of course, as an added bonus, improving services will also help differentiate your company from the competition.)
Respond to Comments and Problems Individually
Whenever customers take the time to reach out – whether it be for a good reason or a not-so-good reason – they should always receive a personalized response or a representative of your company.
Think about your experiences as a customer: Who enjoys listening to “the following menu” when calling a cable company?
How does it feel sending a carefully-crafted complaint through email, only to receive a boilerplate response that doesn’t address a single issue you discussed?
Or what about sending a complaint to a company’s customer service department, only to have the severity of that complaint downplayed to nothingness?
There may not be a more effective way of making a customer feel like less of a person than providing shoddy, impersonal customer service when they’re most in need of assistance.
There’s no better time to provide individualized service than when a customer explicitly tells you exactly what they need.
On the flip side, showing you truly care about customers – and willing to do whatever it takes to rectify a negative situation – can protect your company against unnecessary churn (and add some good publicity in the process):
But don’t just adopt a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” attitude regarding customer service. Respond to your satisfied customers, too!
It can be easy to get caught up in the quickness and simplicity of automation when it comes to providing customer service and quality assurance.
But customers don’t want a quick fix; they want a quick, efficient solution. The best way to do that is to treat each incoming complaint (or compliment) with individual concern.
Celebrate Their Success
There’s no harm in celebrating customers’ wins, both big and small. One option is to do so privately between you and the customer, or publicly – allowing them a moment in the spotlight.
It’s best to celebrate privately when acknowledging gains a customer has made while using the service. For example, SaaS company Nickelled sends its users weekly emails explaining how much time and money they saved while using the service:
And check out this quirky email JetBlue sends its customers on their “one year anniversary”:
In that case, the customer didn’t even have to do much of anything. But JetBlue still used the occasion as an opportunity to reach out and thank them for their business.
Reaching out to celebrate a customer’s successes serves a few purposes. Most importantly, you reinforce the notion that they’re valued. Secondly, it motivates them to continue striving toward their next big win. Lastly, it’s an ever-so-subtle reminder of the value the business bring to their lives – hopefully inspiring them to remain loyal.
You can also give your successful customers time to shine by celebrating big wins publicly.
One way to do so is by featuring customers in case studies and success stories:
Such success stories might fit into a section on your website (like the one above), or appear in a roundup blog post or newsletter. This article by Timely showcases a number of clients – both long-time users and newbies – that experienced success using the service throughout 2016.
In most of the examples mentioned above, the company’s acknowledgement of the customer’s success was in itself, a reward.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t take the celebration a bit further and provide some extrinsic rewards for successful clients, either.
For example, perhaps Weight Watchers might decide to reward customers who reach a certain milestone by paying for their gym membership one month. Or a SaaS company might provide long-time users with a basic membership with a free month of its advanced service.
Or, shoot loyal customers a “just because” gift. Anything to show them you care about them and want to make them happy!
(One thing to note about rewards: The examples I mentioned go toward allowing the customer to experience even further success. Remember, that’s your modus operandi.)
The Point Is…
Consumers want to be treated less like statistics, and more like individual people.
While doing so might seem like an enormous undertaking – especially as the customer base grows larger and larger – start by simply stripping away all the customer data and start seeing them as a close friend.
By forging authentic relationships with customers, you have a much better chance of keeping them onboard well into the future.