In this hi-tech, digital age, we tend to lose the "art" of conversation with our customers. Customers are the lifeblood of a business, so building a strong rapport with them is imperative to the success of almost any organization. Learning about your customers and developing a strong relationship can take time and dedication, so deploying the right communications strategies is critical. Here are four steps for establishing better communication and, in turn, lasting relationships with your customers.
1. Make your customer feel comfortable with a personalized approach.
Many financial institutions make the mistake of training employees to memorize greetings, talk about products of the month, get the customer in and out quickly, and sales pitches when all the customer really wants is to communicate with you and understand who they are trusting with their private information. Employees may think a polite smile and a firm handshake is enough, but you can get to know so much more about a customer with real, down-to-earth communication before you even say “what brought you in today?”
First, introduce yourself, and explain to the customer what your goal and purpose is for the interaction—let them know why you choose to be in the position you are in today. You can let them know things like how long you’ve been with the financial institution and how you’ve helped borrowers in the past. Simply saying the reason you chose this job is because you enjoy seeing your customers succeed with goals they are trying to reach, will assure the customer that you have them in mind first. When speaking with your customers, maintain appropriate eye contact, use their names, pay attention to your tone and be polite, but conversational. We know the customer is visiting your institution to address their lending or financial planning needs, so make sure the foundation is set.
2. Learn about your customer’s expectations and current needs.
People respond well when they feel someone has a sincere interest in them. Asking questions about their needs and then listening to their responses is the key to learning as much as you can about your customer and their expectations. Ask them about previous interactions with your financial institution and how impressed they were—or not—with the service so that you'll know what you can do to add value and exceed their expectations. If there is something your customer needs, it’s important that you address their concerns in a proactive and timely manner, and if you are not able or qualified to answer their questions, be honest. Make sure you explain what the next steps will be and a time frame and stick to it.
When discussing their current need, ask what brought them in, and while they are responding, jot down key points. Customers want to see you have completely locked into their needs. Move away from the computer, straighten the papers on your desk, and really give your full attention to the customer. Body language is a key factor in having effective conversation. While the customer is speaking ask more detailed questions about the key points and depending on the answers, tell them all the ways you can help them. Make this communication as seamless as possible, acknowledging, acting on, and following up on feedback where necessary.
3. Stay in regular contact with customers.
By keeping in regular contact, you can track customer sentiments, and rectify problem areas identified through your regular communication. The first thing you should do is to follow up with customers after major transactions, such as a vehicle or home loan, by phone, reinforcing the personalized approach. Hopefully the customer left with your business card or a way to contact you if they have any questions. Leaving the door open for more communication allows the customer to know that this was more than just a “regular” transaction.
Other ways to stay in regular contact beyond this is to send them a monthly email (with their permission, of course) to keep them up-to-date with what’s going on at your financial institution, and forward blog post and videos that would be valuable to your customers. A periodic customer survey is also a great way to get honest feedback from your customers to find out areas that your financial institution is excelling in, as well as areas that could use improvement. One of the best ways to improve and strengthen your relationship with customers is to make them feel appreciated. Sending a personalized thank you note, vouchers, or other tokens of appreciation for trusting your financial institution with their finances are sure fire ways to build brand loyalty. Having regular communication will set you apart from others because you create a real gateway and not a “fast food” approach that shows you are only designed to be an order taker.
Always remember, it costs approximately five times as much to attract a new customer, than to keep an existing one. Making sure your customer is leaving with an answer-negative or positive- is going to allow you to have an open mind for their next visit. During your transaction you want to makes sure that you are allowing the customer to express their feelings after the transaction is complete. Trying to get your point across or expressing to customers, “Well, that is just how it has always been,” may give off to your customer you are not leaving an open door. Although the customer may have not left on a positive note you have to treat the customer the same each time they come back to do business. Do not allow your emotions to compromise your work. Each time a customer comes back, it creates a new transaction, and you want to make sure the customer is happy with where they are making their financial choices.
Remember, your attitude reflects the company in addition to yourself. Be able to enter a new dialogue with that customer even if they disagreed with the last transaction. Make this your opportunity to represent what you introduced yourself with, and how you are wanting to assist them with their financial goals. A customer will receive you better when they see that your previous discussion did not impact your behavior.
Make sure you express your commitment to your customers throughout each interaction to ensure a lasting relationship. All of these steps can help to create a positive interaction and allows you to gain the trust and respect of the customer. Likewise, since word of mouth marketing is so effective, the positive experiences of your existing customers could help you gain new ones in the process!