Customer ❤️ can start before potential customers even speak with someone at your organization. Digital transformation has changed how customers interact with a business, and can even fully replace human interaction, even in business-to-business (B2B) commerce. So how can you delight customers and generate the empathy that drives long term relationships, without the human touch? 

Creating a non-human, human experience

Not long ago, customers walked a different path. In a business-to-consumer (B2C) setting, word-of-mouth or just wandering by would spur a potential customer to enter a store and purchase an item. B2B deals often revolved around an in-person sales call and it was up to the business representative to delight, sell, and build a relationship.

Fast forward to today, in our digital-first world. Even with virtual meeting tools the face-to-face element of the customer journey is frequently eliminated. A web search pulls up reviews on your business, and reviews on social media and seller sites give you everything you want to know about someone else’s experience. Comparison shopping on features, price, reputation, service happens before a customer even enters a store (and “showrooming” can eat your team’s time with no payoff). 

Your business today faces a new challenge—how to control an experience you aren’t even present for? 

I’ve worked with many organizations over the years, helping to create positive customer experiences and designing customer journeys that delight throughout the entire process. While you may not have the same level of control over how a prospect or customer finds or interacts with your business online, you absolutely can influence their experience by properly curating your online presence, including using your existing customers as your “secret weapon.”

Consider these ideas as starting points—

Make social media work for you — You have social media accounts. Are you using them? Encourage customer use, write posts designed to drive interaction and not just “likes,” and monitor what your customers say. Gauge customer sentiment. Amplify marketing and sales, plus onboarding and customer success. When followers ask questions or raise concerns, make sure a member of your team is quick to respond.

Build customer community — Whether you create a private customer forum or monitor and interact through broad social media platforms, creating a sense of community among your customers increases their connection to your brand and ultimately produces your online champions. I’ve seen these customers, coveted fans and advocates, answer questions from newer or less-engaged customers and come to their favorite brands’ defense in tough situations.

Incorporate surveys and feedback — Don’t let customers and prospects feel alone on their journey. Generate empathy by going where they are, whether it’s your website or app. Do surveys, offer support through chat boxes, and give them the ability to reach out to support with questions or concerns. You will discover better maps for their journeys, understanding how they feel at each step.

Delight with your website and apps — Make sure you present the right information at the right times. An efficient buying process decreases frustration and increases sales. Meet or exceed standards for security and accessibility, including coding for screen reader and captioning all videos.

Excite with information — Provide extra information online and make it easy to find. How-to guides, FAQs, a structured onboarding process, info on how to contact your finance or shipping departments—going the extra mile to provide additional information goes a long way to increasing your customers’ happiness. Don’t just meet needs, anticipate them.

For example, I was recently working with a company that helps accountants forecast future tax obligations for their employers or clients. When interviewing their customers, I consistently heard that this company had the best training. Customers loved their video library that not only discussed what accountants need to know about the somewhat arcane area of tax provisions, but also gave deep how-to instruction on using their software to get the correct tax information. 

Every member of your team can spread customer ❤️

Every employee is a brand ambassador. Customers (and prospects) will interact with multiple departments within your organization beyond support or sales, including finance, accounts payable, logistics or shipping, or even IT. 

In the second half of June this summer, I purchased a new grill with the intention of using it for the 4th of July. Expecting a backyard full of hungry friends, I got nervous as the first delivery date, and then a second, slipped. I don’t know how many customers of this particular big-box outdoor and household goods merchant end up navigating their shipping department, but not only did the grill end up arriving on time, I felt great about the attention and empathy I got from their team. Good on Lowe’s for knowing that every employee helps shape their customers’ perceptions.

What does this show? That everyone in your organization needs training on how to engage with customers, be patient and helpful, ask the right questions, and make an effort to build a relationship, however short-lived, in each encounter. Customer ❤️ depends on it.

Start with a review to determine next steps

Take the time to thoroughly review your current customer journeys—not just to purchase but everything that comes before and after. Get input through interviews, focus groups, online questions, and more. Once you understand what prospects and customers face, from research to purchase to onboarding, repair, re-order, and more, you can begin the work to communicate well at each step and mold your culture to think customer experience first. If you’re uncertain where to start, 3C can help.