Between fact-checkers and Yelpers, the Information Age is laden with a visual archive of how customers and clients perceive products, services, or even your organizational culture. Navigating how to keep your customers happy is already an insurmountable task some days, and now we must factor in their very public display of their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with you.
In years past, you might have been able to overcome a bad review of your customer service department by simply reassuring your client that they were correct, or that you would remedy the situation in the future. That is certainly no longer the case, as every customer has their own digital megaphone in their front pocket or purse, just waiting in the wings to weaponize it at will.
I’m here to tell you that this is not a good or bad thing; it merely exists. Technological changes and access to information are only going to accelerate, especially given the emergence of 5G connectivity. That means customers will be satisfied or dissatisfied with what you have to offer as an organization much quicker than in years gone by.
Equity in Customer Relationships
Because of this, we must not just focus on customer satisfaction and the quality of our products and services alone; we must shift our focus to our relationship with our customers. No matter what kind of customer our organization has, your relationship with them and understanding their intricate needs have become integral to your success.
Every industry has a variety of options when it comes to products and services. So many companies focus both their attention and finances on how to stand out in the way of their products and services, boasting that they care about their customers almost as if they’re merely checking that box off the list.
However, customers aren’t naive! They know when you really mean it, and to many, their allegiance with a brand, product, or service hinges solely on their relationship either with the staff at said company, or the company culture.
The brick-and-mortar example many can likely relate to in recent years is the younger generations attending their favorite coffee shop, whether it be Starbucks or a local small bistro. I’ve heard more often than not that individuals personally connect with the staff and culture at their favorite coffee shop, where their preference of coffee might very well follow their connection to the business.
Relationships Rooted in Culture
In the coffee shop example, culture is what several customers identify with. Whether culture is corporate culture or the individual personalities of the staff, the relationship between a company and a customer is directly rooted in culture. Consider the image your organization portrays to the general public and, also, the significance of your products and services in the world.
Recently, I discussed the importance of understanding how customers perceive you and how you and your team perceive yourselves. This directly correlates to the relationship you have with both your regular customers and potential new ones. Do you give off an image of innovation, progression, and forward thinking, or are you archaic, outdated, and protecting and defending your status quo?
Most customers want a bit of both. They come to you because your relationship with them has never faltered and you understand “their usual”; however, they want to be dazzled and for their evolving needs to be met, even when they don’t know exactly what those needs are. As an Anticipatory Organization, you must understand those evolving needs even when your customer does not. This is a corporate culture a customer gravitates towards, whether you’re a technology firm designing an app or a coffee shop.
Your significance is another integral part of your culture being what a customer relationship is rooted in. A focus on success is usually a focus only on the bottom line, no matter who makes us that money. Longevity in business comes from a focus on significance over success, where your impact in the world or your industry and being a positive disruptor is what strengthens your relationships, both new and old.
Trust Holds It All Together
In a world filled with uncertainty, you have to ask yourself what you are certain about. The number one thing I’m certain about is that the future is all about relationships.
If you want a positive future, then you need to have positive relationships with your customers. And if you want positive relationships, you have to focus on the glue that holds a positive relationship together: trust.
Previously, I mentioned that customers prefer you to both stay the same and evolve and innovate. The part of them that prefers you to maintain the status quo actually translates to their trust in your products and services, not for you to resist change. When they have a positive relationship with you, it means they trust you and, likewise, trust where your company is heading.
Anytime you disregard their trust when you innovate, you run the risk of turning that relationship into a negative one, which, in the Information Age, not only means you lose them as a customer, word of that broken trust will spread like wildfire on all social media platforms, causing you to lose new customers before you’ve ever had a chance to build a relationship with them.
Always Consider the Customer
So how do you win this constant battle between maintaining a customer’s trust and innovating?
Before you implement any new product, service, or change in policy or procedure, ask yourself, “How will this impact our relationships with old and new customers?” If it proves to damage your existing customer relationships, then don’t do it in that way. Find a way to implement change that does not tarnish your customer’s trust, which would thus damage the relationship.
My Anticipatory Organization Model brings focus to Hard Trends, which are future certainties that will happen and the problems those disruptions may cause. Every customer you have a relationship with has a problem that needs solving. Be the one that solves it to further their trust in your company, product, or service and maintain your quality relationship with them.