How to keep the customer fire going?

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Customers are most excited about your products and services after they sign up for their purchase. They have hopes and dreams about what this new experience will be like. Very similar to the beginning of a relationship, they dream about the fun times ahead, how much easier their daily life will be and how they will shine as a star for their organizational leaders with a powerful new tool. You’ve got them on the hook and they’re off to a great start, so now what? What happens when the challenging moments strike?

Technology has a few common life cycles, one of those cycles is the trough of disillusionment. It’s when early adopters’ interest can fade due to some sort of disappointment or waning interest – your customers will inevitably experience a phenomenon like this at some point in their journey with you. It’s the moments when reality kicks in about how much work it will take to launch, when they have their first technical problem, the system isn’t working or there’s an unfulfilled expectation.

The key here will be how you navigate your client through not only the good times, but also the more challenging times. The good news is that you can control a lot yourself. Only 15% of people will forgive a bad experience if they have rated customer service as ‘very bad’. About 82% will forgive a bad experience if they rate customer service as ‘very good’. This is excellent news and shows how much you can control.

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Here are a few tips to stoke the fire with your customers.

Be reliable

The beginning of your customer relationship is critical and will lay the foundation for success or churn. This is an opportunity to build trust right away, and it’s equally important to maintain that trust throughout the customer journey.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the likelihood of trust increases when multiple items are present, including a reliable source of information (continuity), successfully executed plans, accountability, effective change management, and communication and transparency. To ensure lasting trust, it’s important that these are all part of the customer experience – and they often happen at the same time.

Trust is also built through simple relationship building skills, such as active listening (listening to really understand the other person) and building rapport. Get to know your customers personally — the person behind the business objectives. Ask them how their children, pets and partners are or how their recent vacation has been. Ask and be genuinely interested in their answer – people will feel the authenticity of your question.

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Be consistent

Do what you say you will do. Not following up is one of the quickest ways to lose trust. Don’t leave a customer hanging at a critical moment. A common mistake is that the customer is left in the dark with no updates while someone is fighting a fire to solve their problem. You may be working hard on a fix, but you may not be communicating enough with regular updates. When a customer doesn’t hear feedback or updates, they’re likely to fill in the gaps with assumptions that their needs don’t matter or that they’re not a valued customer.

When customers experience consistency, both in product and in service, they will be much better able to cope with the occasional challenges that inevitably arise, knowing they are valued and that their success matters.

Build in mutual responsibility

It can be easy to put a lot of the responsibility on your customers to make sure they launch and continue to use your products successfully. However, what makes a customer successful is when they are also responsible and included in the path to success – this means that your customers commit to doing what they need to do as well. A mutual action plan is a great way to address this by getting your customer buy-in and ownership of action items and milestones, including what needs to be done and when.

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In his book “Win with responsibility“Henry Evans discusses how adding responsibility fosters stronger relationships. When we know we can count on each other and work together to get important projects done, there is a mutual sense of accomplishment and empowerment.

By keeping the customer at the center, not only after the deal is closed, but also throughout the entire process, both you and the customer can have a lasting and fruitful relationship. This is how customer champions are created – the ones who will proudly sing your praises and buy again and again