Customers that you form long-term relationships with are what you want aren’t they? A business usually wants a happy group of customers who keep coming back for more. But building such relationships can take time.
In the offline world, businesses use all sorts of devices, such as loyalty schemes, customer events and personalised promotions to establish and build relationships. Add in a drop or two of high quality customer service, friendly approachable staff and you are getting ever closer to that dream of loyal customers who may even turn into evangelists for your company.
A recent review of psychological research suggests that this may be easier to achieve online than in the “real world”. The review looked at the “rise of the cyber-cheat” and was focused on online infedility. Some people, it seems, cheat on their partners by having affairs with friends they meet online, in chat rooms or social networking sites.
Studies that have looked at this growing phenomenon have revealed an interesting feature of online behaviour. It seems we are more ready to enter a deeper level of relationship with an online friend, faster than we do in the offline world. Relationships tend to start with us exposing only brief glimpses of our self to others. We talk about the weather and general inconsequential stuff for quite a while as we size each other up and get to know one another.
Then the relationship deepens as we open up. Online, however, the studies of cyber-affairs have shown that we enter into the deeper stages of relationships much faster than we do in the face-to-face world. Perhaps we would get too bored, too quickly if the conversation on chat rooms was just about the weather…!
Even so, what these studies tell us is the fact that we do behave somewhat differently online. Because we are more ready to enter into online relationships more quickly it means that your business should be offering opportunities for engagement with you at a much earlier stage in the normal sales cycle. Online, people are more likely to want to enter a deeper level of relationship with a supplier at an earlier phase than they would do for the same company offline. This means if your online business waits too long to provide a relationship building opportunity you will probably miss out to the competition that does do this.
Online you need devices that help build relationships right from the very start of someone’s connection with your web site. So, using blog technology, for instance, to allow interaction is fundamental in that; so too is the ability for people to ask you questions without having to wade through pages of FAQs. Online, people are readier to connect with your business than they might be offline – so make it easy for them and your business will do well.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+