The Pope is in Britain amid controversy over past misdemeanours by Catholic Priests and comments by one his aides on the “atheism” of Britain. It’s almost 30 years since a Papal visit and no-doubt part of the reason for this trip is to repair the damage done by abuse scandals, as well as to rekindle the relationship The Vatican has with British Catholics. Ultimately, it is about ensuring that the Catholic people of the UK do not feel neglected or forgotten by the head of their church.
And this visit by The Pope is a reminder of the importance of not neglecting ” your flock”. How often have you needed to rekindle relationships with customers in order to get the next piece of business? People largely pay lip service to “customer relationships”; PC World seems to have had some kind of training course on “relating to your customer” – cashiers now hand back your credit card with both hands holding the card. Aah, lovely. But that’s not a relationship – it’s a gimmick dreamt up by some training company no doubt. But, shops who buy into this notion can “tick the box” and say they are “doing everything we can” to relate to our customers. Tosh, of course.
Relationships are about knowing each other, about constant contact and about understanding the other person. So, the more you stay in contact with your customers on an individual basis, so you can really get to know them and understand them, is true relationship building. And maintaining that relationship is essential. Enter Twitter.
Twitter is a fantastic way to build and maintain your relationship with your customers. Here are my favourite ways of using Twitter to deepen relationships with people.
1. Just say “Hi”
We love people noticing us. Nothing more. When we are walking round the supermarket and our neighbour passes us by, because they are engrossed in their shopping, what do we say when we get home? “I saw Sally today – completely ignored me…!”. Don’t let your customers say the same about you. When they are active on Twitter, merely saying “Hi” is all you need to do; let them know you notice them.
2. Offer help without being asked
When you see someone you know who has an obvious problem, do you walk by, head down, hoping they don’t see you? Or do you wander over to your friend and offer to assist them? People love being offered help from people they know when they have some kind of problem. Few people actually like asking for help, but they love it when it is offered by people they know. So, when you see your clients asking for information on Twitter, or when they are puzzled by something, or even if they are making some kind of faux-pas on Twitter, an offer of help will be greeted warmly.
3. Send them a surprise
We all love receiving gifts and surprises – even if they are not of significant monetary value. The mere fact that one of our contacts thought of us is enough to make us feel positive towards them. So, send something to your customers via Twitter – perhaps a discount voucher at Amazon, perhaps a special discount code for your own products. But a personalised, surprising Tweet directed at a single individual, is enough to make them feel good about you.
4. Congratulate your customers
When your customers win an award, or get new business, or take on new staff simply Tweet your congratulations. We love being recognised and simply by showing you recognise the achievements of your customers is often enough to make them feel closer to you.
5. Thank You Tweets
When your customers do something for you – such as buying something from you – thank them publicly. Sure, you will no doubt send a Thank You Card (you do that don’t you…?) but a public thanks on Twitter is a nice way to show your appreciation and it boosts the positive feelings they have about you.
6. I just saw this and thought of you…
When you see something useful online that you think your customers would find helpful or useful, send them a Tweet with a link and a “I thought of you…” message. They may well have seen the material you are linking to, but the mere fact that you demonstrate you are thinking of them is enough to make them like you even more.
7. Industrial espionage!
Keeping an eye on your customers’ competitors and letting them know what they are up to can also help you with your relationships. The chances are your clients will already know the information you are sending, but being seen as someone who “looks out” for them makes you a true friend. Ask any child why their “best friend” is their “best friend”; they will tell you that the reason their best friend is their “bestest” is because they “look after me”. It’s deep within our psyche – we love people who look out for us. Look out for the dangers your customers face and let them know; they will love you. Set up Google Alerts for your customer’s competitors and then send a Direct Message on Twitter with the relevant links.
8. Do you know…?
Introduce your customers to people who may be useful to them, or who have similar interests. When you are down the pub with your mates and they obviously know other people in the bar, you are often longing for them to introduce you. On Twitter your customers can see who you know, but they would like it more if you effected an introduction, rather than merely clicking the “Follow” button themselves. Connect people to each other and you will be well-liked.
9. Make them feel special
When your customers have blogged something, when they have uploaded a new video on YouTube, or when they have simply updated their website, tell the rest of the world via Twitter. By doing this you will be letting your clients know you have noticed and that makes them feel warm and positive inside.
10. Give your customers a cuddle
Not everything your customers will do is good; things will go wrong for them, they will lose orders themselves or have to make people redundant. When that happens a sympathetic Tweet or Direct Message is an electronic cuddle. When we are down, when things go wrong we all respond to a cuddle. Cuddling your customers on Twitter will make them much closer.
So, I just wonder how many of these relationship-building methods the Pope has been doing? Or do they feature in training courses at PC World…?
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+