A recent Forrester report revealed that, in order for companies to deliver an exceptional customer experience, they must focus on making emotional connections.
There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests human connections can help drive enthusiasm, loyalty, advocacy and lifetime customer value. A study from The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and Google found that B2B buyers who felt a strong connection to a brand had higher rates of consideration, purchase and willingness to pay a premium.
Humanizing your brand isn’t something you can achieve overnight, but it does begin with one simple premise: trust. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer study discovered that 80 percent of respondents said that they bought a product or service because they trusted the brand behind it.
Not sure how to become trustworthy in the eyes of your customers? Tap into the humans who are already powering your brand: your employees.
Here are four ways to show customers the human side of your brand and create a better customer experience in the process.
1. Empower employees to solve customer problems
By empowering employees to make important decisions and service customers without a manager’s permission, you begin building a culture of trust that reflects outwardly with each customer interaction.
When employees feel empowered and confident, they are happier at work, and are more likely to talk positively about your company—which improves the customer experience.
“This is the big challenge for brands now,” said Jeanette Gibson, VP of Community at Hootsuite, during a panel at this year’s Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD). “Everything is a 24/7 culture, and the expectation is that every employee should be able to represent the brand.” Companies need to infuse their culture into every employee so they can deliver an exceptional customer experience.
2. Give your employees a voice—and let them help you listen
While crowdsourcing authentic stories from external advocates is an integral part of infusing emotion into your brand, the same concept can apply to employees. Whether customer-facing or not, every employee has the potential to humanize your brand by sharing their own positive experiences and ideas.
Employees can also monitor feedback on social channels in order to get a pulse on how customers feel about your company, and take action to ensure any issues are quickly resolved.
Customer service and social media expert, Peter Shankman, also a CMAD panelist, advises organizations use employee advocates to strengthen ties with your external community. “Find a couple of voices for the company,” said Peter. “Let them give away information in their own way—a way that people will enjoy, and will be able to use.” Once a few employees start creating more customer happiness and building brand awareness, others will want to join in.
3. Surprise and delight your customers
Often times, the smallest gestures can make a large impact on strengthening a customer relationship and increasing engagement. A hand-delivered coffee, or a gift card for a customer’s favorite restaurant are simple ways to let customers know that you value them.
But sometimes, a thank you is enough.
Bryan Kramer, CEO at Pure Matter, and CMAD panelist, provides an interesting perspective on customer appreciation. “A lot of times, brands are playing reactive and they’re trying to be customer service after the fact, but what if we created ‘thank you’ departments that actually reached out before the issues happened?” he asked. By creating a proactive experience, customers are more likely to feel appreciated by your brand. “It puts you in a totally different place when you go to engage with people.”
4. Get company leaders active in your community
A recent study of social CEO’s revealed that the use of social media helps to build trust—particularly if those participating are part of the C-suite.
Provide some training around the rules for engaging on social media, and invite your CEO and other leaders to tweet and post so that your customers can associate a face with the brand.
Follow these steps, and your brand will create strong emotional connections, and a sense of trust, that only humans can provide.