It’s often baffling to comprehend why companies don’t invest more in customer relations and happiness programs in order to build brand loyalty.

In an age of social media where good and bad interactions with companies can spread in seconds, and alternatives are only a tap away, the benefit of good customer relations isn’t something debatable.

Yet too many companies forget the basics when they interact with their customers, despite often spending heavily in commercials or online advertising.

The good news is that you don’t need to have a huge budget to build brand loyalty. A few simple tips for customer interaction can go a long way to increase customer happiness and retention:

1. Be human. Be friendly.

Let’s face it. Nobody likes to talk to nameless, faceless drones. Send emails from a personal ID, like sarah@hootsuite.com. Your customers have a right to air their grievances and expect human beings to reply to them.

Always put down your phone number in your mail and have live people answering the phones. It’s a wonderful idea to have instant messaging option installed on your site as well. It doesn’t cost much, and it’s great for customers to know that there’s someone to look after their needs, all the time (even if they don’t need to make use of it often if at all).

Ease of access, and engagement translates to real results. According to the State of the American Consumer Report, customers who are engaged in average contribute 23% more revenue than the normal consumer.

2. No auto-replies

In an excellent article by Chief Happiness Officer Carolyn Kopprasch, she discusses why Buffer avoids directing users to knowledge bases or a searchable FAQ, and instead aims to answer the customer enquiries directly via email.

The reason – to improve the relationship with the customer, and also get the valuable feedback to know how to improve the product UX to minimise the same problems coming up over and over. The goal is to not even need to search a knowledge base.

Reply directly and set organizational standards to ensure that you can follow up with customers. You can’t have questions unanswered for days, set time limits to answer questions. Talk with your customers whenever possible and engage as a peer. You can use SAAS tools that can speedup the process. For example Intercom helps you track those users who are using your product and directly communicate with them.

3. There’s nothing as good as owning up

You are not a young kid who thinks that he does everything right. You are an organization that is responsible. Acknowledge the complaint, apologize for it and thank the customer for bringing it to your attention. Do not forget to ask what you can do to make it right. This process is sure to work wonders – with the right attitude a customer service interaction can turn an unhappy user into a devoted long term customer.

4. Nobody likes lies

Nobody has it good all the time. As an organization, you are going to face tough times. So, is it a good option to hide facts or just tell stakeholders something that’s not true? Quite often, your customers can reward you for being honest and empathize with your journey to overcome the challenges and succeed. Hubspot has built up an outsized following and brand awareness via its principle of radical transparency.

Rethink your strategy if you are not coming out with the facts. Customers are not dumb and eventually the truth will come out. Remember the saying – sunlight is the best disinfectant.

5. Listening is an art

Companies that listen to their users and improve tend to outperform their competitors that operate in their ivory towers. Great leaders don’t just give great speeches but listen well too. Listen actively; your customers need to know that you care. Listening is a great way to gain access to instant feedback, and it’s more than half the job done if customers believe you genuinely care.

Acknowledge the feedback and ensure that you take action when feasible. Most often, customers will have particular grievances that you can solve easily.
So how to listen effectively? In person – focus groups and usability tests work wonders to figure out problems in the product. Online, make use of various SAAS tools that can streamline how you gather and analyse feedback. Services such as SurveyMonkey for the web and polljoy for mobile rating prompts are free to use and easy to get started with.

6. Develop customer centric values

Don’t use big words when communicating with customers. Converse in simple words and understand that your customers might not be that technologically rich. Conversing in plain language can help you do more.

A team effort

In the end, it’s not just about one person, you need to have a team who actually understand customers and their problems. With the right culture and attitude, these steps can be embraced far more easily and you can build brand loyalty.

Relationships don’t develop over a day. You can’t have a culture that is friendly and fostering if your organizations’ employees aren’t happy. You don’t only need smiling customers; you need passionate advocates and empathic listeners. So spread the word internally and go out and delight your customers today. Good luck!

Caroline Lee

Written by Caroline Lee
Community developer at polljoy - the in-game ratings and player feedback SDK. I'm passionate about helping devs make their games even more awesome. Reach me at caroline@polljoy.com