Why do so many companies miss the basics of building customer relationships?
Many of us will gather around a table next Thursday to express appreciation for all that we have. It's uniquely American that we remember our forefathers -- and mothers -- who struggled to survive in the new world against all types of challenges during the early colonial days. The acknowledgement of what unites us in our humanity takes precedence over the differences in culture, tradition, and native tongue.
Here at ClickZ, we "experts" spend a bunch of time talking about all the unique ways marketers can leverage the latest technology and services available to build better relationships between products and customers. So much of what we attempt to do is distill the complexity of segmentation, targeting, triggered messaging, and deliverability into basic concepts that can help your business grow. Growth is good in the highly competitive business we're involved in. Increasing sales and profits provide us with the opportunity to improve services and expand our businesses in ways that benefit our customers.
I continue to be dumbfounded, however, by the number of companies that miss the basics of building customer relationships.
The Power of "Thank You"
When I entered the business world, back in the days of Louie DiPalma's Brooklyn deli, the importance placed on saying "thank you" to our customers was perhaps the greatest lesson ever taught a young clerk. Back then, there were no preprinted "we love our customers" or "thanks for your business" plastic bags. We learned that after every transaction, you look right into the customer's eyes and say, "Mr. Customer, thank you so much for your business." And maybe if we felt it appropriate, with all sincerity we would say, "Hope to see you again."
Genuine sincerity in the level of appreciation expressed was imperative. We were drilled by the owners that customers paid our salaries and allowed us to have bonuses. If we were right-minded about things, of course we would say, "Thanks for your business, which allows me to have a job that helps me put food on the table for my family."
I've spent a great deal of the last seven years in and around the Internet and e-mail platforms. I can tell you the importance of saying "thank you" as part of a customer retention strategy is largely an afterthought. Hours upon hours of discussions about the right creative and messaging for every type of communication take place, when the power of a sincere, relevant "thank you" could have solved many a retention strategy.
Case in Point
The Internet has become a primary transactional channel for a wide variety of transactions for me. E-mail continues to become more important in the critical, essential dialogues I have with merchants and information providers. How I'm treated online and the quality of the dialogue between the merchant and me are critical to my level of customer satisfaction and a key determining factor as to whether I will "see you again."
These days, e-mail's CPM (define) rates are less than a grande coffee at Starbucks, and access to triggered-based technology typically no longer falls victim to IT implementation problems. There's no reason saying "thank you" shouldn't be a key part of your overall strategy. If you don't take care of me, do you really think I'll continue to purchase from you in this age of limitless options for every transaction I can dream up?
A merchant that gets a gold star for saying "thank you" in a sincere, Brooklyn kind of way is CoatRacks.com. I was in the market for one of those industrial-strength coat racks (the closets in the DiGuido household could no longer handle the fashion overload of certain members) and searched on "coat racks." I purchased a great rack from CoatRacks. It was delivered on time, and two days later I got an e-mail from the CEO sincerely extending his appreciation for my business. The e-mail was personalized with references to the specific product I purchased, had a photo of the CEO, and was signed. This wasn't one of those generic "thanks for your business whoever you are" messages.
Call me wacky, but this kind of stuff moves me. And after assembling the coat rack and arranging several closets' worth of clothes, I realized I was short a coat rack. No need to consult Google again; I'd bookmarked the site. This time I purchased the deluxe version, which was several hundred dollars more. I did it gladly because the company delivered on its value proposition and truly appreciated my business.
I have cars, mortgages, and credit cards. My family shops with virtually every type of online retailer available. We have opted-in for newsletters, alerts, special offers, and the like. Frankly, I'm incredibly disappointed that most of the merchants I do business with have yet to deploy a thank-you strategy. It would take little or no time to construct a series of dynamic templates that are triggered based on when the customer transacts. Find yourself a great copywriter (if you can't find someone to handle this, drop me an e-mail; I can help) and charge him with creating a sequence of messages from every customer-facing department of your operation expressing appreciation for your customers' business.
Although there are very few guarantees in life, I need only to think back on those days behind DiPalma's counter when we outlasted nearly all three chain store supermarkets within a one-block radius. Louie knew a lot about the power of customer appreciation. Seems like our friends at CoatRacks might have gone to the same school.
Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for reading my column. I appreciate it.
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Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.
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