How can you tell a company with a great customer community? A brand that has created authentic relationships with their customers – and often their prospects as well? What’s the sign of a commercial yet personal relationship that delivers a competitive advantage difficult to match or overcome?
Sometimes it’s the difference between a hug and a handshake.
There are a few conferences I’ve been to in the past several years that feature more hugs than handshakes. These conferences are rare and beautiful. The Eloqua Experience conferences were an example. This year’s Content Experience by Uberflip was another. Typically this is a combination of customer/vendor relationships as well as relationships created within and amongst the customer ecosystem itself.
You can’t buy a beer with a hug. That close relationship isn’t going to make you money without a great product or service behind it. But if you’re at the hug level with a service provider, you’re more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. You’re more likely to stick with them when things get tough.
If you hug your sales rep, you’re clearly more likely to take their call. Give them a little more of your finite attention.
If you hug a fellow customer, you’re more likely to get advice from them when things go wrong. You’re more likely to support another customer in trouble, effectively saving each other from potentially churning or switching.
If you hug your vendor’s CEO, you’re more likely to believe what she says. More likely to stick with her, even defend her publicly and proactively, when a competitor hits below the belt.
Hugs have the best impact when they’re given in person. But virtual hugs work too. If you hear a customer having a hard day via a social channel, tell them you’re thinking about them. Leave them a supportive voicemail. Send them flowers.
This doesn’t happen overnight. That hugs, those countless hugs that appear to happen organically at those rare conferences and gatherings, are often the culmination of years of building a great culture inside and outside of your company.
So what’s your relationship with your customers? Do you shake hands, or do you hug? And could changing the balance have an impact on your own success, customer loyalty and competitive differentiation?
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