How to Explain the Importance of Treating Customers as Individuals
In their efforts to scale, businesses often get caught up trying to maximise their profits. To achieve this, one of the first things they sacrifice is the attention required to make customers happy.
In short, businesses start to see people as transactions. They fail to understand and accommodate their individual needs.
For e commerce stores, this starts with marketing automation and no customer profiling. For their physical counterparts, it’s all about employee attitude and a lack of interest.
This article will show you how to create a personalisation strategy and educate employees on how to execute it. You will learn how to explain the importance of treating your customers as individuals, turning “helpful sales reps” into “trusting friends”.
- Why is it important to treat customers as individuals?
- Effects of unsuccessful branding
- How to explain the importance of treating customers as individuals
- 1st Step: Start with customer profiling and segmentation
- 2nd Step: Create a strategy
- 3rd Step: Explain the strategy to your employees
- 4th Step: Execute the strategy & measure results
- Don’t forget the importance of treating customers with respect
- Wrapping up
Why is it important to treat customers as individuals?
Our modern, consumer-based economy has the upper hand when it comes to brand selection. Customers will easily switch their loyalty to brands that fulfil their wishes and needs.
If the buying experience leaves a lasting impression, both future sales and brand loyalty are guaranteed. And that’s not just an assumption:
- 86% of buyers are willing to pay more when their unique needs are met.
- 73% of buyers believe that customer experience determines the purchasing decision.
- 65% of buyers mention that a satisfactory experience with a particular brand is a stronger influence than advertising. (Source)
Here’s an example to illustrate the power of personalised shopping experience:
Right after making a purchase, Brooks Brothers asks customers for their home address. The salesperson that assisted them with will then send a handwritten note to thank them personally. This may be a time-consuming effort, but is an excellent way to follow-up with customers, leaving a lasting impression.
Effects of unsuccessful branding
Of course, not all companies are able to attend their customers’ needs on a personal level. Failing to understand this leads, among others, to unsuccessful branding. This is both very expensive and hurtful for a store’s reputation.
According to RedPoint, consumers are frustrated when:
- They receive offers for products they already have (34%)
- Promotional material offer options that aren’t relevant (33%)
- A store does not recognise them as an existing customer (31%)
Aside from that, a whopping 37% is willing to switch brands in order to receive a personalised shopping experience.
How to explain the importance of treating customers as individuals
Based on the above, it is important to educate your employees on the benefits of a personalised approach. In this chapter, we will walk you through the steps you need to implement in order to achieve this.
1st Step: Start with customer profiling and segmentation
You might think that the process is as simple as treating your customers nicely. Wrong! This is only true of you do not operate on the internet. In that case, kindness goes a long way.
However, most businesses have at least some form of an online presence. It could be a full-blown online store, or something simpler, like a newsletter. Whatever the case may be, having an online presence helps you collect valuable data on your (potential) customers.
If you have an online store, you can get a better idea of your customers’ buying behaviour. What are they shopping? How did they find your store to make a purchase?
- Example: If you have a retail store with a special clothing category for pregnant women, you may assume that the buyer is expecting a child.
On the other hand, if you have a newsletter, you can get insights into the demographics, age group, and interests of your audience.
- Example: If a new subscriber signs up to your newsletter with an email address that has a “.fr” extension, you can assume that he is either French or currently living in France.
And even if your store has no online presence, there are still ways to personalise the shopping experience. Loyalty programs are a good example. While collecting points to win rewards, your business will collect user data through their repeat purchases. In turn, this information can be used to offer more personalised services or recommendations at the cash register.
- Example: A customer may complete a certain amount of purchases in order to apply for a reward. The reward could reflect the buying preferences of the customer (e.g. free pair of sandals for a customer that buys footwear frequently).
How to segment your audience
The process of identifying market segments and targets for your business can easily be done through software tools. These can be related to email marketing (Mailchimp, Aweber, etc.) or your store’s CRM management system. The latest entails loyalty programs as well. Each software will have different segmentation methods and options, so make sure to research the process based on the tool you are currently using.
Customer profiling will help you send more personalised offers to your customers and find common ground related to goals and values.
2nd Step: Create a strategy
To start creating a strategy, you will need to find a way to use the data you collect from your customers. This can be done in different ways:
- Get creative - Schedule brainstorming sessions and do upfront research
- Check your competition - Analyse your competitors and see what they are doing.
- Ask your customers - Send surveys and questionnaires to get quantitative data on the expectations of your customers.
- Use social media - You can also use your social media to discover the optimal customer communication procedure.
Once the data is collected, make a plan based on the findings. MarketingCharts recently published results of a 3002-person survey, perfectly illustrating what leads to a personalised shopping experience.
When the strategy is planned and the goals are set, it’s time to explain the importance of treating customers as individuals.
3rd Step: Explain the strategy to your employees
The plan you create will vary depending on your industry and niche. As such, you will need to educate your employees on the different ways they should treat customers to make them feel special.
Generally speaking, this will be a mixture of soft skills and hard skills.
- Soft skills are the traits that make sales representatives approachable. They include etiquette, listening, communicating with a genuine interest, and emotional intelligence.
- Hard skills are teachable and measurable. They include the proper use of software (e.g. CRM systems) and data analysis.
Keep in mind that this step is only applicable to stores that have a physical presence since your employees are considered to be the face of your brand. E commerce stores could explain the importance of treating customers as individuals to their support agents (customer service).
4th Step: Execute the strategy & measure results
At this point, you are ready to execute the strategy.
- Launch your adjusted marketing campaigns right after educating the employees of your physical store. This includes email marketing campaigns, social media strategies, and potential loyalty programs.
- Reserve a day each month or quarter in order to measure store performance and adapt the strategy. This can be done by analysing metrics that indicate the level of engagement, as well as reading reviews from trusted platforms.
- Don’t neglect the importance of treating customers equally. When it comes to reward programs this point is often overlooked and could lead to brand loyalty problems.
Don’t forget the importance of treating customers with respect
Apart from building and executing a particular strategy, it is important to understand how your audience will receive your tactics. This, among others, includes the manner in which they expect to be treated.
Treating customers with respect is the foundational block of long term loyalty since the customer feels that you actually listen and value their opinion. It makes your interaction more personal and leads to more repetitive purchases. To do this, of course, you’ll need quite a bit of research!
Here is an example - A customer who belongs to an older generation may find it particularly difficult to communicate through email and with therefore request that you offer information on a certain loyalty program through the convenience of a phone call.
For younger generations, customer service phone calls are seen as an inversion of privacy, and one that should not be pursued if you want to seem respectful towards your customer.
To avoid unnecessary hassle and potential misunderstandings, it is important to clarify how you intend to interact, and what customers should expect. You should also not become “pushy” by making any communication options mandatory - the customer should have the right to their privacy.
Treating customers as individuals is very important. Whether it is through custom offers or segment-based promotion, solving the problems of your customers is essential for the success of your brand.
To summarise the above, here is what you need to remember:
- Profiling and segmentation is the best (if not only) way for big companies to create personalised offers.
- Once your audience is split and their respective segments, create a strategy based on the needs and expectations of your industry and niche.
- Execute the strategy on all your fronts (online and offline), and analyse results frequently. Then, adjust the strategy if necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to dig into more specific details on the topic, make sure to continue reading. In the following subchapters, we will answer some of the most commonly asked “how-tos” on the topic.
How to make a customer feel like a VIP
Treating customers in a very special way is often seen in luxury retail stores. Store representatives apply techniques in identifying customers’ needs and wants and then use the collected information to “pamper” customers accordingly.
How to treat customers professionally
Professionalism depends heavily on soft skills. The methods of communication (kindness, genuine interest, listening) are great to start with. However, it is also very important to know how to solve problems effectively. For example, if a customer orders a piece of clothing and receives a totally different item, you can either let it turn into a bad review or use the situation as an opportunity to build brand loyalty (e.g. send the correct item free of charge).
How to perform customer satisfaction research
Customer satisfaction is often measured through surveys and direct communication with your audience. Hubspot has a great resource to help you find the right template for your outreach. This is a great way to collect quantitative data. Alternatively, you could also collect a small sample of past customers and conduct interviews. The latest leads to more qualitative data.