Thursday, December 1, 2011

From Stranger to Kinship: Transform your customer relations

Don't Talk to Strangers
When we say the word "corporate" what is the picture that comes to our mind, usually it is either a building or a stranger with a confident but somehow plastic smile. There is nothing personal or warm about those images. Corporates/Business are viewed as cold, money making machinery that interface and interact with people out of the need to make a profit rather than by choice. Successful business houses are well aware of this and they spend huge chunks of money to build brand images that their customers can identify with. Usual ploy is to have a brand ambassador who has a good fan following in the target audience and then push advertisements to support the image that the business wants to build. What this does is that, to the customer, the business house is not a faceless cold entity anymore instead it is identified by a person who is loved and revered. The brand expects to rub off some of the goodwill that is enjoyed by the brand ambassador. Brand ambassador might be very famous personalities but they are still strangers to the customers. This means there is not much of an emotional strength in the relation that the brand is trying to build with its customer.

Social Media Presence
Social media is the place where people share tidbits of their life online. There is a blog to share your views, Twitter for a status update on what you are doing, facebook for befriending and meeting old and new acquaintances, Flickr for photos, youtube for video sharing etc. In all these sharing conversations happen, relationships get formed. Ideas, thoughts, and views get exchanged from person to person much faster and more efficiently than any other media. All this is happening in public and is available to anyone interested in it. This presents a unique opportunity to business, they can for the first time, see what their customers are saying in general and in particular about them. If they are not happy with your services then there is a very high likelihood that they will share it on social media and likewise if you have stellar customer service then they will share that too. So it is in the best interest of businesses to listen to what their customers saying social media.

Kinship with Customers
Taking active participation in the social media will enable business to engage their customer more effectively. It enables the business to be part of the customer's circle of contacts and online relations. Rather than being cold and professional, the business to customer relation will become more personal and have an emotional connectedness. Sharing their expertise through social media will help business to establish themselves as experts in their fields. This can result in building reputation and greater customer conversion. Active and carefully planned interaction with your customers on social media will enable the company to be viewed as the "friend" of  its customers. Some very smart companies like Zappos, take this a level higher, they form kinship with their customers. Kinship is defined as "A close connection marked by community of interests or similarity in nature or character". Forming kinship with customers will result in the customers becoming the company's evangelists, viral word of the mouth marketing, a level of goodwill that cannot be attain by any amount of brand building. The most appealing aspect of all this is that social marketing is almost free when compared to the traditional marketing strategies.

Forging kinship with customers is the highest level of customer engagement and it is not the easiest thing to do. Showcasing companies that do this effectively can help others in their efforts. So if you know about companies that are forming a kinship with their customers, leave a comment.