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14 proven ways to connect with customers

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | July 3, 2013
There are many ways to connect with customers, but which ways are the most effective? Business owners and managers as well as customer relationship experts share their tips on how and where to best engage with existing and prospective customers.

"It's critical to have a social media listening post to quickly respond to each issue that arises," notes Chuck Wall, founder and CEO, Customer CEO Consulting. "You may not be able to solve their specific problem, but don't ignore them. They will give you credit for listening and acknowledging their situation."

Similarly, a great way to connect with customers at trade shows and events is to "participate in any 'Twitter parties' using the event hashtag," says Niquenya Fulbright, the president and CEO of Building Bridges Chicago LLC, a small business consulting and executive coaching firm.

"Tweet quotes from the speakers as well as your own tips and advice—and respond to and engage others who are also tweeting," Fulbright says. Why is this important—and how can it help you connect with prospective customers? "One, it establishes you as an expert on the subject, and two, it connects you to potential customers who you can follow-up on later."

9. Use Instagram. "Instagram helps us stay connected and engaged with our customers and fans," says Julie Pocino, co-owner and director of Communications & Development at Barnabas Clothing Co.

"We can post pictures and information regularly, and post contests and giveaways," she says. "For our contests and giveaways, we ask our followers to repost and hashtag to enter," Pocino says. "When our followers tag us, we can then go and comment on their posts too. It has been a great way to interact with our fans, and it allows us to post new pictures and content about our brand frequently."

10. Offer webinars. "Webinars—seminars delivered over the Internet—are a great way to keep the spice in your customer relationship," says Marc Gutman, chief meeting officer, Lighthouse Conferencing, the provider of audio, video and Web-based conferencing services. To get customers interested, "invite a well-known speaker in your industry to present on a topic your customers want to hear."

11. Empower salespeople. "Salespeople can make or break the retail experience," says Joseph Cecere, president and chief creative officer, Little & Company, a provider of design services. "Empowering them with access to real-time answers and information beyond what the consumer can find online provides value that brings shoppers back to the store again and again," he says. "Concierge-like services and expert advice create truly personalized experiences, which are the hallmark of the brick-and-mortar experience. In truth, sales associates are underleveraged store assets."

12. Provide exceptional customer service."One of the most powerful tools an organization has to connect with its customers is its employee base," says Rick DeMarco, managing director, West Coast Operations, Inward Strategic Consulting, a marketing, branding and positioning firm.

"Every interaction between a customer and employee, whether that is pre-sale, the actual sales process, after sales support or billing, provides an opportunity to either add or detract from the equity of your brand and company," DeMarco says. "Significant empirical evidence exists that makes a direct connection between employee engagement and satisfaction and customer satisfaction and loyalty." So one of the best ways to connect and engage with customers, he says, is to "turn your employees into company ambassadors and brand advocates who deliver on your brand promise and business strategy at every single customer touch point."


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