Technology does a lot but it can’t do everything. Sometimes, we forget that. We can get so dependent on email and social media that we lose sight of what people really need from us—especially in business. Yes, clients expect to connect with us in various high-tech ways, but they also crave the deep and meaningful connections that can only come from face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) connections. It can be tricky to walk the line.
Too little tech and you’ll seem out of touch, too much and you’ll lose the personal touch that keeps customers loyal and engaged. As you’re trying to fi nd the right balance, just remember this: Your client relationships are built on emotions and trust, so use technology in a way that maintains, enhances and propels those relationships to the next level.
I attribute the success in my career journey to my ability to build strong personal relationships. I am a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., where I have created an impressive financial portfolio and won multiple “Top Agent” awards. I still serve clients today—and they love my means of conducting business as much as they ever did.
Human needs don’t change. Relationships mattered in the days of pencil, paper and snail mail and they still matter in the days of Facebook and Skype. Ideally, you would meet with all of your clients in person, but that’s not always practical. Still, you should invest in at least one face-to-face meeting with your top clients. Then, use a carefully balanced mix of technology to maintain the relationship. Here are a few tips for using tech the right way:
Don’t let ‘faceless’ and ‘voiceless’ technology become your primary communication tool. Nothing can replace the effectiveness of a face-to-face encounter (even if it’s by Skype), especially in the early phases of your client relationship. Meaningful phone conversations can be great too. It’s fine to use less powerful tech solutions like email, texting and e-blasts to stay in close contact with your clients. These can enhance and strengthen a well-established relationship. However, they should only be supplemental.
Skype important meetings if you can’t be there in person. Ideally, “in-person” interactions are best for relationship building—especially with your top clients—but they can’t always happen. Video conferencing is second best. Make sure you’re using this tech tool often. It’s a great way to read body language and facial expressions—crucial for building trust and establishing positive and productive relationships.
Pick up the phone regularly. Many people dislike the phone. Conversations can be long and meandering and we’re all busy. However, you must overcome your phone phobia. In terms of relationship building (not to mention problem solving), there is no substitute for the give and take that happens voice to voice. Schedule actual phone conversations with clients to catch up and fi nd out how they are doing. Keep that human connection alive.
Pay attention to how the client communicates. If a client seems to prefer phone, text or in-person communication, make a note of it and honor their preferred style while maintaining your dedication to person-to-person contact. This shows them that you care about and respect their preferences. Find a happy balance between the client’s style, yours and the demands of the day.
Match the medium to the message. If you want to distinguish yourself or you have something very important to say, write a letter. If you are trying to book an appointment with a busy person, fi gure out a complex problem or discuss a potentially sensitive issue, pick up the phone. If you want confirmation of a small piece of information and you’ve recently spoken with a client, feel free to use email. Let instinct be your guide when choosing a medium to convey your message.
Be thoughtful and deliberate with social media. Your competition is taking advantage of these platforms and so should you. Make sure your online presence is well planned and executed. Your Facebook or LinkedIn posts should meaningfully connect back to your brand and mission and provide value to clients and other readers. Don’t bombard your followers with inane content. This negates your credibility. Post less and make sure your content is good.
Keep your website fresh and agile. Does your website align with your business’ image and mission? Make sure it’s as professional and sleek as your own personal appearance when meeting a client for the fi rst time. Successful companies have streamlined, up-to-date websites with modern fonts, colors and layouts. If it’s been a while since you’ve changed your design, your website is due for a tune-up and a facelift.
Use email to send links to information you think your client might enjoy. Trusting relationships thrive on frequent contact. To solidify your connection with clients (especially when you haven’t talked in a while), send them links to information you know they will enjoy. This gesture shows you are thinking about them and know where their interests lie. Keep this kind of contact balanced with your other communications. Bombarding clients with superficial information could weaken your relationships with them.
Send e-newsletters to all of your clients. This a good way to engage with clients regularly and stay on their minds. Create compelling content that connects them with the various lines of services you provide and send them interesting information about related topics.
Personalize your high-tech communication. Sometimes, e-blasts make sense, but whenever possible include a small personal note that lets clients know that they matter to you.
Give clients a login to access information when they need it. Whenever possible, empower clients by putting information at their fingertips. This saves them time and goes a long way toward building mutual trust.
If you harness the power of technology correctly, it can do wonderful things for your business. However, technology is only one tool in your toolbox. Use it to enhance business, but don’t let it overshadow your mission to keep trust-based client relationships at the center of everything you do.