Building valuable long-term customer relationships

I’ve been thinking recently about how media brands can build a valuable community around their content, and even charge a fee to members of that community in return for a mix of content, services, events, networking and other benefits.  See my earlier post on creating profitable communities for more details.  To do this successfully, media businesses will need to nurture their direct relationship with people who previously were passive readers or consumers of their content.  Upgrading the relationship with your readers/audience to that of “members” does mean heightened expectations of service levels.  This will mean media businesses developing a whole new set of skills, or ensuring that their suppliers, contact centres and fulfilment bureaux are set up to meet these raised standards.  Here is a checklist of best practice in nurturing valuable long-term customer relationships for your own team or your outsourced partners.

1. Single customer view

The holy grail for subscription fulfilment bureaux; now ever more important as media businesses offer a wider range of products and services to their customers.  Agents in contact centres receiving a customer query need to see at a glance all the transactions and contacts with that customer.  They also need to be trained and empowered to deal with multiple queries in a single contact.  From the businesses point of view, they also need the tools and skills to be able to upsell and cross-sell relevant products and services to increase the value of each customer to your business.

2. Keep people informed

With multiple products and services, it is good practice to proactively communicate with customers so they know when to expect deliveries, and that their transactions and comments have been received.  If customers can express a preference about receiving these by phone, email or text then all the better.  In the hopefully rare event of a complaint or mistake, this is even more crucial, as you have the opportunity of turning round a negative perception into a positive.

3. Provide options

Are you set up to allow your customers to personalise the products and services they receive, decide by what method and when they want items delivered, and how you communicate with them?

4. Solicit feedback

Providing easy channels of communication for feedback and suggestions, and making it evident that these are listened to and acted upon, is a great way to build trust and get useful feedback on your products and services.

5. Reward loyalty

Can you easily measure who are your most loyal customers, and provide them with privileges and benefits that make them feel special, even something as simple as an online badge marking their status to their peers?  Don’t forget incentives to recommend your products and services to friends and contacts…

I’m interested to hear more about the factors that you feel help to build long-term customer relationships, and any examples of outstanding customer service you have experienced.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies.  If you’d like to discuss how to build a valuable community among your readers or customers, please contact us for an initial meeting.