Customer Boot Camp Revisited (Communication)
Many things have changed since 2006, but effective communications are as important as ever for building and maintaining customer loyalty.
This article continues our reminiscences about the Sage Customer Boot Camp we attended back in 2006, written and presented by Ed Kless and Christine Churchill-Kless.
Last month’s article talked about the importance of Account Management. Now we are turning the page over to the next chapter, Communication.
Consistent Comms Lead to Loyalty
Effective, consistent communication is paramount to the success of any relationship.
We did say many things have changed in the past 15 years, and that’s especially true when it comes to communications. The idea of distributing printed newsletters by snail mail, or by bulk fax, seems almost quaint today.
If we put the medium to one side and focus on the message, the fundamentals are still the same.
A regular customer newsletter can:
- Keep your brand front of mind
- Let you demonstrate your subject matter expertise
- Announce new product releases and upcoming events
- Link to topical end-user resources, troubleshooting tips etc.
Consistency is more important than frequency here. Don’t underestimate the amount of effort involved, and be realistic about what your staff can sustain.
It’s all too common to see a periodical launched to great fanfare, then fizzle out after a handful of editions.
The view from Orchid: We were well aware of this risk when we made the decision to launch Orchid Partner News back in June 2017. We’re quite proud that next month will mark the 50th monthly edition, without interruption.
Seminars & Conferences
Back in 2006 the emphasis was very much on traditional get-togethers, often breakfast seminars or full-day conferences. There is still a place for these, of course, but the associated logistics and expense can be daunting.
They also assume that the targeted customers are located nearby, which is less and less the case in a globalized, decentralized, technology-driven world.
I was quite surprised that webinars, and emerging tools like WebEx and GoToMeeting, got a mention at all. Their young cousins, online conferencing tools, were but a twinkle in the eye. Of course, these have both come of age now, driven by improved technology and turbo-charged by COVID-related travel restrictions.
The view from Orchid: We love and miss the face-to-face contact and networking opportunities that in-person events provide, which is why we consistently travelled the world to catch up with old customers and introduce ourselves to new ones.
Well before COVID, we relied on regular webinars to keep in touch with our customers, most of whom are located literally half a world away.
We’ve hosted multiple sessions of at least one webinar a month for the past 4 years, and don’t plan to stop any time soon.
Newsletters and webinars are great, but the former, and to a large extent the latter, are one-way broadcast media. Effective communication obviously needs to involve a two-way conversation.
The Boot Camp suggested Customer Advisory Boards & User Groups as good ways of getting formal or informal customer feedback. These may still have their place, but today’s technology provides other options.
The view from Orchid: As we sell our products through indirect channels, you could think of our Business Partners as being our User Group, and our distributors as being our Advisory Board.
Regular meetings with our distributors help to guide our product roadmaps. Our online support desk and community, both powered by ZenDesk, provide very direct feedback on what’s working for our customers, and where we need to do better.
Recognition, Rewards and Personal Contact
Our recent ‘What Makes Customers Sticky’ article said that “Having your account manager remember their opposite number’s birthday might be a nice place to start, but it’s no place to finish.” Perhaps, but the personal touch is as important as ever.
The Boot Camp said that ‘picking up the phone’ was by far the most effective form of communication, other than face-to-face. In 2006 I’m sure that was true, but today’s world of Teams, Skype and Zoom allows us to pretty much merge the two together.
And while all customers are equal, we know that some are more equal than others.
There’s always room for acknowledging those that contribute the most to your success, or those who are simply a joy to deal with.
The Boot Camp suggested a gift basket, branded Hershey Bar, or a donation to a charity. Orchid has started recognizing selected partners with framed Jim Guthrie prints. I’m sure you can come up with your own ideas, remembering that...
It's not just the thought, but the way you communicate it, that counts.