Thursday, November 15, 2012

Connecting with Customers…The Old Fashioned Way

I recently read an article by Craig Chappelow in Fast Company suggesting that, before the internet, we were able to ‘connect’ with our customers without the use of Facebook and other social media gimmicks. Every time he walks into the dry cleaners he is inundated with “Like us on Facebook!” signs and requests from store employees hoping to better connect with him.

That got me thinking about this issue of ‘connecting’ with customers. Does the social media craze make it easier or harder to ‘connect’ with your customers? I keep using the quotes because I’m not sure how connected, really, we ever get with social media. In the best cases, companies post information and hope to receive feedback of some sort from their customer base. If their fans like what they see, hopefully they’ll share with their ‘friends’. If they don’t like, they’re sure to share with their ‘friends’. It can be a dangerous game. We have the same issue with ‘friends’. Are they actual personally known and liked individuals, or just connections? That’s a subject for next time.
Frankly, I’m not sure that interaction with social media is really connecting. I think of connecting as a more personal issue. I had direct interaction with an employee of a company that made me feel good. THAT’s connecting. To the extent that social media engages me directly with a person, I can get that same good feeling. Frankly, I don’t get any warm and fuzzies from a process or computer controlled ‘conversation’. Wow, there’s lots of air quotes in this post. And that’s the point, actually. Does social media really connect us to a business? I’m not sure it does.

If you are a national company with business operations in say Seattle, Houston, and Savannah, how do you connect personally with a customer in Memphis? I don’t know either. It was much easier in 1968 when you pulled into the service station and the Esso man, in his uniform, came out and put gas in your car while cleaning your windshield. He then asked if he could check your oil. And because you went there every week for fuel, you became personally acquainted with him. He asked about your mother after her operation and your son’s baseball team, which he probably sponsored. That was a connection. He took great pride is giving you excellent service. The gas was almost an afterthought.

The lesson here is, connect personally with your customers whenever possible. Duh!  The hard question is, how do we use other means, social media included, to better connect with our customers when we can’t see them eye-to-eye? I’m not trying to suggest that social media is a bad solution, all things considered. I’m trying to get some ideas for helping people get better connections with their customers. The kind of connections that give you a good feeling about the business that makes you want to go back again and tell your real friends how great they are. Posting a sale flyer on Facebook isn’t going to get that done.

If you have some ideas, drop me a line or post a comment.

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  1. Hey Chris,

    You're right on target my friend. There's no connection like a "person-to-person" connection. It's almost becoming a lost networking art because of all the 'instant' connective technologies out there like social media and now web applications.

    At the end of the day, personal relationships will always rule - that's my humble opinion. Thanks for the article.

  2. Thanks for the comments Rich. The real question is how do you develop a 'person-to-person' relationship with a company when they don't have a local location from which to do business? Or even if they do, how do we develop better relationships with people who choose to do business on-line? And this isn't a trick question. I'm seriously studying this question to find answers. Frankly, if we figure out the answer to that question, we can rule the world!