As a symbol of your appreciation, you might have given your customers things like gift cards, hand-written thank-you cards or fruit baskets during past holiday seasons. These are not poor choices, but in letting them serve as your only gesture, you may be missing an opportunity to put your customer engagement skills to use.
At the same time, you don't want to get carried away with grand gestures that may leave people feeling intimidated and uncomfortable. Let's look at how you might use your customer engagement skills to deepen the relationships you have with your most important clients without going over the top.
1. Invite them to one-on-one lunches.
Many businesses hold customer appreciation events during the holiday season. While some people enjoy a free meal, hosting a crowd of people in one place may not do much for your one-on-one customer engagement skills.
Instead, think about asking a few of your key clients to join you for a special meal with just you and them. (I'd recommend selecting a desirable restaurant in your area, too.) Understanding that people are busier than usual as the year draws to a close, it's a good idea start your planning now and offer each client a variety of date options. Also, be prepared to split the check if the customer insists.
2. Tell your customers how much you value them.
Both in your initial overture and during the conversation itself, consider sharing why your business is better off because they are your client. Earnestly explain what you have learned from them and how servicing them has allowed you to take your organization and customer engagement skills to the next level.
But don't be too effusive. You want your customer to walk away feeling warm and recognized, but not with the impression that they are carrying the burden of your success on their shoulders.
3. Let your customers talk…a lot.
You're not trying to sell anything in these meetups. Your goal is to hang out informally, talk about whatever is interesting them that week and ask a few questions related to their business.
How was their year and what are they hoping to achieve in 2018? What challenges are they facing and how much will you be able to help?
Listen carefully to the responses, and after you part for the day, you can record notes for follow-up.
4. Give a gift that's truly meaningful.
Boxes of fruit and candy are nice, but if you really want to improve your customer engagement skills, consider going with something that can help make a real impact on their bottom line.
You might, for example, give your customers a free add-on service, or the first crack at a new product you're testing. If you are planning to raise your pricing in the New Year, consider grandfathering in your most loyal customers so their costs don't change.
5. Let them know if you've had a hard year.
In addition to being friendly with your client, maybe you can also become genuine friends. This can happen when you express trust by divulging a personal detail.
For instance, when your customer asks how you are, and the truth is that you have seen better days, consider being honest about that. While I don't recommend going TMI on them, you could briefly admit that you are struggling with work-life balance (as an example) and perhaps even ask for their advice.
6. Ask your customers how they prefer to be contacted in the future.
Ideally, your holiday conversation will kick off a pattern of ongoing dialogue. Consider asking your customers how they would like to stay in contact. Is email best? Social media? How would they feel if you called from time to time?
Make sure they are comfortable with the proposed frequency so you aren't coming across as a nuisance. Customizing an engagement plan for each core customer can help ensure that the relationship stays as healthy as it is today.
Whatever you decide to do, I recommend starting it now. If you wait until mid-December to implement these suggestions, it may be too late. Clients get frazzled by holiday stress, and are pulled in 10 different directions. They may not have time for you—or your nice gestures and customer engagement skills—by then.
What are some other ways you will build your customer engagement skills this season?
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