We hear it all the time from proponents of building a great company culture: “Happy employees equal happy customers.”
It’s the idea that when you give your employees a better-than-average work experience, they in turn provide better-than-average service to your customers.
And while I’m certainly not denying the truth of this statement – or the importance of great customer service as it relates to relationship building and retention – don’t your customers deserve more than just a trickle down effect?
In today’s competitive B2B marketplace, providing your customers with excellent service is table stakes. B2B customers want more than just a company that can solve their problems – they want a partner; someone whose values align with their own and are completely invested in and dedicated to the success of their business.
And in order to demonstrate that level of long-term commitment, you have to do more than simply treat them well. You need to make them feel like they’re a bigger part of who you are as a company to foster trust and confidence for the future.
The good news is that you already know how to do this. If company culture can create a deeper feeling of loyalty and belonging in your employees, why can’t the same be true for your customers?
Businesses who understand what it takes to create and foster a winning company culture need only apply the same principles to their customers to create lasting, profitable partnerships.
Ace the introduction
First impressions are everything. When a new employee starts at your company, you take great care in ensuring they’re successfully onboarded into your organization and indoctrinated into your mission. While that usually involves in-depth education on your product and service, it also includes welcoming them to the family and giving them a taste of what makes your company unique – your history, stories, rituals, beliefs and values.
At Sprout we mail every new employee a welcome kit ahead of their first day with a hand-written note from their team, some company swagand a few momentos symbolizing some of our company’s core values and traditions.
But employees aren’t the only ones who deserve the surprise and delight of a personalized welcome. We also send similar welcome kits to all of our new customers. Consider creating an experience like that for your new customers. Whether it’s a kit full of swag, or just a handwritten letter, let them know how much you’re looking forward to working with them and helping their business succeed.
It’s a small gesture that goes a long way in communicating that they’re not just another customer for your company – they’re part of the family now.
Give them a voice, then listen
At Sprout, we believe in open communication at every level. Many of our executive leaders have open-door policies and we’re often encouraged to ask our CEO, Justyn Howard, any questions related to our company and/or the industry at our monthly company-wide meeting.
And while there’s no shortage of opportunities to provide feedback, what truly empowers us to share is the confidence that our opinions are being heard and considered. Many internal policy changes and new initiatives have been implemented as a direct result of employee suggestions.
That same open communication is also extended to our customers. We’re always asking our customers for suggestions and feedback on our tools and features so we can build them the best platform possible.
But remember: don’t just ask – implement. Show your customers you value their input by incorporating their suggestions directly into your product roadmap. When they see new features released they’ve requested in the past, they’ll know their voices are being heard.
Provide value outside your product
One of the keys to creating loyal employees is to demonstrate that you care about them on an individual level, not just as an employee. That’s why many companies offer ongoing opportunities for continued education, employee growth programs and speaking opportunities to their team. Some even make room for employees to connect with coworkers over extra-curricular passions by hosting office happy hours and networking events, and creating hobby-specific Slack channels.
In that same way, you want to prove to your B2B customers that it’s not always just about pushing your products and services – it’s about pushing their businesses forward. Here at Sprout we believe there’s strength and support in numbers, so we’ve created several customer communities to help customers connect with us and each other to improve their social/digital expertise and grow their professional and business networks.
Happy employees are employees who are regularly recognized for their hard work and accomplishments. Many companies are quick to celebrate the successes of their team members through internal promotions, company-wide announcements, awards, etc.
Don’t forget to make it a point to say thank you to your customers and honor their successes as well. Sprout will often feature customers in our case studies not only as a marketing tool, but also to sing the praises of our customers’ successes and provide them with their own stories to share. You might also try taking it a step further and recognize customers with awards and special events/dinners to really show your how much you value and appreciate them.
So if your company ever finds itself struggling with churn or customer satisfaction, evaluate whether or not you’re going that extra mile to make them feel like they’re part of your company, and that you care about their success as businesses, and as individuals. Don’t just let the good vibes trickle down from your employees. Allocate the time and the resources necessary to make sure every customer feels as if they have a partner in your organization, and that they can rely on you to do whatever is necessary to help them succeed.