You Can’t Automate Your Customer Relationships

hug-your-customerAn acquaintance of mine called me last week for some advice.

Usually when someone asks you for advice, all they really want is for you to confirm to them what they have already decided on.

This friend is in the insurance industry and wanted to know what technologies she can use to create stronger relationships with her best clients.  She wanted to figure out a way to use automation to help this along.

I asked how many clients does she have that she would really want to build a strong relationship with over the next year.  She said she has about 50 that make up the majority of her business and would love to strengthen her relationship with each of them.

I asked her what these clients were worth to her.  She said from a few hundred dollars a year to a few thousand a year.

I suggested to her to that she should consider blocking out 2 hours a week to dedicate to this venture.  One hour each week should be dedicated to calling or emailing 1-3 of her clients to start the connection process and to make these non-sales oriented communications.  For the other hour, I suggested she sit down and write out about 5 handwritten, personalized customer note cards (who doesn't get excited for mail that isn't a bill or an advert?) that she could mail out each week to her clients.

That would be about 8 hours a month and connecting with over half of her clients each month.  Over the course of the year, she would be personally connecting with her top clients at least 6 times a year for a minimal amount of work.

The response?

No, I think you misunderstood what I said, I want to know how I can automate this whole process so I don't have to do all of that.  Can't I create some sort of automatic email that looks like it's being sent from me personally?  And I have a friend at the office that uses a service that sends out these greeting cards to clients that will make it look like it's you own handwriting.

That's when I did a…………..facepalm-stupidity

So what she really wanted was not to build a relationship with her customers, but to act like she cared about her client without doing any work.

Technology is a great thing, but it still cannot replace you building a relationship with your customer.

I think the real business winners going forward will be the ones that take the customer relationship seriously.  They will use technology as a tool to enhance their relationship building, but they won't abdicate customer relations to technology.

While everyone is making the rush to automate the shit out of everything, you can go old school and give your customers a taste of old fashioned relationship building.

It's funny how things go full circle.  A decade ago the competitive advantage in business was to automate everything, freeing up your time and allowing you to run your business with less employees.  Now the competitive advantage is how deep you can take the relationship with your customer.

If you're a small business, this might be calling or visiting your customers on occasion.  It might be sending them an article you found that might be useful to them.  Maybe it's having a party for your customers, just to thank them for being awesome.

If you're a bigger business, maybe it would be holding live meetup events where you can mix and mingle with your customers.  What about monthly webinars where your customers can speak directly to the head honchos with their opinions.

Big or small, it can be done.

But first you have to care about your customers.


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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
6 replies
  1. Rebecca Gibbs
    Rebecca Gibbs says:

    Loved this Gary! My husband and I tend to lean more towards old fashion in how we treat people. We aren’t the best at it, but we feel it is important in any relationship.

    When the bakery is open, I really want to let my customers now I care about them, but was worried that as the business grows, it would become overwhelming trying to keep up. I LOVE your idea about setting aside just 2 hours a week. It really does make a difference.

    I think one thing I’ll do is keep a record of wedding dates for my clients that ordered wedding cakes so I can send them anniversary cards. I use to work with a photographer that did that and she now has a band of faithful clients that came back for baby pictures and family photos as the newly weds started a family of their own.

    Also….when you mentioned what your friend said that she wanted it all automated to pretend like she cared….I also did a “faceplam” and shook my head. I think the one that didn’t get it was her.

    Great advice Gary! Thanks!

  2. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    Thanks Rebecca. Yeah, old school customer service is the new black. Treating your customers like gold is the best way to build a strong and solid foundation. Best of luck with the bakery and thanks for being such a loyal fan of the podcast. We would like to be your first paying customer when you open! Cheers, Gary

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