Do either of these two sound familiar?

Person A looks you right in the eyes as they warmly greet you and introduce themselves. Your conversation isn’t very long, but they give you their complete attention. You know so because they even asked a few relevant questions. As you part ways, they reiterate the value of meeting you and that they look forward to deepening the relationship.

Person B is scanning the room behind you as you introduce yourself. They’ve got that disengaged look on their face, and their only contribution to the conversation seems to indicate they haven’t heard a word you’ve said. Not that you’ve had the opportunity to say much. They’ve done most of the talking, and it’s been all about them. You know you’ve already been dismissed.

Your website is just like one of these people. Which is it?

Investing in what matters

Quality customer relationships determine their longevity. Longer relationships generate more revenue. You know what. You’re also familiar with the adage that it will cost you five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain one.

Let’s say you agree to the above paragraph (and you should). Do you put your money where your mouth is? Multiple surveys reveal that many companies actually do the opposite.

  • Approximately 20% focus on retention, but nearly 45% focus instead on acquisition.

Some companies just play it safe.

  • 30% of agencies and up to 40% of companies place equal focus on both retention and acquisition.

It’s important to do both. You can’t develop relationships until they come to your website—which is why traffic-building through SEO is a necessary strategy. But what happens after you’ve converted them into a customer?

It’s prepositional

One of your website’s main responsibilities is to communicate with customers. That’s very different from the statement, “talk to customers.” And, it’s all in the preposition. “Talk to” is a one-way process that places the emphasis on you. “Communicate with” is inclusive. You want the latter.

Think back on Person B, whom we met at the start of the article. How would they answer these questions if they embodied your website?

What’s my name? Do you welcome me back if I’m a registered customer? There is no sweeter sound to someone than hearing his or her own name.

Are we really interacting? Simple navigation prompts show a website is responding. It spurs engagement and deepens relationships.

How will you reward me for buying from you again? These are the times in which we live. Customers expect reasons to keep buying from you. A sincere and personalized thank-you message just might be more engaging than a “10% discount for our repeat customers” generic appeasement. That’s especially true if your reward comes across as a throwaway.

How will you help me share our relationship? Today we call it “social currency.” Before social media networks, it was better known as “social capital.” No matter what you call it, you’re not giving it to customers with those little social media icons at the bottom of your website pages. Your customers want to share experiential stories to impress friends and co-workers.

Do you make it easy for me to complain? One of the largest national newspaper chains used to determine the circulation department’s bonus based on how many complaints per 1,000 subscribers the paper received. Guess how difficult it became to get through to the circulation department to complain that you didn’t receive the paper? Make it easy for people to express frustration or dissatisfaction on your website. Resolving their problem is a powerful way to cement a long-term relationship.

How will you manage my expectations? Consider this as an extension of the previous point. There is always going to be conflict in a relationship. Organizations with the most successful customer relations reputations get that way because they are proactive. They use their website as a communications tool to update customers when there’s an issue that will impact the relationship. It doesn’t have to be only about negative issues. Be proactive about sharing positive things you do for customers, too.

Variations on a theme

Each of these questions can be tackled by technology. Some of them can be completely automated. Website technology is the conduit for your human customers to develop relationships with the humans who represent your business.

We fail our customers—and we fail at creating relationships with them—when we insert websites as a buffer between them and us. Your website is the most powerful tool at your disposal to engage prospects and convert them to customers. It’s even more powerful as the device that enhances those relationships.

We can help you if you’re missing some of the answers to these questions.