How to “Touch” Your Customers

I have a single sign posted in my office, taped to the wall next to my desk. On it are only two words: CUSTOMER CONTACT.

It is there to remind me – even to force me – to do more of the task I am always tempted to let slide: talking more frequently to my clients and customers.

Let’s face it. In today’s Internet world, it’s easy to stay in your hidey hole, avoid people, and just sit at your PC reading, writing, and thinking… which is what I’ve essentially designed my businesses to allow me to do! But the problem is that you become too isolated from the very people you are in business to serve.

E-mail has turned into a shield that allows people to avoid the stress of telephone calls and face-to-face meetings. Yes, working remotely by e-mail is extremely efficient. But it has the unfortunate effect of insulating you from the true emotions, fears, concerns, and desires of your market.

So here’s the New Year’s Resolution I recommend for you.

Type in the words CUSTOMER CONTACT in all caps, boldface, and at least 72-point type. Print it out, and tape it to your PC or the wall above your monitor.

Then look at that piece of paper several times a day, read it, and do what it’s reminding you to do: have more contact with your customers.

“But Bob,” you may be thinking, “I’m already too busy. If I spend the day talking to our customers, I won’t have any time to get my work done.”

Here’s what I do in my Internet information marketing business. It may work for you, too…

Like most Internet marketers, we get a lot of communication from customers – both through e-mail and phone calls. It is a combination of compliments, complaints, problems, and questions. The questions range from the mundane (”Your shopping cart declined my credit card”) to the thoughtful (queries about advice or instruction given in our e-books or audio courses).

I have hired an Internet Marketing Administrator, Jodi, whose job it is to take care of all these queries – because I simply don’t have time. So I instantly pass on to her every customer service request or communication (our “white mail”) the minute I receive it.

But I do something to add a personal touch… and increase my own level of customer contact. I advise you to do the same.

Pass most of your white mail on to an assistant to ensure prompt, efficient handling of timely requests and complaints. But read it all first. You will find that you can respond appropriately to some with a single sentence or even a few words (e.g., “Thanks” or “Glad to hear you liked my book”).

Your customers – especially the ones who are your fans – will be thrilled to hear from you personally. Maybe you can handle 10 percent of your white mail this way.

A smaller percentage will ask you questions that require a more thoughtful answer. Each week, spend a half-hour typing out and sending customized e-mail answers to them. Do not charge for this advice. Your customers will reward you with incredible loyalty, referrals, and additional purchases.

Save all the questions and the answers. You may be able to turn them into another information product you can sell – e.g., “101 Questions about X and One Good Answer to Each.” (If you do that, do not use the names of the people who asked the questions.)

And what about complaints?

Answer the most thoughtful of the legitimate ones – those from obviously intelligent and decent folks – with a personal e-mail. Then add this P.S.: “I’ve attached a small free gift to compensate you for your problem.” And attach to your e-mail reply a PDF of one of your bonus reports or e-books.

By the way, I got this idea from Steve Leveen, founder of Levenger. In a talk he gave at one of the American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI) copywriting bootcamps, Steve mentioned that he answered many customer complaints with a personal letter… actually written by him… and often sent the dissatisfied customer a free gift.

It worked for Steve, it works for me, and it can work for you.

And what about the insulting, rude, or nasty white mail?

Do not respond, tempted as you may be. Pass all of it on to your assistant with instructions to answer as politely, completely, and helpfully as possible. (You are emotionally invested in your business, so jerks may make you see red. It’s better to let someone who is more neutral handle those negative or difficult people.)

That’s it. That’s my suggestion for your New Year’s Resolution: Get closer to your customers by communicating with them more often and more personally.

[Ed. Note: Personal, frequent contact with your customers and prospects is one of the best ways to build solid relationships with them. Starting an e-mail newsletter – filled with relevant, useful advice – is a perfect way to do it. For a step-by-step guide to setting up your own info-publishing business – including starting an e-newsletter, creating a website, and writing copy to drive traffic to it – sign up for ETR’s Internet Money Club. See if there are any spots left for the “Class” of 2009 right here.

To learn more marketing secrets from freelance copywriter and marketing expert Bob Bly, sign up for his free e-zine, the Direct Response Letter. Do so today and get $116 in bonuses.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.