[...This is Part Two of our Relationship Rules from One North's 2nd annual Experience Lab. Check out Part One here.]
Relationship Rule #7: Set the right tone for your relationships with trust & authenticity
We are in the relationship era. It’s not just our own experience anymore, instead we are going to Yelp, Angie’s List, Twitter, Trip Advisor and other networks for trusted advice and feedback. As stressed by presenter Sarah Levine Meyer, successfully selling a product or service is the result of something more and often includes the authenticity and passion associated with the mere item. Case in point ... successful product and services go beyond selling something customers need. They are relatable and convey trust and authenticity, characteristics that are critical in building long term relationships. Case in point, Proctor & Gamble has made the strategic move from merely selling ‘products’ to selling the ‘business of improving lives’. New Tide commercials for example, focus on the father-daughter experience as opposed to promoting a laundry detergent that cleans clothes.
To take this further, a recent McKinsey Quarterly article and survey revealed how 'B2B companies talk past their customers'. Here's an excerpt of the findings: "Themes such as social responsibility, sustainability, and global reach, which many B2B companies cast in a leading role for brand imaging, appeared to have a minimal influence on buyers’ perceptions of brand strength. Honest and open dialogue, which customers considered most important, was one of the three themes not emphasized at all by the 90 companies in our sample ..."
Relationship Rule #8: It’s all about making emotional connections … through design and visual appeal
One North Creative Director Nathan Denton introduced the concept of ‘attractionality’, the combination of attraction and personality. First and foremost, a website should be functional, reliable and usable before a layer of enjoyment is applicable. Once the core is defined it is the added ingredients that can trigger emotional responses. Add authenticity, quality, attitude, organization and visual language, and businesses have triggered an emotional response from their audiences using the method he dubbed attractionality.
Relationship Rule #9: How strong are your relationships when the going gets tough?
Ryan Horner, One North CTO, focused his discussion on the resilience of brands and companies. He emphasized the strength of client relationships and the importance of responsible and compassionate communications especially during crisis moments. You learn the most about a company when there’s a disaster or unforeseen issue. For example, Codero Hosting recently experienced a significant server outage leaving many clients without service. However, the company immediately took to Twitter to own the problem and provide answers to tough questions. Within four hours of the initial outage, the company’s CEO published a public apology via YouTube while the company continued to address customer issues. Within 24 hours, customers used Twitter to recommend Codero solutions and commend its above board handling of the outage.
Relationship Rule #10: Good things come in small packages: Focus on design and technology details that create memorable client experiences
While understanding and executing on the big picture is critical, so is the focus on details. One North presenters Jessica DeJong and Pete Amundson introduced the concept of micro interactions, “the little details that separate something you tolerate from something you love”. They are the smallest common denominator that can ensure a consistent user experience, and with consumers experiencing upward of 20,000 ‘micro-moments’ every single day, they are worth prioritizing. Popular examples cited included the Facebook ‘like’ symbol which has become so popular it has morphed into the social network’s logo and adorns its’ campus signage.
Relationship Rule #11: Serious about improving client relations? Build a client experience protocol playbook
The Experience Lab concluded with a panel discussion with Nat Slavin, Deborah Knupp and Dawn Michalak focused on best practices, tips and advice when it comes to relationship building between law firms (and other service providers) and their clients. The most practical take-away that really any firm can implement was shared by one of the panelists. Based on her extensive experience working with law firms and CEOs on building better relationships internally and with clients, Deborah Knupp suggested that companies establish a client experience protocol - a playbook of sorts - designed to differentiate a client’s experience with your company. She suggested 7 playbook 'chapters':
- Client feedback: Are you asking for/getting feedback from your client at all times? Create a culture of client feedback and highlight the “voice of the client.”
- Creating the client intake ‘wow’ factor’: Once the ‘ink has dried’ on a new relationship, what can you do enhance the client experience and make your client feel good about their business decision?
- Know your clients’ business: What do you do to know your client business? Panelists mentioned companies like UPS or Waffle House who invite their outside counsel to deliver packages and work the line at the restaurant to get a better feeling for their business and culture.
- Crisis protocols: Do you have a protocol for reaching your clients during a crisis and vice versa, similar to a BC/DR plan for client communications?
- Client appreciation is vital: Keep track of personal milestones and go the extra mile when it comes to appreciating your clients. For example, an associate at Foley & Lardner hand-delivers books for his clients every Christmas based on topics they have discussed throughout the business year.
- Client communication: Keep clients in the loop and tell them what you want to meet about beforehand. Consider using live chat on your site to answer simple questions.
- Streamline the billing and invoicing experience: Nat Slavin cites the client invoice as the “single best marketing tool you have”. Show as much as possible to prove value.
Relationship Rule #12: Don't overcomplicate the simplicity of communications, with your internal clients and well as your external ones
This was really my personal takeaway after partaking in nearly two days of relationship 'games'. It's all about communicating ... consistently, professionally yet candidly and in an unbiased fashion. For many legal marketers this starts internally. What is the relationship between you, your marketing group and the attorneys? Do you have their ear? Do they have your back? Do they even know what you do? Can you relate?
While being able to answer all of these questions might not be realistic, they should lay the groundwork for an open, honest dialog and the realization that all of you, regardless of title, pay grade or accomplishments, are dedicated to the same cause ... top notch client service based on meaningful relationships.