“Ok, then we can make a man-deal,” Peter said smiling broadly with his meaty hand outstretched to me.

I had closed a deal with an intimating large Russian man on my home in Southern California. Upon finding an issue with the water heater, I promised to replace it quickly after close without going through all the paperwork again.

“Sure Peter, no problem,” I said and shook his hand.

Every day large transactions are made on the basis of trust. Trust is the basis of any human relationship and it is fragile, especially in the infancy of the relationship.

Peter took a chance and trusted me.

I came through on my “man-deal” and to ensure a smooth finish on this short relationship, I decided to make a small investment.

After tending to the water heater, the last thing I left in the modest house in the middle of a hardwood floor was a single bottle of mid-range priced Champagne.

It was a small token of my gratitude and an expense that helped mitigate any further issues in the transaction. The effect was stunning. Peter seemed more excited by this double-digit investment, then the six-digit investment he made in my house.

It’s the Little Things

Small gestures go a long way in getting relationships off to a good start. Organizations good at customer experience recognize that the “dating” part of the journey is the most precarious and invest accordingly. You don’t want to squander your large investment in sales and marketing in on-boarding a customer just to lose them in the first cycle. Here are some ideas for your organization that are cheap and effective.

Acknowledgement

Cameron Smith, a very successful recruiter who counts as his client the top CPG and retailers in the world, prides himself on personally responding to every single email he receives from a job seeker. This seems trivial, but Cam has about a dozen or more folks working for him, so I have to believe his inbox must overflow daily. Cam is very established and, at this point in his career, has no downside to not responding to some college grad looking for his first gig. Nonetheless, he responds to every email consistently. This little token goes a long way in building empathy and trust and Cam’s enviable social network.  We can learn from guy like Cam. Take a minute and get back to folks whether an applicant, a client, or prospect. It is a simple way to build trust and long term relationships.

 The Letter

How you respond also can have a very big impact. I recently received a hand written thank-you letter for a bit of pro bono work I did. It made my day and I told many of my friends and colleagues about it. This special touch costs less than fifty cents and a few minutes and goes a long way in building relationships. It says, “you are not a number, you are special and I appreciate it.”

If your penmanship is horrid (like mine) there are other ways to add the personal touch beyond a hand written ‘thank you’. Before moving to Arkansas we purchased all of our furniture from a modern boutique store close by. The elderly hipster proprietor had an ancient Smith-Corona typewriter which he used to crank out thank you notes on parchment paper. Amongst the cacophony of inauthentic direct mail and flyers infesting my mailbox, it was great to get something as unique as a type written thank-you note on old school Frank Lloyd Wright inspired letter head. It probably took him just a few minutes a day and the pay off is intangible. It is craft. It is unique.

A Call

Follow-up calls are great. Really good automotive dealerships know this and make it a personal one from the salesperson. The use of “videograms” delivered to your inbox also make a big impact. This too, takes no more than a few minutes to do, and can go a long way in creating a lasting relationship. It is also an opportunity to uncover any problems or questions a customer might have.

Here’s a challenge if you are a big organization; once a year have every one of your employees call and thank three or four customers. This connects your employees with your customers and demonstrates that you are serious as a brand about customer experience. Customer experience is not the job of a person or department. Everyone should be involved.

Early Assistance

Ever buy a new gizmo and eagerly open it only to learn there are 23 steps to complete before you can use it?  That feeling sucks. To get mitigate this feeling and get customers off to a good start, many companies put customers into tiers, not according to their value, but how long they have been a customer. They invert the usual value curve, putting newcomers at the front. Software providers are particularly adroit in this strategy, labeling customers ‘freshman’, ‘sophomore’, and so forth according to how long they have been a customer. The reasoning is this; if we onboard people really well, they won’t leave. They know from journey mapping that switching costs are low early on and if they can get people into a nominal decision-making re-purchase mode the investment pays off handsomely.

Payroll provider ADP is particularly adept at this strategy. They manage to accomplish this personalized service at scale. As a customer, a dedicated representative helps you through the first few payroll cycles. Once things seem to be running smoothly you then have access to shared help desk. I have had to call a few times, and each time I get through and get the help I need quickly.

A Small Gift

Making a big purchase can be very stressful. You want to be assured you might the right call.   This is a big opportunity to make a small investment in assuring your customers they did the right thing. I chose a bottle of Champagne. Others chose items more consistent with their brand. A friend of mine related how motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson has a particularly good on-boarding package after his purchase. They sent him a scale model of the motorcycle he just bought along with a video, and official documentation about its origin and specifications. He quickly used these materials to create  a small shrine to this new Harley in his garage. On-boarding packages, whether for new clients or employees, mitigates any cognitive dissonance reassuring the person that they made the right choice and reinforces the brand.

Keep it Simple

Like any relationship, early impressions matter. Make sure you are making a positive first impression by making some small investments in recognizing and helping your customers early on. These small acts have a disproportional impact that you will continue to pay off far into the future.

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