Technology Is No Substitute For Client Face Time

Technology Is No Substitute For Client Face Time

Your clients are craving belonging and love, especially in the sometimes impersonal world that technology can create.

I see it in my neighborhood grocery store. While management has installed a new self-check-out aisle to save shoppers time, many of us will stand in line knowing that doing so will take a few more minutes, to greet and banter with our favorite checker. It’s so worth it to say hello to Carla or Robin, who have become our friends.

Friends. Have your customers become friends or are they just another transaction for you and your team? We are all built for relationship. We need connection and not just in our time away from work. We need it everywhere. Yes, it takes some extra time to build friendships. You have to really care and not feign concern or force it. I think people know when they are just a transaction. They see it coming. They are thinking, “This guy or gal is only reaching out to me so that they can hit their numbers for the month.”

But business can be very different from that. It can be richer and more fun than just making the next sale. And just think about this: Friends are more likely to stick with you during a crisis. They are more likely to become engaged customers who tell others about your product or service. They will tolerate a mistake every now and then in a way that just a transactional customer will not.

They will probably also buy more from you. That’s right. There’s an economic reason to love your customers.

With all of that in mind, here are some ways to deepen your relationships with your clients:

1. Pick up the phone and call.

A familiar, friendly voice on the line can be a godsend on a stress-filled day. Ask about daughter Lauren, and how the college applications are going. And the son, John, who loves Lacrosse. (Put these details in your client file. They fuel client engagement and loyalty.)

2. Calendar regular lunches.

Face-to-face meetings are golden! These visits give you the opportunity to read body language and have eye-contact. There’s no substitute for these interactions. They are vital.

3. Use Skype.

If your client is out of town, Skype is an excellent way to visit. Again, you can read body language, note voice inflection and the like. Schedule it regularly.

4. Host in-person events.

This is a great way to get loyal clients mingling with your prospective customers. Also, invite folks that haven’t bought from you for a while. This will send a signal that you value relationship over purchases.

5. Be there for clients at their time of need.

For example, when a client’s love one passes, be there. Send flowers. Attend the visitation and the funeral. Sign the guest book with a “Thinking of you” phrase. These assure them that your relationship is more than just about business. Consider making a donation to the love one’s special charity.

6. Celebrate the highs.

Remember their birthdays. I had a friend whose insurance broker sent him a card and include a stick of gum. This went on for 20 years, until the broker retired.

Reach out when their kids graduate from college, or when the wife is being recognized as “Employee of the year.” All these things matter.

Summary

—Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? After food and safety, we all need love and belonging.

—In our world of technology, it is easy for folks to feel isolated. Yes, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can help, but nothing takes the place of personal touch-points.

—Become the person your clients can depend on to be there through thick and thin. The good news: You will feel the love returned.

Forbes.com Contributor

It is a true privilege to be a columnist at Forbes. Forbes is a community of talented people with deep knowledge in their genre.