Today's companies have some many wonderful options for entering their online customers' lives in a humanized, personalized way. Between social media, email, chat, and more, the ability to turn what could be an otherwise cold customer experience into something personable and real - to make a true connection with your customers - is invaluable.
When some folks have chance to take a conversation from an online interaction to a face-to-face meeting, however, they shy away from the opportunity. I have witnessed this at various events, where many simply don't know how to strike up a conversation with a stranger. For some people, the transition from working behind a computer to facing a throng of real live people is completely overwhelming.
Do you find it challenging to take your online persona into the "real world" and then back again? If so, here are five tips to make the transitions easier.
1. Be Honest
This is such a basic yet key concept it almost makes you want to slap your forehead and say "duh". Yet I am constantly amazed at the number of people who cannot reconcile their online persona with their offline one. Be yourself in both places and you will consistently come out on top.
People put a premium on honesty and transparency, whether they are conversing with a company representative or a friend. It's a matter of trust. If you can't be honest about who you are, what you do, and your intentions, then no one will want to connect with you - online or off.
Everyone wants to be heard. So ask questions and then really listen to the answers. This holds true both online and off. Great customer service starts with agents really hearing what customers are concerned about. Great conversations happen when everyone involved really listens to what's being said and responds with relevant comments.
By the way, this doesn't mean hold your breath until you can jump in with your own story. Of course you can add to the conversation by contributing your point of view. But make sure you respect each person's addition to the conversation by really taking in what they have to say, fully and completely, before you begin to respond.
3. Look People In The Eye
One of the challenges of working online is that you can easily lose the visual connection you get when you can look people in the eye. Online video does a good job of crossing that gap and creating that humanized connection even when you can't be there in person.
Of course, in the "real world", you always have the opportunity to take advantage of the immediacy of face to face connections.
Looking your fellow conversationalists in the eye shows you are really paying attention. Moreover, it provides you with insights into your fellow human beings - insights that might not come across through words alone. You can quickly see joy, fear, sadness, laughter - the whole emotional range - in mere moments. Those insights will help you respond better during the conversation, as well as make a deeper connection.
Don't be shy. Look them in the eye.
4. Follow Up Immediately
Once you've met someone face to face, follow up with them as quickly as possible online. Make a connection via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or the social media platform of your choice. Send email. Send a postcard if you want. But don't let that connection wither for lack of care.
It doesn't take long to shoot someone a quick note reminding them of where you met, how much you enjoyed meeting them, and how you hope to stay in touch with them. That note will help keep you top of mind, as well as strengthen your ongoing connections with the people you met.
5. Follow Up Later
If you want to continue growing your relationship with a person, you have to stay in touch. There are tools you can use to remind yourself to send follow-up notes. At the most basic level, you can even write reminders in your calendar or set them up on your phone.
If you contact people a year or two after you initially met, there's a good chance they won't remember you. But if you contact people a couple of times a year, they will instantly feel a connection with you and remember exactly how much they enjoyed meeting you.
Don't lose touch with the people you met. It will pay off in the long run. The truth of the matter is that even if you didn't start a relationship with someone with a specific goal in mind, you never know when that connection could provide you with invaluable information or business - or, best of all, friendship.
Try It - You'll Like It!
Unsure about how effective these basic steps are? Give them a try and let me know how it works out. I can pretty much guarantee that you'll like the results.
Want to connect with me? Feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HollyChessman. I'd love to strike up a conversation with you - online or off.
About the Author
Holly runs Holly Chessman Marketing, a premier marketing firm that provides strategic advice, digital services, and social media guidance and education. Named one of New England’s Top 40 Influencers in Content and Digital Marketing, Holly fully understands the power of online engagement. She is passionate about implementing marketing strategies that result in quick growth, rapid revenue and happy customers. Holly has worked for a variety of tech companies, as well as spearheaded her own marketing consulting firm. She is regularly quoted in a variety of major publications. Holly is also not afraid to embrace her nerdy side (as evidenced by her love of Neil Gaiman and her “talking” TARDIS).