15 Customer Intimacy Best Practices and Tips For B2B Companies
For customer-centric SaaS companies, customer intimacy is indispensable to driving product growth.
In this article, we’ll discuss what exactly customer intimacy means and how you can nurture long-lasting relationships that result in retention.
- Customer intimacy is based on building an intimate relationship with the customers, so only you can offer a solution for their unique needs.
- Customer focus is about researching and satisfying customer needs. While customer intimacy is based on deep-level relationships and delivering superior customer value.
- Customer success and intimacy go hand-in-hand. And fostering intimacy leads to better conversion rates, increased loyalty, and higher LTV.
- Customer intimacy isn’t a metric you can measure. But you can get a full picture of your customer relationships with NPS surveys, product adoption rates, and churn rates.
- Our 15 customer intimacy strategies include the following:
- Mapping the customer journey and listing all touchpoints to get a holistic view of the user journey.
- Using advanced segmentation to personalize the product experience based on user behavior, use case, product usage, and so on.
- Provide convenient self-service support.
- Offer white-glove services to hyper-personalize onboarding and build more intimate relationships with customers.
- Measure how your customers behave inside your app to improve the customer experience.
- Create case studies with relatable problems that attract good-fit customers.
- Leverage loyalty programs to reward customers for their business.
- Collect active and passive feedback, act on it, and close the feedback loop.
- Listen to your unhappy customers and reach out for help.
- Communicate with customers proactively with regular announcements.
- Celebrate customer milestones with gamification to show that you value their success.
- Create communities around your brand to connect directly with customers.
- Host webinars to educate and interact with your audience.
- Build a public roadmap where customers can submit feedback and feel involved.
- Trigger churn surveys when customers leave so you can learn and improve.
- With Userpilot, you can apply these strategies without having to code. So why not try a demo to see for yourself?
What is customer intimacy?
Customer intimacy focuses on the specific needs of each customer instead of the “demand” of the general market. Customer-intimate companies build deep relationships with customers so only you can offer a solution for their unique needs.
This term was originally coined by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema in their book “The Discipline of Market Leaders”, where customer intimacy is one of the three “value disciplines” that a company can follow in order to grow, and the other two models include “product leadership” and “operational excellence.”
Customer intimacy vs. customer focus
Although customer focus and intimacy care about understanding the customer better, they’re not the same.
Customer focus is mostly about researching customers, finding out their needs, and satisfying them in a transactional way.
Whereas, customer intimacy is based on deep relationships. The goal is not to only satisfy a need, but to offer a bespoke solution that the customer didn’t even know they needed.
Why is customer intimacy important?
In customer success (especially in SaaS), intimacy with customers is essential to meet goals and grow businesses—that’s why they go hand-in-hand.
In the long-term, customer intimacy also leads to:
Better conversion rates
When customers feel understood and aligned with your product and brand values, your sales will increase—and thus, your conversion rates.
Increased customer loyalty and retention
When you keep strengthening your relationship with existing customers (either by listening to feedback, communicating with them, or providing repeated value), they’ll eventually become loyal customers and stay with your brand forever.
Higher customer lifetime value
Since customer intimacy leads to tremendous customer loyalty, your customer lifetime value (LTV) will also increase as they keep renewing their plans and buying additional services.
How can you measure customer intimacy?
Customer intimacy is not a metric you can measure.
But you can get a full picture of your customer relationships and engagement by tracking some of these metrics:
Net Promoter Score
In a nutshell, NPS surveys measure user sentiment by asking, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”. Usually, from a scale of 0 to 10.
Your most loyal customers are those who answer 9 or 10, which accurately indicates how many customers feel intimacy with your brand.
Product adoption rate
You can tell customers are developing a positive relationship with your product when they become active users.
For this, you can calculate software adoption rate, which is the percentage of signed-up customers that become active users.
E.g., If you get 100 new signups per month and 25 of them become active, your software adoption rate would be 25%.
On the other side, measuring churn rate can also help you check if you’re failing to develop customer intimacy.
To calculate it, divide the number of customers lost during a given time period by the number of customers at the start of that period, and multiply the result by 100.
Pro tip: try offering personalized client onboarding to reduce churn. This way, you can spend more time on calls with your clients and build intimacy.
How to build customer intimacy?
Now, as a customer-centric approach, building customer intimacy has a lot of overlap with customer success.
So, if you want to foster intimacy, start with these strategies:
Map the customer journey
To build intimate relationships with customers, you must lead users through a series of steps to achieve their desired result (also known as your customer journey map).
With a map, you can list each user milestone and touchpoint, personalize the journey for each user persona, and determine who owns each step.
Plus, the goal of your journey map isn’t only to help users get from one milestone to the next. It also allows you to identify and remove friction whenever the user faces an obstacle (improving your bond).
Level up your personalization with segmentation
A personalized product experience is a prerequisite for customer intimacy.
Indeed, Salesforce found that 75% of customers expect companies to deliver hyper-personalized experiences, and this means you can no longer get away with just calling users by their names.
A truly personalized product experience delivers customer value according to their specific use case, job to be done (JTBD), and stage in the journey.
For this, you must collect data and segment users based on their needs, in-app behaviors, NPS responses, and product usage.
And with segmentation, you can:
- Recommend new relevant features to each user persona.
- Show in-app guidance when the user is stuck.
- Offer an upgrade when the user has reached their plan limits.
- Send email sequences to support users.
- Trigger in-app experiences according to their in-app behavior.
A good example of personalization is adapting a product to the culture and language of customers with localization. Like this onboarding tooltip that was auto-translated into German with Userpilot:
Provide seamless customer service with a self-serve resource center
Too much friction in your service will kill any intimacy with your customer.
Especially when they have to leave your app, google your website, scroll down to find the support button, and browse through messy documentation to find answers.
As a solution, offer self-service support so your customers don’t have to go through this tedious process and, instead, associate your brand with convenience rather than friction.
For the best user experience, combine all the self-help resources in an easily accessible knowledge base. Offer diverse formats of content such as articles, video tutorials and webinars to make sure every person will find support in a way that works for them.
Offer white-glove service to customers who need it
Obviously, as a fast-growing SaaS business, you need to automate processes in order to scale and save some costs.
But no business strategy will beat one-on-one interactions when it comes to creating intimacy.
White-glove onboarding is the ultimate way to understand your customers, get real-time feedback, and offer a hyper-personalized solution (remember the definition of customer intimacy?).
The downside: a white-glove service mostly involves regular calls with your clients, detailed plans, good customer service, personal training, etc.—which means it’s expensive and not scalable.
So, although offering a white-glove service is a true way to follow the customer intimacy model, it can only be profitable when serving high-ticket clients on a one-by-one basis.
Track in-app customer behavior and make improvements to your customer intimacy strategy
In a vastly competitive market, it’s essential to keep improving your customer experience if you want to foster customer intimacy.
And the best way to do this is with behavior analytics, so you can track how your customers interact with your app and understand:
- The way users navigate your product.
- The number of times the user clicks on the button.
- How fast do users get to an “Aha!” moment.
- The time it takes customers to complete specific tasks.
With a customer success tool like Userpilot, for example, it becomes easy to spot friction points across the user journey to see where your users are struggling:
Create case studies about your customers
Creating case studies brings customer intimacy benefits in many dimensions.
On one side, your internal team can get a chance to understand more about the customer’s problem, their experience with the product, and how to achieve success with it.
While on the marketing side, case studies are a powerful promotional tool to attract good-fit customers as they identify with the story. Plus, it helps them make a quicker purchase decision.
Implement customer loyalty programs
Loyalty programs help reinforce positive relationships and build intimacy through compelling rewards.
There are different types of loyalty programs. The most common loyalty programs are either:
- Point-based, where users gain points for completing tasks and later exchanging those for premium services.
- Referral-driven, so users get rewarded for bringing more customers to your brand.
Evernote’s point-based program rewards you with points for inviting friends. Your friends get premium access when they sign up, and you get points that you can exchange for a premium plan.
Continuously collect customer feedback and close the loop
Communication is the key to any intimate relationship. It creates accountability and makes your customers feel invested in your brand.
That’s why collecting feedback is useless if you don’t close the feedback loop.
You see, when you receive feedback, you should act on it and communicate with your customers to show the impact of their response—or else, their feedback would feel like wasted time.
Some forms of feedback include one-on-one interviews, surveys, usability tests, and reviews on 3rd party websites.
However, it’s also important to collect both active and passive feedback. For this, you can embed in-app surveys across your product’s UI, letting users submit feedback while using your product.
For example, check how Miro implements surveys within their UI without disrupting the product experience:
Communicate changes in a proactive and transparent manner
It’s always a good idea to announce product changes, such as price increases and feature sunsets, proactively, so that customers have enough time to adjust.
And by proactive, we mean well in advance and using multiple channels such as social media, in-app messaging, websites, and other channels.
Users are resistant to change, so make sure to communicate how the changes will positively impact them and help them to get their jobs done better.
And finally, let’s end this paragraph with an example we created with Userpilot: below is a website banner for a pricing update on StoryChief. It’s a great way of announcing small updates without disrupting the user experience.
Celebrate customer success and make your customers feel valued
Celebrating milestones is subtle but a great way to build rapport with users, as it makes users feel motivated and it demonstrates that you value their success.
Gamification elements such as badges, points, and levels create a more fun experience. They are a great opportunity to add some personality to your product.
Even simple stuff like adding certification badges to your customer’s profile can vastly improve user experience. Just like with Hubspot courses:
Create virtual communities around your product
If you’re looking for additional channels to communicate directly with your customers and deepen your bond, creating virtual communities could be your best bet.
Whether it is FB groups, Slack channels, private forums, or Twitter communities. A community gives your customers a safe space to share their experiences, talk with other business owners, provide feedback, and network with like-minded people.
Host customer events
Humans are pre-wired to bond with one another. Our actions are driven by emotional connections, and without them, there is no impetus to take action.
You can host events such as product launch parties or trade shows to gather your customers together. Friendships formed at these events are a great way to have customers feel closer to your business.
Have a public roadmap that welcomes user input and makes them feel involved in your journey
Transparency and open communication are great ways for building stronger relationships and driving customer intimacy.
Making your company roadmaps public is one of the best ways of demonstrating transparency.
Customers not only start to trust and admire you more as they see all the amazing features you have on the way, but also feel like part of your brand. Public roadmaps make customers feel involved in your journey as companions, who also want the journey to be successful as its owner.
Learn from churn when it happens
No matter how intimate your relationships are, churn is inevitable.
But your job doesn’t end there. You can still learn why a customer leaves, improve the product experience for the other users, and even reach out to ex-customers once problems are fixed.
To do this, you can trigger a churn survey when the user hits “cancel”. Ask what went wrong and improve your service to get a step closer to building customer intimacy.
Asana has an excellent churn survey example, as it makes it easy for you to select a predetermined answer and learn what didn’t work for you:
The customer intimacy discipline can be hard to scale as a customer-centric company.
But with the right customer success strategies, you can build more intimate relationships with customers and grow your business.
So instead of relying on the dev team to implement the in-app strategies for you, why not try a Userpilot demo to see how you can apply them?