Shana Tova (Happy New Year) and Customer Engagement

It is at this time of year that long-lost relatives and acquaintances I have not heard from in years surface with the traditional good wishes for the Jewish New Year. I appreciate the kind gesture but I always wonder: what's the point? If I stop a random passer-by and wish her a happy new year, she is likely to either give me the "you creep" look, or just say, "Do I know you?” I do find it odd that hoards of my Jewish brethren spend so much energy on this ritual. Why? If you really mean it, then why not stay in touch the entire year?

Don't get me wrong. I could use, and welcome, any blessing or kind words. I am not ungrateful. I just wonder why. Is it a form of repenting the "not keeping in touch sin" before the High Holidays?

Not so long ago, before email, it was an expensive ritual to send lots of stamped envelopes to strangers. I used to do it. It felt good to send a personal note wishing a happy new year. Now, it doesn't feel the same. No stamps, no licking - just press SEND. It feels cheap so I choose not to do it. I also don't think anyone cares, especially those with whom I have had no contact for years.

So what does this have to do with small business and customer satisfaction? A lot. I am a loyal shopper at Amazon, Starbucks and a few others. They stay in touch. They also send me happy birthday notes. Starbucks even bought me coffee. Imagine that.

Years ago, as one of the early adopters of CRM (customer-relationship-management), we were very diligent about entering our clients’ and prospects’ birthdays, their spouses, children and any other important events in their lives. Sales reps were required to ask for that information whenever they visited clients or where on the phone. A clandestine science was developed in order to know everything about the receptionist or secretary (the “gate-keepers”). Sadly, technology killed our creativity.

How often do you engage with customers? Do they hear from you only during Christmas with the traditional "thank you for your business, without you we're nothing" email? I get those and I feel the same about them as I do about Jewish New Year cards. If you really care, then stay in touch.

I get it. It's the thought that counts, right? I would feel better if it was a genuine thought, not robotic behavior.

Customers want to hear from you. If they buy from your company there must be a reason they come back. Give them more reasons by staying in touch. Not every email or mail piece needs to sell. Balance it out. If a customer has not shopped for a few months, send them a note: "We miss you, it's been a while.” Or, "We haven't seen you in a while, is everything ok?”

We all sell something. Is it disingenuous to tell someone you "miss them" because they haven't purchased anything? Absolutely not. They know that you want them to buy, but now they know that you actually care and noticed their absence. I don't prejudge a retailer that sends me a "we want you back" note. They should want me back and they are giving me a reason to return: a reminder and a discount.

So take a moment, on a regular basis, and go through your prospects, active and non-active clients. You can never over-communicate if you genuinely care. Make each message count and keep a healthy balance of selling versus caring.

Shana Tova.