In our internet age, industry competition is more heightened than ever. Potential customers have a world of information at their fingertips, and they make their purchase decisions based on their own research. So how do you set yourself apart from your competitors and prove that you are the company to do business with? One critical way to do this is through fostering solid personal relationships with your customers.
Though this answer seems simple on the surface, there are a lot of details that can make or break your customer relationships. A poor customer experience not only sends a customer running to the nearest competitor, but it can even spread a bad name for you across social media – because after all, who doesn’t turn to Facebook to vent about a stressful experience? Here we’ve assembled some of the top ways to build strong relationships with your customers so that you can create a loyal clientele and a positive company image.
Train Your Employees
Are your employees friendly and helpful, with excellent communication skills and a knack for problem solving? Are they experts on all your products and services? Do they have a good working knowledge of all your policies and procedures so that they don’t accidentally mislead customers? Thoroughly training salespeople and/or customer service representatives is the first place to start if you’re aiming to build better customer relationships.
Your employees are the face of your company; respectful representatives will help create an approachability that facilitates these connections. Additionally, your employees’ knowledge and experience lets your customers know that they can trust your expertise. Keep your employees apprised of every change in your products and procedures so that they can convey the most up-to-date information. You may even want to implement regular training sessions to discuss communication techniques so that employees are constantly improving their relationship skills.
Listen to Complaints
One of the biggest strains on a relationship occurs when one party spends too much time talking and not enough time listening. This is true across the board, but it’s especially meaningful when you’re dealing with customer relationships. Your customers want to know that you take their concerns seriously. By sympathetically listening to their needs and complaints, you advance the trust that’s so critical to all company-customer relationships.
When a customer approaches you with a grievance, start by listening attentively. But don’t just listen – assure your customer that appropriate action will be taken to remedy the problem. If their issue is significant, offer a discount on a future purchase or some other kind of “peace offering” to smooth things over, then follow up a couple weeks later to ensure that they are satisfied with how you resolved their problem.
Stay in Touch by Using a CRM
Customer Relationship Management systems (or CRM’s for short) are another handy tool in your relationship-building tool belt. A CRM can help you keep track of your customers, their information, and any communication you’ve had with them. This helps you stay organized so that if you do reach out with a phone call, you’re not repeating any information they’ve heard before.
A CRM also keeps your employees on the same page, as they each log communications in the database for better coordination. This prevents any mix-up that could cause a customer to be overlooked or bombarded with phone calls. Timing your communication is a critical aspect of fostering customer relationships, so implement a CRM to ensure that your phone calls are prompt but not excessive.
Reward Loyal Customers
Do you have customers that purchase from you regularly? Show them how much you appreciate their business by offering them a reward for their loyalty. Relationships need to be nurtured; you can’t simply woo your customer to get them in the door and then cease all efforts on your part. Continue to win them by giving them valuable incentives to remain with your company.
There are many ways to reward customer loyalty. Some companies make use of point systems (i.e., if you spend X dollars you earn points that earn you free or discounted products), while others go the more straightforward route of charging a flat-fee VIP program that gives members exclusive benefits. Whatever method you choose, be sure that the rewards you offer are valuable to your customers but are still profitable enough that they don’t put you into negative numbers.
Fostering healthy, lasting relationships with your customers is no easy task. It takes continual maintenance and attention. However, the effort you put into keeping open lines of communication will pay off in the long run, as your satisfied customers turn into brand promoters and loyal, lifelong customers.