Approaches to Building Customer Relationships

“In order to sell a product or a service, a company must establish a relationship with the consumer. It must build trust and rapport. It must understand the customer’s needs, and it must provide a product that delivers the promised benefits.”- Jay Levinson

Which business owner does not understand the importance of building customer relationships? It is one of the main strategies for retaining customers and keeping them profitable for a very long time. Strong relationships with customers breeds emotional connections, making customers feel warm towards a company, while doing everything they can to make the relationship a success. Such strong bonds with customers today is what will help a company remain competitive and ahead of its competitors – customers today are a company’s most potent ‘weapon’ to win the ‘war’ in the current marketplace. Research shows repeatedly that customers are willing to buy and pay more from a company that makes the effort towards ensuring top class experiences and puts in resources to build relationships with them. Sadly, though, several companies continue to falter on all these counts, finding themselves in the midst of customer complaints, anger, and churn. It is a fatal fault to be unable to provide top class service to increase customer satisfaction levels. Another report showed that at least one in every six customers is on the brink of leaving a company.

Building customer relationships obviously is not an overnight job and neither can it be the responsibility of one department / team. It takes a whole lot of effort and companywide involvement to build relationships with customers that ‘stick’. However, it is not easy – especially since companies are expanding rapidly, spreading over the globe – the more customers a company has, the challenge to know each one personally becomes even harder. Building customer relationships takes some serious commitment and hard work, since it is not possible to know customers without collecting, collating, and monitoring data about them. It is no mean task to understand what their current and most pressing needs are, what their preferences are, how they expect to be contacted, and other such data about them. Customers are attracted to and stay with those companies that make the effort to communicate with them, help to make the customer’s business grow, and ensure that every interaction the customer has with the company, leaves the customer feeling special and important. How well does your company know its customers?

As mentioned before, technology has brought some brilliant changes and helped all to move ahead. However, it is essential for companies to know how to leverage on the strengths, while reining in technology such that it serves them well. One of the most pronounced examples of how companies can use, but do not, technology to forge relationships with customers, would be the multiple channels of communication now available. Every channel can either be an opportunity to build or break a relationship – depends on how the company handles each channel. The service across all channels must be seamless, effortless for customers, and reinforce the company’s commitment to building customer relationships and strengthening them as they move forward. Every person from the company that customers interact with must make them feel known, cared for, and important.

It would be safe to say that building customer relationships is aligned to building trust, and instilling and sustaining trust is possibly one of the hardest things to do in today’s world – both personal and professional. The fact is that there is no shortcut or easy way to build relationships and trust – and in business, the shortest route to doing so is providing top class service and making every customer feel unique. Building customer relationships has no set format or method – each customer is different with unique expectations and requirements. It takes very little to keep some customers happy, whereas others may be a lot more demanding – hence the strategy for building relationships with each would need to vary. However, there are some standards that can be applied across industries and customer types – these are strategies that would work well irrespective of which customer company may have.

Before building customer relationships, a company must focus on forging a rapport and establishing a connection from the start of the association with a customer. This is critical according to research – the data proves that between twenty to sixty percentiles of all customers leave a company within the first 4 months of the association. This would be a very large chunk of the business of a company and losing so much business can discourage even the strongest of companies. However, looking at it from the positive angle, this also presents a huge opportunity for companies to make a lasting positive impression on its customers in this initial period, while doing everything possible at building and strengthening relationships with them. It would be wise to use this period to thoroughly understand customers, show them that they are important in a variety of ways, learn how to exceed their expectations, and consistently provide top quality service. It would also be necessary to gather as much information about them as possible, keeping this information in an orderly fashion in a secure centralized database at the company. A company can then use this information to make every interaction more meaningful and customize every solution and communication for its customers.

Technology has reduced the number of personal interactions between customers and companies, and the interactions that do happen seem rather robotic and rote since service representatives are usually stressed and overworked. It is imperative for a company to ensure that service representatives are able to customize every conversation, and be genuinely interested in speaking with customers. Rote scripts, practiced greetings, and unenthused apologies serve to irritate customers since none of them would be genuine or unique. It is important to building customer relationships that service representatives truly listen and have unfeigned interesting conversations with customers – taking into consideration how customers would like the interaction. Sounding like a machine or a robot is certainly not the way to attract and retain customers. Customers yearn for the human touch – personalized greetings and experiences are among their top most priorities.

Every interaction with a customer is a chance of building customer relationships and it is imperative for a company to approach each interaction and message from the viewpoint of customers. It is proven that when customers interact and engage with a company more than 10 times, there is a natural affinity and warmth they would feel towards the company. A company must build on such feelings to build stronger and more personal relationships with each customer. The more time customers spend with a company and the more interactions they have, connections and rapport is sure to build with sustained efforts from both sides. It is of course the prime responsibility and onus of a company to ensure that every interaction is effortless, and every message it sends out seems personalized and unique to the customer receiving it.

The opportunities and potential for any company to grow even in today’s market are limitless. It all depends companies to use those opportunities to create meaningful connections and in building customer relationships. The fact is that companies reward companies that make sincere efforts and give them more business, referrals, top class testimonials, and other value-added ‘rewards’. Is your company the kind that customers want to stick with and reward? Are you consciously building customer relationships that would be unshakeable?

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