“It’s important to listen to your customers so that you know their wants and needs. Closing our mouths and opening our ears is the first step in building lasting customer relationships.” – John Di Lemme
Not just in business but in every sphere of life humans thrive and succeed only when they build relationships with others. In the realm of business, the foundation of success for companies is being able to build lasting customer relationships. In order to build customer relationships that prove beneficial and sustainable, companies must be willing to invest time, resources and effort such that these liaisons last. However, it is not easy to build and sustain such affiliations and companies and their representatives often feel burdened leading to drop in efforts and customer service. This could be a costly mistake since it there is ample proof that long-term customer relationships do translate to profits, success and a way to attract more customers without the added effort. Happy customers provide repeat business and are more than willing to spread the positive word of mouth and provide great testimonials.
As the customer base grows, especially through referrals and testimonials, a company finds itself in a leadership position with increased sales, attention from investors, ability to attract the best talent in the market and other such advantages. None of these benefits can be underestimated and neither can companies bribe their way to them – these must be earned through consistent stellar customer service and innovative offerings such that they would influence customers to stay with them. With time a company that can sustain their efforts, would be able to forge strong customer relationships that in turn would promote their business even more but without the added effort.
We know that it is very hard to attract customers and companies spend big money trying to do so and then expend a lot of effort and resources in retaining them. These tasks are Herculean and could leave a company drained of resources without gaining any returns. Would it not be better then, to use the resources already available to create inroads with customers in different markets and requirements? By keeping the existing customers happy and consistently excited about your company’s offerings, not only do you build strong customer relationships but also an ‘army’ that will help your company with gaining more business and profits minus the effort and money. By adding value to every aspect of your existing customer’s lives they will remain delighted enough to recommend your company’s service and products to others. This will soon become a happy cycle maintained by consistently remaining focused on building customer relationships and keeping them strong.
Lasting customer relationships cannot happen with one-off efforts – it is a process and a journey. Companies and their leaders must invest time in networking with industry leaders, existing customers, target customers, investors, business partners, employees and other stakeholders. Customers can come from any walk of life and hence building a feeling of community and comradeship outside of the business circle is a great way to gain more customers. Again, networking is a long term and consistent investment since it would imprudent to expect people to remember your company or its offerings. Building contacts and associates happen only through consistent communication – the keyword being consistent. Customers are busy people and in the current age of increased competition, relationships would be short lived if they do not receive focused attention.
Irrespective of the quality of your company’s products or services, people are unlikely to remember you from a one-time meeting and the reason so many such meetings fail to yield results is because companies forget to follow up. A meeting at a public event for example must definitely be followed up by some form of communication and if possible a request to meet again in a more formal setting. Such follow up, communications and meetings should reinforce the value your company and its offerings can bring and the kind of customer service the prospective customer can expect. On many occasions, a chance meeting would not yield any results because the prospective customer may not require the offerings at that stage and the only way to ensure that they keep your company in mind for future requirements is through networking and follow up. This is another form of building lasting customer relationships. Even if the prospect does not require your offerings, it is possible that they recommend them to a friend or associate simply because they appreciate your company’s commitment, passion and ability to build customer relationships.
Use content. It is a great way to build a perception of knowledge, dependability and expertise. Send out customized communication that is valuable for customers and target ones simply because of the rich content that they can use. As customers and prospects read these communiqués and find them interesting, their engagement levels will rise and they would be more inclined to ‘share’ this content with others. Customers prefer doing business with companies that are likeable, knowledgeable and trustworthy. By sending out content, that they can use and would benefit from would make them like and trust your company even without experiencing its products and customer service first hand. In addition, keeping them informed of special events, discount schemes and promotional events, you would be paving the way for strong and lasting customer relationships.
Lasting customer relationships translate to customer loyalty. Loyal customers are the ones that provide repeat business and gain more customers for a company. Research reveals that loyal customers spend at least 67% more than new customers do and hence companies must encourage these ‘valuable’ customers by paying attention to them. It is imperative for a company to show their appreciation to these customers in a variety of ways – special discounts, loyalty programs, value-added content, specialized service or any other means – that will keep loyal customers engaged and encouraged to remain with you. Building a loyal customer base translates to lasting customer relationships and the other great advantage of such customers is their brand ambassador value. Prospective customers are more amenable and ready to provide business to a company recommended by another customer, especially if those customers are friends or associates. Any company can save huge amounts of money and effort required to attract new customers if they can get their existing customers to ‘sell’ for them.
Every company is also a customer to another and hence the underlying lesson would be to treat their customers with respect, empathy and care – in the same way that they would want as customers. Putting the customer’s needs and expectations first, looking at every business imperative through the eyes of the customer and providing customized service and offerings allows companies to build lasting customer relationships. In addition, relationships with customers must be fair, honest, transparent and worthy of trust. In the business world, it takes a long time to build lasting customer relationships but only one instance to destroy. Customers are people with emotional needs and appreciate effort and the human touch extended by companies. Forming meaningful, profitable and lasting customer relationships is vital to health and success of any company and no effort is too much and it would be unwise to customer relationships for granted.