The Key to Building Strong Customer Relationships

SueCockburn
Sue Cockburn Entrepreneur, Growing Social Biz

Posted on June 28th 2014

The Key to Building Strong Customer Relationships

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”

– Jim Rohn

Consistency

Savvy business people understand the role excellent customer service plays in the success of their business. They understand that winning customers and building loyalty doesn’t happen overnight and that building strong customer relationships requires a consistent and ongoing team effort to retain their customer’s hard won loyalty.

They know that while pricing is important, loyalty earned through delivering on promises and taking care of customers will often win the sale and keep the customer, even where pricing may be a bit higher.

Savvy business people also understand how fragile customer relationships are and how easily hard won loyalty can be lost through poor customer service and issues not quickly resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.

Most customers understand an occasional misstep or problem that is handled quickly and with care. What they usually won’t tolerate are neglect, rudeness, not delivering on promises, unnecessary bureaucracy and inconsistency, to name a few. This is especially true when other competitors are eager and hungry for their business.

How Strong Customer Relationships Are Built

The importance of consistency in building strong customers relationships can't be overemphasized! Customers want to have confidence that we’ll deliver on our promises every time, and not just when it’s convenient.

In fact,  . . .

  • if we consistently deliver good products and services across our organization,
  • if we mean what we say and say what we mean,
  • if we underpromise and overdeliver,

... then the potential for our organization to not only grow but reach extraordinary heights is real. It won’t guarantee success but it will lay the foundation for us to achieve more and it will usually separate us from our competitors.

A Foundation of Consistency

Companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks weren’t always big guys. They started out small and grew. And their growth was laid on a foundation of consistency in their market, in terms of the quality of their products and their service. When consumers choose them over an unknown competitor they usually do so because their brand has a reputation for consistency in the products and service they provide.

Unfortunately, seriously great service coupled with a great product seems to be rare. It often seems that in the decision making stage we woo customers with pleasant service and fast turnaround, but once they sign up for the service it’s a whole new experience.

I saw this firsthand recently when a customer bought a service that looked and sounded great, on the surface. The service promotes itself saying its “easy to use functionality and user interface will leave you wanting more!” But after buying the product, it became obvious that trying to get a response from the support department would take days, and that’s if they responded at all. And the supposedly “easy to use functionality” was an empty promise.

Can you guess how the customer might feel about this company now? Is the company building a strong customer relationship? I don't think so!

For some businesses, it almost seems that they’ll say pretty much anything to get the business and do pretty much nothing to keep it.

When customers make a decision to do business with us, will they discover that we’ve underpromised on what we will deliver? This is the type of experience that people hope for and the type they talk about and share with others, with positive results for our business. Of course, they’ll talk and share if we don’t do this too, but the results won’t be so positive.

Our Online Reputation

And with the growing prominence of social media, managing our reputation online and offline is more important today than it has ever been. And negative feedback is something we don’t need.

Once the customer has decided to do business with us, once they’ve paid for the product or service, what follows will set us apart from the pack. It will differentiate us in a good way or a not so good way. Those of us running any size of successful business know firsthand that building customer loyalty isn’t an overnight effort. It’s an ongoing and consistent strategy and practice that can make the difference between success and failure. And consistency plays a critical role!

5 Tips Towards Consistency

  1. Create opportunities where sales people and customer service staff can meet together to share problems and possible solutions to customer service related issues. This can help break down silos between departments and build staff relationships and ownership, all of which impact customer service.
  2. Conduct an online survey and invite customer feedback on their experience with your business. Although the number of those repeating the survey may seem small, they will often be either your biggest fans or your biggest critics. The input from both groups can be invaluable.
  3. Ensure your marketing materials make promises you’re able to keep. Ask your staff to provide input and suggest revisions for consideration. Don't promise what you aren't able to deliver! In the end it will hurt your business not help it.
  4. Set up automated responses to incoming client emails, to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Provide clients with a reasonable time frame for expecting your response, and make sure they have a response well ahead of when they're expecting it, or at least no later.
  5. Monitor your online networks and your online reputation overall. Watch and listen for what people are saying about you online to catch praise or dissatisfaction and to buoy or repair your reputation.

There are many factors that impact how consumers feel about us. Consistency in every area of our business, and in particular how we deal with customers and staff, and in the quality of our products, services and staff is one of, and possibly THE, most important.

This post has been updated and rewritten. It appears in its original form on Nimble.com.

SueCockburn

Sue Cockburn

Entrepreneur, Growing Social Biz

Sue is first and foremost a solution provider delivering website and social media services to micro and smaller businesses, anywhere in North America. Visit her website at GrowingSocialBiz.com for more information.

Visit her website and blog at GrowingSocialBiz.com.  Connect wtih her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/SueCockburn, on Twitter at twitter.com/SueCockburn, on Google+ at plus.google.com/+SueCockburn, on Pinterest at pinterest.com/SueCockburn and on Facebook at facebook.com/GrowingSocialBiz.

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Comments

Justin Belmont
Posted on July 1st 2014 at 9:23PM

Great article, Sue. As a content marketer at www.ProseMedia.com, I emphasize the importance of customer relationships for my clients. I have found that the best way to build trust is to provide informational and educational content, rather than to simply sell them a product, because it really humanizes your brand. Thanks for the post.

SueCockburn
Posted on July 2nd 2014 at 3:01AM

Justin, thank you for sharing your insights on how best to build trust with clients. I agree that providing informational and educational content that clients find valuable makes your brand more caring, humanizes it, in the eyes of consumers. They then don't see us as simply wanting to make a sale but of also caring about them and their needs. And for most of us in business, this makes us enjoy our work so much more, when we know our business is adding value to our clients.