How to Build Customer and Client Relationships
After service and value, communication is where you truly build the customer relationship. Up until that customer service is fully rendered, a customer assumes that you are providing the service because you want to gain compensation. All the calls, texts, e-mails result in your service being delivered in exchange for funds. But after the exchange of service for funds, all service and value you deliver from that point onward shows that you care about your customers. That’s a powerful difference.
Businesses operate in a competitive environment, and that’s true whether you are a professional, operate a restaurant, have a sales-based distribution business, manage a local dry cleaner, or own a large conglomerate. You have key competitors that are attempting to take your customers and clients away from you. To think, “Oh, that will never happen” is to be naive.
The quality of service you deliver and the depth of the relationship that you have with your customers will determine your success, profitability, and longevity in business.
There are plenty of competitors that do an outstanding job in the moment that service is delivered to the customer. The key habit is to come up with after services — what you do after service is rendered. What do you do after customers have picked up their dry cleaning for the month? After they’ve bought hedge clippers at the hardware store? After they’ve bought a home from you and won’t buy for another one for five to ten more years?
Solve problems and create value
The value of any product or service can be summed up in this equation:
Value = Benefits – Cost
We as consumers feel like we received value from a service provider or business if the value exceeded the benefits we received, subtracted from the costs we paid.
For example, let’s say you are having a wonderful meal at a restaurant. The food was delicious and ample in quantity. The waiter was prompt and attentive to your needs. The ambience was comfortable and enjoyable. Who you spent the evening with can also influence your perception of value. The received benefits of enjoyment, fun, well-being, satisfaction, wonderful tastes, and pleasant experiences are all there. If all those benefits you felt about the restaurant exceeded what you spent, you will likely be back and even tell your friends about what a good time and wonderful meal you had there. That’s the power of Value = Benefits – Cost.
In business, we deliver value to customers, but we also solve problems. The best products and services are designed to solve problems for people and other companies. Why do you go to the doctor? It’s to respond to a present health problem you are experiencing or to head off, through preventative medicine, a problem in the future. We might also learn how to enhance the quality and longevity of our life. Doctors ask a lot of questions because they want to solve problems for their patients. That’s a good model in business as well.
As a business owner or employee, you should be asking your best customers these questions:
- What are the key challenges you are experiencing right now?
- How might we be of service to help you solve them?
- If we could improve our products or services for you, how could we do that?
- What are you not getting from us you wish you could?
- What other companies like ours are you receiving service from?
- What are you receiving from them?
- Why did you select them to receive _____?
These types of questions give you insight into your customers and will help you improve service and solve more of their problems. This strategy of solving problems increases your value with each person, client, and company you do business with.
Under-promise and over-deliver
We have all heard this advice: “Do what you say you will do.” In the business world of today, I think that is expected at the bare minimum. And that bare minimum standard will not prevent your clients and customers from going to your competitors in the future.
In business, we all need a way to “plus” our clients. A plussing strategy is a unique way that we can add value, which means under-promise and over-deliver.
Doubletree Hotels has a unique plussing strategy. When you check into a one of their hotels anywhere in the world, you receive a warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. They have a warming drawer built into the front desk in every hotel. It’s their way to add value, make you feel welcome, and place you in a delightful chocolate-chip-sugar coma all at the same time. What’s your plussing strategy in your business?
Connect in business integrity
Business is about, first and foremost, trust — the trust between company and customer. Customers need to be able to trust that the company will perform as promised. Employees of the company must believe that the company will fulfill promises made by the company to the customer. What I’m talking about is essentially integrity among all parties in this relationship. People in leadership breed a culture and environment of trust. That foundation of trust creates a thriving business that benefits both customers and employees.
Employees have a key responsibility to their employer’s of integrity. For example, significant productivity is often lost through employees being on their phone at work. Checking Facebook and Instagram accounts and answering texts outside of break time show a lack of integrity on the part of the employee. The arriving late, leaving early, or extending your lunch break is stealing from your employer. These habits are pervasive in the office environment of today.
We need to put our phones down, leave them in our purse, desk drawer, or car. The businesses we work for will be significantly enhanced by this simple practice.
Establish long-term service relationships
The true value of a customer doesn’t come from a one-time transactional sale. You want your business to become an indispensable part of their life so that you gain the honored and hallowed position of serving them for years, decades, or generations. I have some clients that I have been serving for close to 20 years. I consider it an honor to have established our relationship and helped them grow their business for almost two decades. Let me share a few tips to help:
- Communicate frequently with value. Set up a video blog, e-mail newsletter, Facebook group, or some method to communicate regularly with your customers and clients. The communication should be valuable to them. If you are a doctor, focus on health, new medical discoveries, reminders of new immunizations available, eating and exercise tips, and so on.
- Communicate personally by sending texts, making calls, or writing personal notes to key customers or clients. The mass communication of value through e-mail, social media, or blogs is wonderful, but if you want to deepen personal relationships, it must be personal. All relationships are deepened through one-on-one connection. Most of us get busy and fail to make time. The habit of personal communication creates success, and it takes less time than you think. Set a reasonable standard so that you can establish the habit. Start with making one personal call per day, each workday, to a key client. Resolve to not leave for home until that’s completed. In a year, you will have 240 conversations with key clients. Can you think of a better way to establish long-term relationships with them?
- Recognize milestone moments. Milestone moments can recognize how long you’ve worked with a client or customer. Or you could commemorate personal events like weddings, anniversaries, births, promotions, or birthdays. When you recognize milestone moments, you deepen the customer relationship. Select one or two types of milestone moments that you will recognize in your best customers.