Providing great service is all about developing a relationship with your customers. It’s about treating your customers as though they are your partners at work. It’s about getting them to fall in love with you so they don’t want to go anywhere else.
A relationship is about two people relying on each other and supporting each other to help them reach their goals. It’s about having a bond and rapport. I think these words describe the sort of relationships we should have with our customers.
Where is your relationship at?
So how would you describe the relationships you have with your customers? There are 5 stages to a long-term relationship.
- Acquaintances – Met once or twice but don’t know each other
- Friends – The ‘getting to know you’ stage
- Dating – Starting to form a relationship but early days
- Engaged – Getting ready to commit
- Married – Committed with long-term prospects
Statistics tell us that dealing with an existing customer is 6 times easier than dealing with a new one so it only makes sense to ‘get married’ to as many customers as you can. Life on the customer dating ‘merry go round’ might seem exciting but it does get tiring after a while! The idea is to have customers at all stages of the relationship cycle because you never know when you might get dumped!
Ok, so you don’t want to get dumped. So what is it you need to do to ensure your customer relationships are healthy? There are 4 key areas to look at:
Both parties feel valued and their needs are met
A good relationship isn’t a one way street, there needs to be some balance. It doesn’t work if you take their money but don’t deliver, and equally you don’t want them to take your services without paying. Also, watch out for being too desperate or clingy…it drives customers away.
Show how you feel
Let them know you appreciate their business by sending them a card, a small gift or samples of your products. Don’t take it for granted that they know you value them. Like other relationships, it’s often only when the other party is about to leave that we tell them how important they are. Unfortunately by then, the damage is already done.
A customer-supplier relationship needs open channels of communication to ensure that little things are resolved before they turn into big issues. Make sure you listen, give and receive feedback regularly and generally keep them informed.
Spend time together
Like all relationships, getting to know your customers involves spending time with them. Don’t just communicate by email or letter. Get out of the office and visit them, buy them a coffee, have a tour of their business. Spend time getting to know their needs and you will have a customer for life. The relationship you have with your customers will make the difference between outstanding success and mediocre performance.
Karen Schmidt is an award-winning professional speaker, workshop leader and author who creates fresh workplace attitudes that help people and organisations grow – www.karenschmidt.com.au