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How to Make the Most of Your Customer Relationships
Long-lasting customer relationships, which stem from making customers feel valued and important, are extremely profitable. Satisfying and retaining your customer base ensures strong revenue and profit streams in the future. Word of mouth is also a powerful force, and loyal customers will recommend you to others. Improve and maintain your customer relationships by providing excellent service, staying in contact, and building customer relationships.
Providing an Excellent Customer Experience
Focus on your competitive advantage.The best way to earn loyal customers and business is to offer them something that your competitors don't offer. Some businesses focus on high-quality products, while others may focus on fast turn-around times or cheap pricing. Refine your offerings constantly, making sure that they are as competitive as possible in your area of advantage. Keeping that competitive edge will lead to more recommendations, repeat sales, and brand loyalty than any other strategy. Accordingly, make sure to work on this aspect of customer retention first.
Make your customer experience consistent.Even the highest level of customer service or product won't lead to high sales if only a couple of customers actually receive that level of quality. Consistency is the key to building a reputation for great service and dependability that will lead to customer loyalty. Make efforts to ensure that every point of contact with your customers, from in-store interactions to online responses, represents your brand and the level of service you seek to provide. This also applies to products, which might require excessive testing or quality control to ensure consistency.
- Train your staff as intensively as is required to reach a consistently high level of customer service.
- The cost of consistency may sometimes be high, but customers are often willing to pay more if they know they're getting a great product.
Provide great customer service even after purchase.In addition to providing great service before the customer makes a purchase, you must also provide great support after it. Bad support can lose you customers and create bad press for your business. To avoid this, make sure to provide truly helpful, personalized support to customers. Doing so usually involves having actual support staff on hand (or outsourced to a customer service firm) that can provide live support over the phone or online.
- Allow for feedback on customer service so that you can improvements where necessary.
Show honesty.Customers never want to feel as though they've been cheated or swindled. Keep your policies honest and simple to avoid confusion. For example, be clear about return policies to prevent angry rants about refunds. Neither your marketing materials nor your employees should make any false promises about your product or service. When needed, accept responsibility for a failure or misstep. Showing honesty over time and throughout your organization can help build customer trust.
Keep track of tasks and appointments.A task management system is another useful tool for nurturing relationships. Having an online list of tasks to complete for each customer helps you meet their expectations and prevents you from missing important deadlines. When your box of candles arrives at their store on the exact day requested, you’ve created a “moment of magic” for that customer. The same goes for meetings: a task manager can remind your of meetings to ensure that you won’t miss any appointments, which would damage your credibility.
- Stay organized with your project or customer information too. You don't want to lose points because you lost track of crucial order or contact information.
Staying In Contact With Customers
Stay in communication.Regular communication is crucial to developing any relationship, whether business or personal. But how do you know when to follow-up by phone, email, or in person? And how often? A customer relationship management (CRM) program can show you at a glance how long it has been since your last interaction with a client. That way, you’ll know if it’s time to reach out to them again. Proactive communication tells the customer that you are genuinely interested in his or her business; it also shows that you are on top of your game.
Impress with attention to detail.Keeping notes on each interaction you have with your customers pays off in spades. Knowing what you last discussed, what they recently ordered, or their general preferences (before each new phone call, email, or meeting) lets you wow your customer with how well-informed you are. Customers will notice and appreciate your professionalism.
- Attention to detail can also be expressed in hand-made details, like careful product packaging or personally-crafted instructions, for example.
- Providing excellent attention to detail is one way to create reciprocity in your interactions with customers. Customers will see the care that went into your communication or product and feel obligated to leave a good review or tell their friends about it.
Personalize communication.Another way to make customers feel important is to reference things they’ve said or requested in the past. Periodically reviewing your correspondence will remind you of specific details that they’ve mentioned (whether business-related or not). The more you personalize the business you do with each client, the more loyal clients will become. It could be something as simple as their love of mocha frappuccinos, their birthday, or another personal detail that you remember that makes you outshine your competition.
- Even the smallest personal touch, like offering mints to restaurant customers at the end of a meal, can make a huge difference in customer satisfaction.
Make your appreciation known.Everyone loves to hear “thank you,” so why not have a customer appreciation event to make your company stand out. Invite your best customers over for coffee and pastries, or throw a big BBQ. Doing so gives you a chance to show your appreciation, and will further cement your relationship with your customers.
Building Customer Relationships
Create a loyalty program.Everyone likes feeling important, so try making a loyalty or VIP program for your best customers. For example, you can offer a discount on purchases, faster shipping, or a free item after a certain number of similar purchases to customers with a special card. Refer to these customers as "VIPs" or "members" to increase their mental connection to your business. You might also include these members in special events like private sales or customer celebrations.
Educate your customers.Education is the key to selling and can be a creative way to deepen relationships with customers. Think about what knowledge you have that your clients may appreciate. If you carve fishing lures, would your store-owning customers be interested in attending a lure-making demonstration? If you know a lot about local plants, would your landscaping customers be interested in following you on a tour of local plants at a nursery or garden? Try putting on your own mini-seminar.
- Work to become a trusted source of information for your customers. Make sure to keep them up on the newest products or technologies in your industry.
Accept feedback.Customer feedback is key to avoiding losing customers and gives you an opportunity to improve your service and products. Start by asking your employees to report any frequent feedback they receive from customers. Separate this feedback into problems and then work to resolve them. Track feedback for these problems again to see if your solutions are working.
- Additionally, ask customers to complete a short survey after a purchase. This can allow them to give suggestions or rate the different aspects of your business.
- You can then use this information to improve your operations.
Interact with customers online.Create accounts for your business on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram if you have not done so already. Fill in each profile with all of the important information about your business such as your location, hours, and primary offerings. Link to these profiles in communications and on your website. Then, use the profiles to post content relevant to your customers and interact with them by responding to comments and complaints.
- If you don't know what type of content to post on your pages, try detailing a new offering of yours, posting a positive review of your business or product, or linking to key industry news.
- You can also include customers in your content, like by reposting customer-submitted pictures of your product in use, for example.
Send special deals to existing customers.Send customers on your email list a coupon for a discount or a free trial of your product or service. This will allow your customers to experience other offerings that they didn't try the first time. This is also effective for new services or products as a way to build interest in them. You may need to offer the new product or service for free or at a reduced cost, but hopefully the customers will like the offering enough to keep using it at the regular rate and recommend it to their friends.
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