Building customer relationships for revenue
Successful small business owners establish and maintain relationships with their customers, suppliers, partners, and even their competitors. They invest in creating value for customers to strengthen relationships and secure customer loyalty because they recognise that it is good for their business.
The benefits of establishing a good relationship with customers are numerous including continuous referrals, which research has shown is one of the best forms of marketing a business and building your bottom-line. A good relationship with your customers can serve as an indication that they believe in what your business stands for, acknowledge and trust your expertise in the industry, and believe in the value that you offer.
Regardless of the tons of literature out there on building customer relationships, it can be a steep road. Not all customers will be satisfied and happy with your services, not for lack of trying. Customers come in two forms: those easy to please, and those not easy to please, but the goal is to make sales, and regardless of the temperament of a customer, you must try to build relationships to close the deal. If not, the bottom-line of your small business will suffer. Generating revenue is the outcome you should seek when you invest in building relationships to make customer patronise your business, by ethical means. It may sound transactional, but it does not mean that you or your employees are less compassionate.
Building relationships are important. The chances of creating or providing similar products or services like your competition are high, and blur the lines on your uniqueness, making offering value even more difficult. But customers are more likely to return to what is familiar than what is new, or because they relate on a personal level with friendly staff.
It all about small steps to building concrete relationships with customers, and here are some ideas to nurture a mutually beneficial one.
Know your customer
Data is helpful to know your customer – gathering information that provides details of their preferences and tastes to create heartfelt experiences that are memorable or valuable. It would be difficult and ineffective to build a great relationship with a customer you do not know. Knowing a customer is like the job of a great salesman who, before approaching a prospect, carries out background research about the client, predicts possible areas of need, and how best to pitch to them. A business owner is no different, it is important to find out more about the customer, so you can treat them special, enough for them to want to return.
Communicate with a focus
At the base of great relationships is effective communication. Since the turn of this millennium, more advanced means of communication have emerged. As a business owner or manager, you must explore channels that works best for your target audience. Focus on platforms where your customers are. The available channels vary from phone calls, emails, instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp, social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In your interactions, ensure your message is on target and clear about what you are trying to achieve.
Encourage constructive criticism
As external stakeholders of your business, your clients are in the best position to provide honest feedback about your services. You should encourage them to give you feedback. But do not stop there, act on the recommendations if they are helpful to improve the business. A 2011 survey by 1st Financial Training Services indicates that 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain when they’re unhappy, and 91% will simply leave and never return. However, according to another survey carried out by Eastbridge Consulting Group, 70% of complaining customers will return to do business if their complaints are resolved. Listening is the only way to get useful feedback from them and prevent them from going away.
Keep it honest
Mistakes are common in every human relationship and a business is operated by human beings, that is, you are susceptible to making your own fair share of errors from time to time. When addressing the concerns of your customer, confront it head-on, offer an apology to the offended customer, acknowledge their feedback and assure them you intend to remedy the situation. However, you must be careful especially at such moments not to pledge to deliver what you cannot.
Make conscious effort to share information or resources that would help to improve their respective livelihood, which would indirectly impact your business positively. Customers always want to save money, the best products, affordable prices, some just want personalised experiences, which heed to their individual interests; however, be careful that your message is not dominantly transactional, though your goal is to make sales and generate revenue, it would only make you appear self-serving. It is also crucial to keep things simple to allow customers do business with you.
Always bear in mind that the customer is king and must be served as diligently and consistently as possible. Maintaining a consistent relationship that adds value to them would ensure their loyalty and a healthy bottom-line.