INTERNATIONAL: Tips For Long Lasting Customer Relationships Part 2:
Customer Interaction and Communication
Building long lasting customer relationships is essential to the health of any business. In part one of this series, I shared tips on how to build long lasting customer relationships, starting with managing expectations and encouraging participation from the very beginning. Here in part two, we delve into the key components of customer interaction and communication.
Customer Interaction and Communication
How you conduct yourself while interacting and communication with customers matters — as much as the product or service you're selling. Every interaction, no matter how big or small, can make or break your relationship with a customer. Bolster those relationships with honesty, congeniality, regular contact and sincere interest, and you'll keep your customers. If you become lazy in your interaction and communication, you risk losing them.
We know you don't want that. Adhere to these guidelines on interaction and communication, and you'll ensure long lasting, quality customer relationships.
Be Honest and Be Yourself
Business relationships, at their core, are human relationships and these work best if both parties are open, genuine and honest. You should be honest about yourself and your company’s capabilities. Be honest what skills you have and how long it will take to get things done.
Being dishonest in these situations will only result in disappointment and broken trust. The relationship can fail and you or your company will lose work. The reputation of your business may also suffer because people will mention the negative interaction. If your clients know what to expect from you, they can build trust in your work and your ability to deliver.
Simply treat your customers like family. You would never lie to your family nor would you take advantage of them.
Keep It Pleasant
No one wants to deal with a difficult person, and this is as true in business as it is in real life. The way you handle your phone conversations, exchange of data, meetings, returns and every other customer interaction big or small matters. All interactions should be managed in a way where your customer comes out feeling like a winner. Similar to human relationships, business relationships grow over time and through positive interactions.
Keep your workplace and/or storefront clean, organized and welcoming. Likewise, make sure you and your staff maintain a professional, well-groomed appearance. Studies have shown that people like to interact with others that they find aesthetically pleasing, in everyday life and in business.
Include your Customers
When customers decide to go with your company, to purchase your product or service, they have shown that they believe in your business. Do not just look at your customers as dollar figures. They can be the best source of research and give you valuable feedback on how to improve your products and services. Involve them continually and they are likely to support your business, see the company grow and share in its success.
Communicate Openly and Effectively
Considering the types of media for communication are available these days, there is no excuse to not stay in touch with your customers. You should make yourself available as much as possible and communicate this to your clients and let them know that they can reach you any time. When attempted to be contacted reply promptly and politely.
Listen to Your Customers
Become a superb listener, listen to your customers and show them that you value their opinion. They will be grateful and support you and your company's mission. Consistently check for feedback and that you appreciate and hear their voice in a continuous attempt to improve your service and product offering.
Stay in Regular Contact
Consistently follow up with your clients. The benefits of staying abreast of their business activity are twofold. First, staying in regular contact with your clients lets them know you really do care about their business. Second, when new opportunities for you to offer a product or service arise, you'll know about them. And whenever you do give them a new service or product, make sure to follow up and get their feedback — it matters, and it can help you iron things out for them, and future clients.
Respond to Problems Immediately
When doing business, sometimes we get stressed and can take things which clients may say or do way too personally. When this happens just step back and evaluate the situation, cool off, check your emotions and then reassess the situation. Your goal is to make the client happy — even if they are not right. When a problem arises, attempt to solve it as soon as possible and if, for some reason this is not possible, communicate with the client to let them know when the problem will be solved. Then solve it earlier.
Exceed their Expectations
Spend a few more non-billable hours on a project. Take your client to dinner or breakfast. Always be there to solve a problem and be your clients' go-to expert.
These are ways to reward your clients, and give them more for their money. Also, little gifts like calendars, pens, or bottles of water (with your logo, naturally) can be great, inexpensive ways to increase customer satisfaction.
Give Clients Superior Service and Convenience
Many people are so busy that they are willing to pay extra money for extra convenience. Likewise, if you provide extraordinary service to your clients, they are less likely to switch to a competitor. If you offer the best service, your customers will be more reluctant to leave when other businesses pursue them.
Admit When You're Wrong
As already mentioned earlier in the article, the principles of traditional human relationships also apply in business. This means that admitting when you are wrong or when you have made a mistake, a good old "sorry" can go a long way. Also, correcting a mistake and offering an apology can even improve trust and show the client that you really care about his business.
Don't Outsource Customer Service
Every one of us knows how frustrating it is to deal with incompetent customer service representatives who are incapable of solving your problems. So whatever you do, train your employees in house and teach them your company values so they can best represent your business and solve customer problems competently and efficiently. Do not outsource your customer service!