Business Journals Leadership Trust is an invite-only network of influential business leaders, executives and entrepreneurs in your community. Original article posted here.
A business can’t succeed without its customers. The people who buy your products or services are more than just sales numbers; they’re the key to future business growth through repeat purchases and referrals to other potential customers. That’s why it’s in every company’s best interest to prioritize strong customer relationships.
As successful business leaders, the members of Business Journals Leadership Trust understand how critical customer relationships are to the overall success and advancement of a business. That’s why we asked them how they maximize connections with customers. Try their recommended strategies to ensure every customer has a phenomenal experience with your business.
1. Keep seeking new ways to help your customers.
If you aren’t consistently trying to find new, innovative ways to help your clients scale, someone else will. Stay agile, show your value and make them the hero. – Kristin Hege, Convey Communications
2. Never assume you know what they need.
Don’t assume you know what your customer wants or needs. Listen to them. Find ways to engage them in conversations around how you can best serve them and meet their needs. Don’t just send a survey to emails on a mailing list. Talk to them. – Shannon Laine, HealthWorks! Kids’ Museum St. Louis
3. Encourage consistent dialogue.
Dialogue is number one. Talk to your customers outside of actual transactions occurring. Gain an understanding of what they need from you and how well you are delivering that help. Not only will the information gained be valuable, but the relationship capital gained will be invaluable. – Michael Sluka, B2B CFO Partners
4. Ask questions.
Whether building a relationship with a new client, a prospect, an old client or even an old friend, never stop asking questions. By listening to them, you learn more about their needs, desires, what keeps them up at night and how you can be a trusted advisor. Spend time getting to know your teams, customers, suppliers and partners so you can help them succeed. – Adam Boudreaux, The Leadership Group LLC
5. Reach out to them first.
Be proactive. Don’t wait for your customers to reach out to you for information. Think about what they want to know and let them know it in advance. – Brian Walters, Walters Gilbreath, PLLC
6. Check in regularly to see how they’re doing.
During times of uncertainty, such as now, I ask our team to check in and ask clients how they’re doing. Don’t ask for money — ask for a connection at a deeper level. The connections we make, maintain and keep during times of extreme uncertainty will be connections we have for the rest of our lives. – Brock Berry, AdCellerant
7. Use their first name in communications.
Learn their name and call them by their name. Most people go through their whole day without hearing their first names. “Mom,” “Dad,” “Honey,” etc. aren’t as powerful as using someone’s first name. People feel free to be who they are when they are recognized as an individual. Yes, they may be part of something (family, friends, job), and learning about that is important. First, start with their name. – Tashina Bailey, The Bar Method Portland
8. Empathize with their challenges.
Own their challenges as though they were yours. As with the current environment, be nimble and empathetic, and adjust your arrangements if asked — for valid reasons — with an agreement that is mutually acceptable to return to normal when it makes sense. Pivot and adapt and you’ll have customers for life. – Russell Harrell, SFB IDEAS – a Strategic Marketing firm
9. Follow up promptly.
When we get a request for a proposal, we have a policy of quickly following up by phone — if possible with both senior and junior staff to give the junior staff real-world experience. The phone call acknowledges the request and makes a personal connection with the client. It also sets the expectations, demonstrates our competence and clarifies key details so we can write a good proposal. – Samir Mokashi, Code Unlimited LLC
10. Prioritize problem-solving in your culture.
Embedding problem-solving into your company’s service paradigm maximizes customer relationships. When customers are aware that the sole purpose of your offering is to solve their specific problem, strong relationships are naturally built and last. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
11. Ask customers for reviews and referrals.
The best way to build trust in your brand is to have your customers say good things about you. If you have done the work to earn happy customers, ask those customers to be advocates for your brand on product review sites and elsewhere online. It will not only boost sales but your overall reputation as an organization. Brand equity can be nearly important as sales to your company’s value. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove
12. Make the customer everyone’s top priority.
Make sure that every person in your company is committed to the customer — not themselves, the bottom line or their manager. Without the customer, no one has a job. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners
13. Always be open and honest with them.
Let’s say your client makes a request and a website is going to take an extra couple of days to launch. Be open with them. Let them know that achieving this will require more time and a different deadline. Being transparent and keeping them in the loop builds trust. When you are honest with your client-partners, you can count on them to be honest back. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
14. Keep the customer in the loop.
Keeping your customer informed is critical for success. A customer engages you because you are the expert or key resource, but that doesn’t mean they understand what you do and what it takes. It’s imperative for you to keep the customer informed on a regular basis on the steps you’ve taken and the expected outcomes. – Robin Throckmorton, strategic HR inc.
15. Aim to go above and beyond.
Relationships are everything and are built in trust. Demonstrating that you are constantly putting the needs of your clients first in situations where it matters will engender more and more trust with your clients. Being authentic when you don’t have the answer makes a huge difference as well. Ultimately it is simple. Consistently go above and beyond and deliver world-class service. – Jonathan Keyser, Keyser
16. Be consistent in your delivery and interactions.
There are so many competitors out there that are trying to get your client. Once you drop the ball, everyone is going to want to catch it. Maximize the relationship by following through with your promises and commitments and addressing negative feedback. It will not only boost sales but referrals, too. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS