The other day I hired a bow tie from a small, independent suit hire shop in Auckland. It was a small purchase, potentially the smallest transaction they processed all week but I walked away from the transaction as a very satisfied customer. It wasn’t the quality or styling of the bow tie that made the difference, it was actually rather plain and ordinary, but the experience I had with the business ensured I would be going back to them next time I needed a last minute bow tie or suit.
The clincher came about a week later in the form of a simple, well-timed, personalised email that thanked me for choosing to hire a bow tie from them and let me know of great deals that were available if I chose to join their Facebook group.
The timing and tone of the email and the effort that went into building that connection left a lasting impression, ensuring I will go back and continue to deal with them.
Like social interactions, the relationship between a business and the customer needs regular input and investment in order to develop and grow. It takes more effort to land a new customer than it does to retain a current client, and customer retention is very important in a small market like New Zealand.
Many of your existing customers could be better sources of new business than the names on your prospect list, so building stronger relationships with current clients should be one of the top priorities of every New Zealand business.
5 tips for building stronger customer relationships
1. Regular, relevant and timely communication
No matter what industry you work in or the scale of your customers, the impact of regular, relevant and timely communication will be the same. As with all relationships, in order to grow and better understand each other, communication has to be regular without being annoying and unnecessary.
Nobody likes to be spammed with offers they’re not interested in. Targeting tailored and personal messages at customers according to what they are interested in via their preferred medium is a great way to build a relationship with customers. There are loads of good Customer Relationship Management tools and software solutions that can help businesses effectively engage with customers and manage these relationships.
2. Give loyal customers preferential treatment
Sounds simple but when was the last time you felt valued as a customer? Identify customers that have been loyal to your business and reward them for their continued support. Give them special offers, let them know about new products first, invite them to special events, as well as sending them Christmas gifts or birthday presents/specials.
3. Move from a transaction-based relationship to a partnership
Take an active interest in your customer’s business and move from doing what’s expected of you, to getting more involved in your customer’s world. Make an effort to understand their business objectives and company ethos so you can become more than just a supplier.
This level of service may not be realistic for all of your customers, but should be considered for the ones that you intend to build long-term relationships with.
4. Don’t try to move things too fast
Building a relationship is a long term investment and it takes time to develop trust. Don’t expect your customers to instantly trust that you will be able to deliver on your promises, or expect them to want your advice and input for their business.
Blatant brown-nosing of a customer can be seen as insincere and manipulative, and there is often a certain level of scepticism when money is involved. You don’t want to come across as fake or insincere.
5. Be open and authentic
People value authenticity. If you are serious about a long-term business relationship with your customers, you have to be upfront and honest. No one likes to feel like they are being deceived or manipulated.
Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it”.
Make sure that you always act with integrity, being as open and honest as possible. Customers will often understand that things don’t always go as planned and will have a certain level of tolerance as long as you are upfront with them.
Join the Customer Relationship Management discussion in the NZ CRM Forum on LinkedIn.
Paul Bowkett, CRM Business Manager, Microsoft New Zealand
A 15-year veteran in the technology industry, with over 10 years experience in customer relationship management, Paul Bowkett has served in sales and marketing roles with a number of major software companies in New Zealand and Australia. He has also acted as a business advisor around CRM technology decisions and strategies. Most recently Paul has been managing Microsoft New Zealand’s CRM business, including marketing and field sales delivery of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and working with enterprise customers and key business partners. Paul holds Bachelor of Business in Marketing and IT systems from Auckland University of Technology.