What is your current relationship with your customers? Are customers smiling when they see your logo, or do they barely recognize it unless it’s on a product? Are customers telling their friends about your business, or are you barely an afterthought? Building customer relationships is essential to the growth and sustainability of your business, which is why we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 most important steps to help you improve customer relationships.
Why Is It Important to Build Relationships with Customers?
Customers are the bread and butter of any company, and a healthy relationship with them means more return business, more customer referrals, more brand loyalty, and in the end, more sales. An unhealthy relationship, on the other hand, will drive down business.
Basically, you need your customers to like you, which is why many companies will invest a large amount of their marketing budget into what’s called relationship marketing. But whether you have a big budget or just need the basic best practices, we’ve got tips to help you maintain a healthy and lasting relationship with your best customers.
5 Ways to Build Relationships with Customers
1. Build Trust with Great Customer Service
A good customer service experience is essential to building trust with a customer. Even if their first experience with your products or services isn’t ideal, a good customer service experience can save the relationship by showing that you stand by your business and will deal fairly with your customers. A bad experience, however, is guaranteed to drive customers to your competition. Not sure how your customer service measures up? Here are some key characteristics you want in your customer service when building relationships with customers:
- Accessible: If customers can’t get the help they need, or it takes an hour just to finally speak to a person about their problem, they’ll either start their experience already angry or else give up and never look back at your business again.
- Helpful: Are customers actually having their problems addressed? If your customer service is just handing out band-aid solutions that don’t solve anything in the long term, customers are going to keep coming back angrier and angrier every time.
- Prompt: When customers reach out for help, how long do they have to wait for a solution? Being quick to respond and resolve is important when maintaining happy customers.
- Professional: Your customer service shouldn’t be like asking a friend for help with a problem. Your customers want to feel like they are dealing with someone who knows what they’re doing and who will keep their cool even when the customer themself is feeling overwhelmed.
Learn more in our blog post all about the essentials of customer service!
2. Make Great First Impressions with Your Shopping Experience
When your goal is making sales, you don’t want customers to struggle to buy your products and services. The more obstacles you put between your customers and the checkout, the more likely they are to walk away and not come back. That initial shopping experience is also likely to be your first impression, which means you have one chance to get it right. Here are some essential elements to remember when setting up your shopping experience:
- Easy to find products and services: How can customers spend their money if they can’t find what they’re looking for? Whether it’s in your store or on your website, keep everything easy to find with easy to navigate labels and layout.
- Transparent pricing: Nobody wants to have to wait until checkout to see if they can afford what they’re buying. Do everything you can to make pricing easy to understand and apparent from the start so customers can feel comfortable about what’s in their cart.
- Secure and simple checkout: The longer it takes for customers to check out, the more time they have to talk themselves out of it. Make sure that once they’ve decided to buy your products or services, they can check out quickly and with their information kept secure.
- A clean and engaging atmosphere: The moment customers walk into your store or click on your website, they develop an impression of your business. Make sure that first impression is a good one with an uncluttered layout and displays that quickly catch the eye. A good store or website atmosphere should invite customers to explore and get excited about your products.
Learn all about how to make that first shopping experience special in our blog post all about the power of the personal touch in business.
3. Show Your Appreciation with Gifts and Deals
While customers don’t always expect companies to go the extra mile to maintain their customer-company relationship, they really appreciate when they do. When you find ways to give back to your community, or to customers’ individually, you’re showing that you really appreciate their business, increasing customer loyalty in return. Learn how to build relationships with clients based around mutual appreciation with these special offers:
- Community fundraisers and events: Your customers are part of a community, and they’ll be loyal to others who are part of it. That’s why it’s important to build strong community bonds by reaching out with charity fundraisers and events, such as raising money for schools, public resources, etc.
- Branded gifts and in-store treats: Do a little something just for your customers by giving away branded merch likes hats, shopping totes, travel mugs, and more that they will use and love regularly. You can also celebrate holidays with customers by setting up special treats like cookies, hot chocolate, candy, etc.
- Special deals: When customers spend money on your business, they want to feel rewarded. Special deals and coupons for return customers help them feel like their investment is paying off and will encourage them to keep coming back.
Learn more about the art of company gifting in our blog post featuring gift ideas for customer appreciation day.
4. Seek and Implement Feedback from Your Customers
If nobody tells you what you’re doing wrong, how will you ever fix it? Likewise, it’s important to know what you’re doing right so you can keep on doing it. Customer comments and feedback can be tough to take, but it’s an essential part of honing your business to the best of its potential. Here are a few ways you can seek out constructive feedback to help improve customer relationships:
- Google and Yahoo reviews: Yes, there are a lot of trolls on the internet, but there are also plenty of genuine customers who want to share their experiences with your business. Customers take these reviews seriously, and so should you! Read these and respond to genuine concerns and praise.
- Contact form on your website: Don’t want every review to be posted on the web? Offer a contact form on your website so customers can reach out with concerns, questions, and valuable feedback. Make sure you’re responding to each one — customers like to feel heard!
- QR-code in-store (with a coupon!): Not getting enough feedback? Post a QR code in your store that leads to a review survey. For each completion, reward customers with a coupon to use on their next purchase as compensation for their time and insights.
- Secret shoppers: Secret shoppers are a great way to get an outsider’s assessment of your business. When you hire a secret shopper, you can give them a list of criteria to grade their experience on, as well as different behaviors they can test against your staff to see how well they handle difficult customers.
Want to learn more about taking feedback from customers? Check out this blog post about how to handle customer complaints.
5. Maintain Ongoing Communication with Customers
Your customer relationship shouldn’t end at checkout; continued communication helps to keep you relevant with your customers while also encouraging return business. Plus, customers are more likely to stay loyal to companies that are a regular part of their day-to-day life. Not sure how to make that happen? Here are our tips for staying connected with your customers while building customer relationships:
- Social media: Customers spend a lot of time on social media and often use it to inform their shopping decisions. If you have lots of high quality and engaging content on your social pages, customers are going to end up spending more time with your brand.
- Newsletters: Both paper and email newsletters are great ways to share special customer-loyalty deals, keep customers up to date on company events, and just in general let them know that you haven’t forgotten them.
- Follow-up emails: Are you following up after a purchase with a thank-you email or card? How about checking in after a week with their new product or service? These follow-ups help customers feel appreciated while keeping your brand top of mind.
- Blog posts: That’s right, blog posts like these are a great way to build rapport with customers. It establishes you as a voice of authority in your field while creating another space for customers to engage with your brand.
Learn more about how to maintain effective communication with customers with our blog post about the importance of thank you cards.