Customer Relationship Management

Over that last few weeks several articles and books have crossed my desk that deal with the relationships we develop with customers. Of all the ways to keep a business growing, increasing the frequency of interactions we have with clients is probably one of the most important. We would all love to boast a long list of loyal customers; when we increase the effectiveness of all of our business practices, the list increases.

To sustain profitability and customer loyalty, offering discounts or cutting prices may bring in new customers, but keeping them requires a different level of customer service. Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business. It is all about bringing customers back, and about sending them away happy – happy enough to share their experience with others.

The relationship you want with customers takes “management” and there are long lists of tips you can find all over the internet as to what that means. Here’s my suggested list:

  1. Values provide a basis for how you want to show up to your customers.
    They are translated into behaviors that affect everything from how you
    answer the phone, to how you respond to customer requests to how you
    follow up with them. One friend shared how he and his wife stopped at
    a restaurant and asked the hostess if they could see a menu before they
    decided to enter. The Hostess’ response was to tell them to go look
    it up on the internet. Not a very good customer experience. Know what
    values and behaviors you want showing up in your business
  2. Organize your business around your customer. Design your organizational
    structure around positions and activities that are necessary to sustain
    good customer service, rather then product/service focused. Use your
    strengths in other areas that you can leverage to help your customers
    address a challenge unrelated to your product or service.
  3. Take the time to build trust with your customers. Trust means
    doing what you say you will do, because you put customer needs into
    the relationship. Trust shows up in the reliability of your service,
    doing what you say you will do.

There are many ways to keep customers coming back, use technology to enhance the relationship, but look for ways to customize it. I read where Starbucks can serve their coffee 19,000 ways – that creates loyal customers.

The Challenge: Review your own policies and procedures, make sure they are clear and visible to your customers and before hiring an outside company use that same criteria for choosing them.