How to Build Customer Relationships

How to Build Customer Relationships

Want a surefire way to make your business perform better? Give your customers a reason to form an emotional connection with your company.

Good customer relationships are based on customer experience—what it’s like for people to do business with you. That experience is all about how you exceed customers’ expectations.

Research shows that ‘satisfying’ customers aren’t enough to guarantee they’ll come back. It would help if you went above and beyond. Whether you run a coffee shop where regulars want to feel like a part of the family or an auto-parts company whose customers demand high quality and responsive service, that’s true.

So how do you exceed expectations? Here are six tips to get you started.


1. Build your network–it’s your sales lifeline.

Your network includes business colleagues, professional acquaintances, prospective and existing customers, partners, suppliers, contractors, and association members, as well as family, friends, and people you meet at school, church, and in your community.

2. Communication is a contact sport, so do it early and often.

Relationships have a short shelf life. No matter how charming, enthusiastic or persuasive you are, no one will likely remember you from a business card or a one-time meeting. One of the biggest mistakes people make is coming home from networking events and failing to follow up. Make the connection immediately. Send a “nice to meet you” e-mail or let these new contacts know you’ve added them to your newsletter list, and then send them the latest copy. Immediately reinforce who you are, what you do, and the connection you’ve made.

3. E-mail marketing keeps relationships strong on a shoestring budget.

Build your reputation as an expert by giving away some free insight. You have interesting things to say! An easy way to communicate is with a brief e-mail newsletter that shows prospects why they should buy from you. You can distribute an e-mail newsletter for just pennies per customer that includes tips, advice, and short items that entice consumers and leave them wanting more. E-mail marketing is a cost-effective and easy way to stay on customers’ minds, build their confidence in your expertise, and retain them. And it’s viral: Contacts and customers who find what you do exciting or valuable will forward your e-mail message or newsletter to other people, just like word of mouth marketing.

4. Reward loyal customers, and they’ll reward you.

According to global management consulting firm Bain and Co., a 5 percent increase in retention yields 25 to 100 percent profit increases. And on average, repeat customers spend 67 percent more than new customers. So your most profitable customers are repeat customers. Are you doing enough to encourage them to work with you again? Stay in touch, and give them something of value in exchange for their time, attention, and business. It doesn’t need to be too much; a coupon, notice of a special event, helpful insights and advice, or news they can use are all effective. Just remember: If you don’t keep in touch with your customers, your competitors will.

5. Loyal customers are your best salespeople.

So spend the time to build your network and do the follow-up. Today there are cost-effective tools, like e-mail marketing, that make this easy. You can e-mail a simple newsletter, an offer, or an update message of interest to your network (make sure it’s of interest to them, not just to you). Then they’ll remember you and what you do and deliver value back to you with referrals. They’ll hear about opportunities you’ll never hear about. The only way they can say, “Wow, I met somebody good at XYZ. You should give her a call” is if they remember you. Then your customers become your sales force.