If businesses exist, as Peter Drucker proposed, "to create and keep a customer," then success is defined by the relationships you establish with your customers.
Giving them the best experience possible goes a long way toward securing future business. Here are four fundamentals of creating successful relationships with customers and prospects:
Give Undivided Attention
Attentive time is among the most limited of all resources. As we split time and attention in more ways than ever before, the amount available per person gets smaller and smaller.
Reduce the likelihood that the other person feels you're not really "present" by putting away your devices and giving them your undivided attention. Not only does this demonstrate your professionalism, it shows you value their time as much as they value yours.
Don't worry; those messages, texts, or tweets will all be there later.
Think for a moment about the variety of ways we communicate with others today: in-person, phone calls, text messages, email, social networking platforms, video-conferencing.
The list goes on.
While it's true that some of these methods give us more communicative context than others, nothing is a true replacement for meeting face-to-face. Spending time together in-person allows both parties to make the most intense emotional connection with each other. Fewer distractions. Fewer misunderstandings. Better communication.
Reciprocate in Kind
With the shift from one-to-one communication to the one-to-many stream of social networking, it's no surprise that society as a whole has shifted to a "me-centric" one-way thinking.
Lost is the common courtesy of reciprocating the considerate gestures of others. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have lessened expectations of responding to broadcasted messages. But the type of reciprocity that characterizes strong relationships can't be demanded of others.
By demonstrating thoughtfulness toward others, we encourage them to respond thoughtfully to us.
Consider the Need for Extra Consideration
As we connect in more distant ways—online or through mobile devices—we may find ourselves becoming less considerate of others without even realizing it.
The scarcity of our available time also affects our ability to be considerate, in the sense that consideration means considering the needs, desires, or challenges of others. Considering their situation might take a little extra time, but it can save you a lot of time if you're focused on what you think they want or need rather than their actual want or need.
Consideration is one gift that we don't necessarily know how to describe, but we recognize when we receive it. And most importantly, we know when we don't.
The success of any business comes from the ability to create and maintain meaningful relationships. When you connect with others in a meaningful way, you become valuable resources for each other. The value you provide for each person in your network can extend outward to and from others with whom you are connected.
Whether your goal is to grow an existing customer base or to increase the satisfaction of current customers, success comes from focusing on the fundamentals of customer relationships.
Mike Muhney, the co-creator of ACT! software, is CEO of mobile relationship management purveyor vipOrbit — the first relationship-centric contact manager solution enabling mobile business professionals to manage their contacts, calendar and client/customer interactions across Mac, iPhone and iPad platforms. Visit www.VIPOrbit.com for additional information.