Customer relations at a company is very much associated with sales and when we talk about sales, it’s everyone’s job. Therefore, customer relations is the responsibility of every member of the team.
Sure, there are salespeople, project managers, estimators and front-line customer service representatives who have daily contact with your customers, but everyone is responsible for creating the type of experience that you want your customers to have.
So much of what we accomplish in our profession is based on the relationships we have with our customers, vendors, suppliers and manufacturers, so maintaining those relationships will provide dividends for many years to come.
When we focus on the customer relationship we often think about communications and meeting their needs and while those are essential elements, it comes down to much more than that.
Being available when they need you, not only for the everyday needs, but when they have a serious concern, a question that needs a researched answer or they need guidance on what direction they should be going with a decision.
Providing them with information that is useful and easily understood, so that it makes sense for the non-technical person and allows them to make an educated decision.
Either having the resources necessary to accomplish what they need or having access to those resources so that projects move along smoothly and with minimal interruptions.
Education and training of your team are critical components when it comes to maintaining your customer relationships and fostering the organic growth that they can provide.
Spending time with project managers to be sure that they are using the tools they have been taught helps to ensure that your customers are receiving consistent and professional advice on every lead that is run and every project installed.
Listening to your service representatives and coaching them on their phone skills is another key element of creating that connection that most customers wish to have with a trusted advisor.
Continually evaluate your processes and procedures to make sure they are customer friendly, what worked 10 years ago may not work so well today. Think about how your customers like to interact with your team, how they like to schedule appointments, what times they like to schedule for.
What types of services are they asking for and what kind of technology are they demanding? You need to understand these things if you want to understand your customer’s needs.
How much does your company spend to acquire a new customer and better yet, what is the lifetime value of that customer. If you do not know the answer to those questions, you should.
We do for our company and you can be assured that our marketing, service and installation groups do as well. We spend a large amount of money each year to acquire new customers and to help maintain the relationships with current customers, so whenever there is an opportunity to enhance that relationship, we need to be sure that we are.
How about your marketing efforts, what is the messaging that you are sending out over the internet, on social media and with your direct mailings?
Marketing is about making a connection with your current and potential customers and creating that bond that places you in the position as the trusted expert/ advisor. The more they feel they can trust you, the more they will listen to what you have to say and the more frequently they will purchase from you instead of your competitors.
Many customers will make their purchasing decisions based on the image of a company, you need to be sure that the message you are sending is the correct one and that it properly represents who you are as a company.
Community Involvement, that is an area where some organizations excel, and others fall short of what they could be doing.
While we do not currently measure or know how much of our business comes from customers based on our involvement in the community, I can tell you that it is a comment that comes up regularly … “I saw you supporting this organization,” “We saw one of your people at the xxx event” or “We met John when we were at the gala.”
Giving back to the community is extremely important to some customers and many relationships were built based on our community involvement, do not sit back and observe when you have the option to get involved.
As much as the thoughts shared above have a great deal of impact on customer relations, nothing compares to the basics. Many years, almost too many to mention of customer experience have taught me that nothing compares to meeting the basic needs of a customer.
Answering the phone with a live person and not a recording or answering service is always the best first step, they want to speak to someone from the company, not a machine or an imposter.
Customers want to be heard and that means listening, listening intently to everything they have to say.
You might not feel it is important, but they do, and they need to feel that you do too. Included with answering the phones is to not treat each call as just another call.
It may be to you, but it is not to your customer and they want to be treated as if they had just told you they were giving you one million dollars, they deserve special treatment and they can hear it over the phone.
What a world we live in where a genuine apology, a gentle “please” or a thoughtful “thank you” can go a long way towards customer relations. Often, we want to jump in and solve the issue and in doing so we neglect to say, “I’m sorry.”
But when we do, and the customer feels truly heard, the barriers begin to come down. When we need something from the customer and we start with please, they immediately feel respected. And at the end of a service call, installation, sales call or phone call, how many people on your team will thank the customer for calling and for choosing your company?
It is easy to take a customer for granted when we are busy, heck they should feel lucky that we picked up the phone. Please never think of your customers that way, each call is a gift and whenever a customer decides to choose your company over everyone else, we should be thanking them.
Customer relations is often very simple to maintain and improve upon, especially if we give them the time and attention they deserve. We should never take a customer for granted and assume they are satisfied — we need to ask and we need to listen to what they have to tell us.
Each of us has the opportunity to improve our customer relations with the very next interaction, the question is if you are ready for the challenge or not?
If you are not, I bet the other company across town is.
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Every member of your team is responsible for creating the type of experience you want your customers to have.