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Articles from MARKETING (104 Articles)

How to create stronger customer relationships

Businesses looking to generate repeat business should start by building stronger customer relationships. The key, according to SUE COCKBURN, is to be consistent with both product and service.

Savvy business people understand the role excellent customer service plays in their success.

They understand that winning customers and building loyalty doesn’t happen overnight, and that building strong customer relationships requires a consistent and ongoing effort to retain their customer’s hard won loyalty.

They know that while pricing is important, loyalty earned by delivering on promises and taking care of customers will often win the sale and keep the customer, even when pricing is higher.

Savvy business people also understand how fragile customer relationships are and how quickly loyalty can be lost through poor service.

Most customers will bear an occasional misstep or problem that is handled quickly and with care; however, they won’t tolerate neglect, rudeness, broken promises, unnecessary bureaucracy and inconsistency, just to name a few examples.

This is especially true when there are so many other competitors to visit.

Consistency is key

The importance of consistency in particular is huge; customers want to have confidence that retailers will deliver on their promises every time, not just when it’s convenient.

In fact, if a store consistently delivers good products and services, and if staff mean what they say and say what they mean, the potential for any organisation to reach extraordinary heights is real.

Consistency won’t guarantee success but it will lay the foundation for growth and it will usually separate a business from competitors.

Consequences of poor customer focus

Companies like McDonald’s and Subway weren’t always giants.

They started out small and grew on a foundation of consistency, not only in their food but in their service offerings as well.

“Companies like McDonald’s and Subway weren’t always giants. They started out small and grew on a foundation of consistency – not only in their food but in their service offerings as well.”

When consumers choose these brands over competitors, they usually do so because each company has a reputation for consistency in the products and service they provide.

Unfortunately, great service coupled with a great product appears to be rare.

It often seems that businesses woo customers with pleasant service and fast turnaround in the decision-making stage but drop the ball once customers sign up for the service.

A business might promote itself by saying “easy-to-use functionality”, but if it’s difficult to get after sales service or even a response from the support department then the supposedly “easy-to-use functionality” becomes an empty promise.

Retailers need to ask themselves, “Will customers who choose to shop with us discover that we under-promised and over-delivered?”

This is the type of experience people crave and the type they talk about and share with others, which leads to positive results for any business.

Of course, customers will share if businesses don’t do this but the results will be far less positive.

Here are some strategies for building consistency in your business:

  • Create opportunities for salespeople and other staff to meet to share problems and possible solutions to service-related issues.
  • This can help break down silos between departments and build staff relationships and ownership, all of which impact customer service.
  • Conduct an online survey and invite customers to give feedback.
  • Ensure marketing materials make promises that staff are able to keep. Ask staff to provide input and suggest revisions to the message.
  • Set up automated responses to incoming client emails to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Provide clients with a timeframe in which they can expect a response.
  • Monitor customers on social streams for praise or dissatisfaction and use this feedback to buoy – or repair – the business’ reputation.

Those running successful businesses of any size know that building customer loyalty isn’t an overnight effort.

It’s an ongoing one that can make the difference between success and failure, and consistency in every area plays a key role.

Sue Cockburn

Contributor • Growing Social Biz

Sue Cockburn is founder of Growing Social Biz, a website and social media services provider for micro and small businesses. Visit: growingsocialbiz.com

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