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Customers are more loyal to businesses they know and trust.
Customers are more loyal to businesses they know and trust.

Three golden rules for investing in relationships with customers

Giving attention to the relationship between your business and its customers pays dividends, writes JEANNIE WALTERS, who advises on the simple ways to keep your store in high regard.

A good friend of mine once explained why our friendship was so strong: “Relationships are like banks. It works best when you both make deposits. That way, there’s always something in the bank for a withdrawal.”

While it’s wonderful to hear that someone you admire feels the same way you do, his observation was useful for other reasons too.

Apply this principle to business, and you’ll see that everyone – whether customer or company – needs to make a withdrawal from the relationship ‘bank’ at one time or another.

If your customers feel nurtured and appreciated during the good times, they will be more forgiving, understanding and compassionate when there’s a problem.

Conversely, If your customers are mistreated, ignored, unappreciated or neglected when everything is going as expected, how will they feel when you need to make a withdrawal from the relationship bank?

It’s well-documented that a little mix-up or error when interacting with a business can actually increase loyalty when the recovery is handled well.

If your customers feel nurtured and appreciated during the good times, they will be more forgiving, understanding and compassionate when there’s a problem.

However, there are conditions attached; this only holds true when the customer believes the problem was beyond the business’ or staff member’s control, unforeseeable, or the like.

Additionally, if there are several bad experiences in a row, the customer is going to lose faith in the business and its ability to serve them in the future.

Essentially, they have been asked to make deposits into the relationship bank – through trust and loyalty to the business – but the business has now withdrawn more than it has invested.

As you might imagine, these customers become incredibly unlikely to purchase from the business again and may also generate negative word-of-mouth – either by leaving a poor review online or disparaging the business to their friends and family.

So, how can business owners invest in the relationship bank? Here are three ideas.

Proactively, personally, and unconditionally thank your customers – Many businesses, from luxury fashion houses to Etsy makers, include handwritten notes when fulfilling orders.

No sales pitch, no begging – just a nice, thoughtful thank you.

Another example is Australian online retailer Adore Beauty, which began including a Tim-Tam chocolate biscuit with every order.

This small, low-cost gesture not only made customers feel special by being treated to a sweet gift, but also emphasised Adore Beauty’s identity as an Australian business and made it stand out among competitors.

Cha-ching. It’s in the bank!

Understand your customers – Think about how you can make shoppers’ lives easier by making it more convenient to navigate your store, your website, or mobile app. How can you make their experience of shopping faster, easier, and happier?

While Amazon is not always a top contender for customer experience, it has certainly established itself as a place for people to get their shopping done quickly and easily.

How many times have you, as a customer, decided to shop there only because it’s so easy? The site remembers your preferences, offers relevant suggestions, and gets you from A to B in record time.

That’s a lot more appealing than filling in the same order form over and over and having to hunt for the items you need!

Care about people before they become customers – Have you ever wandered into a store and felt like you were interrupting the sales team? Or perhaps you have been browsing and they glare at you like you’re wasting their time?

On the other hand, there are numerous businesses who prioritise customer service in their culture.

A recent Customer Experience Excellence report conducted by KPMG found that First Choice Liquor, IKEA, and Rebel Sport were consistently highly commended by shoppers.

These brands demonstrated that excellent service, with friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff and a seamless online and offline experience, were key to winning over customers.

Online, think about sharing useful content, supporting others, and generally connecting with people. This will proactively build relationships and make people want to become your customers.

At the end of the day, when things go wrong with your business – and nobody’s perfect, so the chances are it will – wouldn’t you rather have something in the bank?



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Jeannie Walters

Contributor • Experience Investigators

Jeannie Walters is founder and CEO of Experience Investigators. Learn more:

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