How to Build Stronger Customer Relationships Today

How to Build Stronger Customer Relationships. Oklahoma City Business Incubator Program

A key goal of customer experience is to inspire and maintain lasting customer relationships.

Everyone involved in your business plays a role in the overall customer experience. As a business owner, it’s important to care about designing a consistent, positive, and valuable experience for your customers and community.

Your customers want to feel expected, respected, and protected in your business. That can mean several things, and it’s up to you to determine what that looks like in your organization.

It’s important that businesses navigate their customer’s journey with intentional care and focus. This starts with getting to know them before you actually get to know them. Then intentionally support them along the way, through offering high-value products, providing meaningful service, and building lasting relationships.


Customer research

It’s important to know who your customers really are if you want to treat them well and keep them around for the long haul.

Customer research gives more detailed information about the needs, wants, expectations, biases, and behaviors of your target market. By clarifying this information, businesses can speak to their audience in a way that more deeply relates and makes the largest impact.

How You Can Get to Know Your Customers Better

  • Conduct Surveys
  • Welcome Feedback & Suggestions
  • Avoid Making Assumptions or Generalizations
  • Engage On Social Media
  • Hold Community Events
  • Get Good With Data ( Audience Insights)
  • Be Curious & Ask Questions
  • Listen and Observe More Than You Speak and Persuade

Customer Support

At the end of the day, great customer support creates a great customer experience. Plus, the deeper the research you do, the better you will be able to support and provide value to your customers.

Customer support is just a proactive way to address your customer’s problems. Anticipating potential trouble ahead of time creates smooth interactions for your customers and employees too.

Through the development of this support layer, you can have a deeper impact on your customers, employees, and bottom line. Making the whole process much more predictable and enjoyable for your employees and customers; which we all want.

Tip: Find creative ways to support your customers across all channels of life. (in person, on social media, in conversation, in their community, in their futures, etc.)


Customer Service

Quality customer service is built on strong systems and principles. It emphasizes things like caring, showing up, consistency, and building community.

Customer service can be practiced in simple ways like just being prepared and organized. Or more commonly through the ways in which we communicate and interact with our customers. Like how quick we are to respond to a customer request or how transparent and thorough we are in communicating something.

Customer service is one of the most challenging parts of being in business; because we are humans, and humans can be difficult at times.

So because of this, we have to find a natural source of our customer service skills, and It starts with mindset.

6 Mindset Shifts For More Natural Customer Service

  1. You can afford to be generous. All great service comes from a feeling of generosity and abundance.
  2. The customer is more important than the company. Make this value choice up-front, and decide that your customer’s happiness is the top priority.
  3. Customer service is a profit center. Customer service is not an expense to be lessened. It’s a core profit center, like sales.
  4. Every interaction is a moment to shine. Take a few inefficient moments to get to know someone, make the time.
  5. Lose every fight like a champ. They win. You lose. Yet, you are prepared to do whatever it takes to make them happy again.
  6. Rebelliously right the wrongs of the world. Don’t follow norms. Your business is your little chunk of the world where you can right all of the wrongs, and gracefully show them how it’s done.

Learn more here: Derek Sivers: The Philosophy of Great Customer Service


Customer Retention

Initially, I think that retention is about keeping your customers happy, satisfied, considered, and appreciated.

Strong customer relationships start with trust and transparency. Customers want to be able to trust you. If they trust you, they will probably come back more often and for a longer stretch of time.

According to Harvard Business Review, it costs 5x-25x more to serve new customers than a returning customer. So with even a small retention effort, you could increase profits significantly.

Customer retention benefits your customers and your bottom line. Plus it also boosts employee morale to have loyal and evolving customer relationships.

Ultimately, customer relationships take time to build, and they are really built and grown along every step of the journey.

Each of these stages has its own unique objectives and benefits. Though, when used together with intention, your business can interact with your community in a more meaningful and sustainable way.


How Our Values Shape our Business Relationships

When I think of business, I often think of the relationships that are built along the way.

Now, we all have had experiences with good and bad relationships and this absolutely applies to business too.

A+B= AB is like a relationship. 

You don’t get A+B=C, because two people are still two whole people, just paired together. We don’t morph and form one person, although that would be interesting.

Rather, we come together to form a union of two people that share things in common such as interests, passions, visions, aspirations, and values.

When things don’t add up correctly between two people, you will end up with an unbalanced relationship whether personal or professional. Sometimes when things really don’t align, and the difference is too different then the relationship becomes more effort than it may be worth.

So it’s helpful to understand that since we are each individuals that are whole and complete within our own selves that we each have the ability and freedom to change our minds and our lives. We should also remind ourselves that when someone changes that doesn’t make them a bad person, it just makes them a person.

As humans we evolve and grow continuously, and it’s healthy and natural for us to do so. We grow to have different interests, different opinions, and different beliefs as we move through life. Which makes it important to give each other the understanding and freedom to grow and change, and give ourselves approval to evolve as well.


So How Does This Apply to Business?

Business involves people.

Businesses are made by people, for people, and they are expanded through people.

So understanding how people operate within your business, and being intentional with the business relationships that you form can really impact your business and it’s future.

Our values say a lot about our character, and our character says everything about who we are. So if we are looking for a business partner for example, it’s important that their values are aligned with our own, because character counts especially in business.

If being prompt and on time is something that I value, then a potential partner should probably also value this, otherwise there may be conflict down the line. A simple core value misalignment could result in either individual becoming unsatisfied or frustrated, and even lead one individual to attempt to change the other individual which is nearly impossible and certainly not healthy.

If we want to ensure long term compatibility in our business relationships, we need to be clear on a few things first:

  1. Make sure your core values are in alignment
  2. Make sure there is a mutual understanding of each other’s individuality and individual power to evolve and change. While also keeping a safe environment for open communication and mutual respect.
  3. Create a Non-Formal (MOU) Memo of Understanding. This is a blueprint for your operating agreement. There is no real need to involve an attorney, this is simply a mutual understanding between you and your partner about intentions and expectations.

Determine Your Core Values

Core values are not a matter of convenience. They are a way of operating, and a compass to guide your decisions

Core values should be natural to you, and already exist within you. You just need to identify them.

Identify your core values by starting with:

  1. Things that irritate you
  2. Things that are pet peeves
  3. Things that you would never compromise on
  4. Things that are non-negotiables

We all have things that irritate us and get under our skin. We don’t often take the time to really analyze why that is though, or where it stems from. Oftentimes, these irritants are signaling that our core values are out of alignment. 

When we are experiencing irritation it could be a sign of some underlying things:

  1. We are avoiding our inner truth
  2. We are playing it safe, and staying within our zone of comfort
  3. We are relying too heavily on others 
  4. Our core values aren’t in alignment with someone or something in our life.
  5. Our core values are being challenged or conflicted  in some way.

When thinking about your core values, focus on what already exists within you. They should be natural to you and your experience. If they are not, then they are “aspirational values”, not core values.

There are also values that could be considered “foundational” values, like: trust, honesty, kindness, etc. They are more general and in some aspects, and should already be an integral part of everyone’s value system. 

These foundational values are also often referred to as “permission to play” values. They are still highly important and should always exist, but are more like bare minimum behavior standards as opposed to core values that would ideally be more challenging and expansive.

As we build more connections in life whether personal or professional, it is so important to already have your core values established. They tell a story of your existence, clarify your purpose, enhance your vision, and are an example of the kind of impact you want to make.

Don’t overlook the significance of investing even just a small amount of time on identifying your core values. Your life, business, and relationships will be so much better off because of it.


Do you have an established value system for your business or personal life? Share it with us, we would love to hear from you.

If you don’t have clear values for your business, reach out to us and we would be happy to connect with you and help you uncover them!


Sources:

Vicki Langford Director Project 3810

Concepts here are derived from this book.