Business is built around relationships – whether between supplier and retailer, manager and co-worker, or investor and company. The most crucial relationships, however, are between businesses and their clients or customers; and these are the relationships that often take the most work.
The process of creating, maintaining, and improving a relationship with a client or customer is called relationship building, and although it’s an involved process, it has numerous benefits for businesses. Because businesses that provide a long-term service to clients, such as law or real estate firms, work with clients over an extended period of time, relationships are integral; the client won’t stay on with the business unless there is a solid relationship foundation.
Relationships are crucial in the success of short-term business transactions as well. According to a recent study by Manta and BIA/Kelsey, customers that come back to a business spend 67 percent more on a purchase than a customer that comes for the first time. Repeat customers are key to the success of any given business, because they provide a steady stream of income and are even willing to pay more than new customers. In order to retain repeat customers, however, a healthy relationship is essential for creating a mutually beneficial business experience.
It’s clear that relationship building is an enormous part of the success of any business, but how exactly should one go about creating this relationship? There are several key steps to keep in mind; take a look at these tips and apply them to your business to create a healthy and beneficial business relationship between business and customer.
1. Treat clients on an individual basis.
It may seem obvious, but many businesses tend to forget that they are dealing with people and not numbers even when serving individual clients. When building a long-term relationship, it is essential to treat each client on an individual basis instead of generically; craft your services to help each individual in a different way. This can be something as simple as offering a different package for clients with different needs, or personalizing the packages you offer by taking out or adding in certain services upon your clients’ request.
Also make sure to remember details about that person, even if it is something as simple as remembering their birthday or their children’s names. People respond well to being treated like people, and when clients can see that you took the time to remember small details about them, they will feel much more like they are in a stable long-term relationship that will provide mutual benefits for them and for the business.
2. Be honest.
Just as in personal relationships, honesty is key in business relationships as well. If you make a mistake, let your clients know and then take all the necessary steps to repair it; not only does it save you the embarrassment of clients finding out on their own, but it builds trust because clients can feel like you care more about their needs than about appearing perfect as a business. Trust is essential; clients that trust you will want to work more with you and will be more open to an increased level of involvement in your business, such as purchasing a greater package or extending their relationship into the future.
3. Go above and beyond.
Like treating customers individually, going beyond what you promise or guarantee is a business tactic that will earn customer loyalty and build strong customer and client relationships. Clients feel like your business truly cares about them, and will want to reciprocate by upping their purchase or the length of their business transaction with you, all of which will help your business.
Going “above and beyond” can be anything from securing an extra service that you didn’t originally promise to providing a small discount. A law firm that promises clients child custody in a divorce proceeding might secure an increased alimony as well. A hardware store throws in a repair kit along with a newly-purchased lawnmower. No matter your business, you can and should strive to give your clients more than the bare minimum.
4. Communicate effectively.
When it comes to communication with clients, prompt responses are key – reply as soon as possible after receiving a message from your client, and make sure that your responses are professional and courteous. Even if you do not have an answer at that time and it will take you a few days to find out, let your clients know that you received the message and are doing everything you can to help them know what they want to know; this will put many clients at ease and increase their trust in your customer service.
5. Utilize body language.
When working with clients, use body language to your advantage. Clients respond not just to what you say, but to how you say it; therefore, avoid stuttering and “filler words” such as uh and you know, as these make you seem less sure in what you are saying. Have open body posture, with your shoulders back and your arms out; this helps you seem more friendly and allows clients to build trust and confidence.