It’s funny how the word ‘relationship’ always conjures the thoughts of partners, friends and family – but one of the most challenging relationships in life is that between businessperson and colleague/client. Liking or loving somebody does not necessarily come into the picture when building relationships with clients, and so it can mean a little work on your part to ensure that the rapport and connection are present. All relationships however are based on trust, and shared goals, resulting in establishing and maintaining long-term relationships, thus loyalty. Here are some tips to start the building blocks…
1 Investment Whilst it is vital that you maintain a work-home life balance, and keep a separation between you, your employees, and your customers, it is still a great relationship builder to invest a little of your personal time, by sending Christmas or birthday cards. This shows you care, and that you think of your clients as more than just a pay cheque. It is also a way of gaining customer loyalty and can be used hand-in-hand with marketing strategies like sending discount vouchers or loyalty cards.
2 Information Depending on your industry, people may want to try new treatments, or products, or services. In order to take advantage of this you must provide your clients with clear, concise information, i.e. about new products, or services etc. Showing your knowledge and sharing this information marks you as an expert in what you do… SO, send informative newsletters via email, or print some leaflets to hand out after each visit to your shop or showroom or whenever you are likely to personally interact with clients or customers.
3 Courtesy It is common courtesy to ensure that your clients are fully aware of any change in your working hours, including your holiday periods and of course if you move your premises, hire new staff, or stop/start working as a mobile professional. Whenever you are embarking on a change that affects your customers, then it is vital that you inform your existing ones, as well as reaching out to new ones: Keep your clients in the loop.
4 Cancellations Ensure your clients are aware of any cancellation policies prior to booking. Have the policy clearly on your website, promotional material, and a printed copy in full view in the waiting area or shop. This way, customers know where they stand. In the same instance, if you have an unexpected reason why you have to cancel an appointment or meeting at the last minute, then it is important to maintain trust and understanding by providing a compensation of either an extended or discounted service or treatment. If you are selling products, then the paying customer must be aware of the refund and/or damage policy.
5 Expectations Be kind and warm, but always remain professional. You are a businessperson after all, and this needs to be reflected in your manner, attire, and overall approach to your clients, employees and customers. You will be taken more seriously and the exchange will remain clear. When it comes to your services, always exceed each client’s expectations, and they will do the same in return.
6 Response If you are contacted by a potential client/customer or by an existing one, then always respond with a sense of urgency – but not frantically or desperation. They are the most important part of your business; after all, without your customers you would not have a business. Be sincere with your exchanges via telephone, email, and in person.
7 Prioritise What are your customers’ needs? What are their concerns? In any industry, it is good practice to ensure that the client feels valued and not just like another appointment filler or purchaser. Remember their names, and conversations that you have previously had with them if they are returning. Understand your client type too: Are they regulars? Or are they one-off visitors staying with family or friends? Maybe they visit you for one service and not another? By ascertaining the client type you can adhere to their specific wants and needs, whilst still treating them as individuals.
8 Attentive Hold eye contact when you speak with your clients. Do not book their appointment or serve them at the cash register whilst multi-tasking. Whilst the ability to do more than one task simultaneously is a great business skill, it is not so great if it is at the cost of your relationship with your customers. The last thing you want is for them to feel disregarded or unimportant, so stop everything and put your attention fully on them, and this is the same when conversing over the telephone.
9 Sharing Social network websites are a useful business tool, but they also live up to the name of ‘social networks’ too. Your clients will feel a part of a group and you can encourage unity, shared experiences, testimonials, return visits, and special discounts for online ‘friends’. It is vital to still keep all confidential information just that, and avoid discussing anything personal via such websites.
10 Listen Something that is an asset to anybody in life, as well as in business, is the simple ability to listen. Show a concerted effort to anyone you are working with that you are doing just that. People paying for a service or product do not like to feel as if they are being pushed out of your door for the next person to take their place, and as far as your colleagues or employees go, they can help your business heaps if you take the time to listen to their suggestions, ideas, and concerns.
Implement these tips in your day-to-day working world and see your relationship building blocks turn in to tall towers of business.
By J P Martin