Building customer relationships is crucial for any business. Even if you have a high-quality product or service, it’s still only half the battle — actively nurturing long-term relationships is the most surefire way to achieve steady revenue and word-of-mouth marketing.
If you’re wondering how, read on: we put together a few important things to know about managing customer relationships that last.
What are customer relationships?
Customer relationships are the long-term ways a business is connected with its customers and customer segments. Customer relations is the process and tactics a business uses to build relationships, engage new and existing customers, and find solutions that lead to customer success.
Types of customer relationships
- Transactional. This type of relationship is usually the weakest — customers interact with you only to solve an issue and there’s no deeper connection from either side.
- Business. This usually involves a standing contract or deal, such as customers that connect with a particular account manager periodically.
- Brand and community. Many businesses create a following on social media or online communities. Activities and events may also help companies build customer relationships.
- Service. This refers to relationships that customers build with employees — for example, someone walks into a store and asks for a particular employee. In the online world, this can also refer to the level of customer support people come to expect from you, e.g. they expect quick responses to live chat requests or to find answers in your knowledge bases.
- Ambassador. This includes customers who are not only satisfied with your business but are also actively promoting it, either via word of mouth or by user-generated content.
- Consultant. This is a type of relationship where a customer consumes the content you produce because they find it useful and educational in their customer journey. This can also refer to the user experience of your product or service.
Other types of relationships may also exist depending on your business and customers.
The importance of building customer relationships
Building customer relationships is important because they increase customer lifetime value (CLV), reduce customer churn, and spread brand awareness.
More specifically, building customer relationships the right way can help you:
Increase customer lifetime value (CLV)
The longer a customer stays with your business, the more value they provide. High CLV means that each customer trusts you enough to keep buying from you in the long term. This is the financial benefit of customer loyalty.
Reduce customer churn
A long-term relationship with a customer is the direct opposite of churn. Quite simply, when you put in the effort to treat a customer well and engage them, they won’t go to your competitors.
Increase your brand’s reach
People share their negative experiences with others, but thankfully, they share the positive ones, too. So when you have a good relationship with a customer and ensure high customer satisfaction, you can expect they’ll become brand advocates and bring in more people.
Better customer feedback
This one’s an added bonus of great customer relationships: customers trust you enough to give you their honest opinions and ideas. This includes negative feedback, too, the kind you’d otherwise only see on social media, if at all. If you have a relationship with a customer, you’ll be able to get inside information on what works and what doesn’t.
How to build customer relationships: 7 effective tips
Customer engagement strategies are the best way to create long-term, trusting relationships and increase customer retention. Here are a few tips to do just that:
1. Create a clear customer experience vision
The first step in building good customer relationships is to have a clear customer-focused vision to communicate with your staff. Consider that customer-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers — this is evidence that putting customers first is essential to truly engage your customers.
The easiest way to define this vision is by creating a set of guiding principles. A prime example of this is Zappos and its Family Core Values.
While these values are not written for customers only, they refer to many customer service best practices: going above and beyond, communicating honestly, and focusing on relationships. These values are embedded into their culture and practiced throughout the company.
Once you have your own vision in place, make sure it drives the behavior of your staff. Always ensure that each and every team member of your organization is aware of the guiding principles — make sure you use these guidelines for training and development, too.
2. Offer omnichannel service
To make building relationships easier, communicating with customers should be effortless. And this means you need to meet customers wherever they are online, on multiple channels. This is what we call an “omnichannel strategy.”
Imagine you have customers who prefer contacting you via email, others via social media, and others via live chat. Some customers will start with live chat and then decide to get on the phone. Or, an agent has to pass a customer over to another agent, mid-conversation. So here’s the tricky part: how do you make sure no information or rapport is lost through all these changes?
Being truly omnichannel solves this issue. Use the right strategy and technology to switch channels without interruption and maintain the natural conversation flow. A customer experience platform can also help you see interaction history to personalize experiences — a big plus to building trust and long-term relations.
Next-Level Omnichannel: How Going Digital Lowers Service Costs While Increasing Satisfaction
3. Ensure your team has the ability to create a conversational culture
Create a feedback loop with your team and encourage constructive discussions. This way, you will create a conversational culture that will trickle down from your manager-agent relationships to your agent-customer relationships.
Another important aspect is to hire and train for the right skills. Building long-term relationships requires a specific skill set. Try to cultivate the following abilities in your team of customer service representatives:
- Attention to detail. This skill helps agents notice details that help them in their work, even if they don’t have complete information — like what the customer is feeling or what the problem actually is. This is essential to achieve good communication, a prerequisite for building relationships.
- Communication skills. Like we said above, communicating correctly is crucial in nurturing a relationship. With excellent communication ability, issues are resolved faster, conversations are smoother, and customers are overall happier, as miscommunications are usually sources of disappointment and frustration.
- Patience. There’s nothing that can turn a customer off than an agent who loses their cool. Being patient and willing to listen and fully understand the problems and needs of your customers is a critical skill.
- Sincere empathy. The best relationships involve a lot of emotion, and empathy is what customers are usually after when they reach out to companies. So, even simply apologizing the right way to a frustrated customer ensures you won’t lose them to competitors out of anger.
4. Personalize interactions with customers
A key element to nurturing customer relationships is knowing which customer you’re talking to each time. How can you have a relationship with someone who’s nothing more to you than a support ticket or a dollar sign?
That’s why personalizing interactions shows customers you see them as individual people and care about their needs. Personalization can be simple, like using their name in an email. It can also be advanced, like sending automated offers by analyzing purchase and browsing history.
Another aspect is making sure that each direct interaction between customers and agents is contextual — if the customer, for example, has had an issue before, it helps if the agent knows that and tells the customer they’re going to try a new solution. This is all part of creating a conversational customer experience that meets customer expectations.
5. Invest in AI chatbots
Agents can’t humanly be there for customers 24/7, and it’s not always feasible to hire for more shifts. AI chatbots can be the solution you need to never stop building customer relationships — even after hours.
Chatbots work seamlessly to answer routine questions and can work in tandem with your knowledge base. Another great thing about AI chatbots is that they can help onboard your new customers wherever they are. For example, imagine you are based in the U.S. while your client is in Belgium. Due to the time zone difference, it may be difficult to welcome your new customers in a timely way. This is where you can take the help of AI-powered chatbots.
But most importantly, when chatbots handle routine customer questions, human agents have more time to focus on building relationships — e.g. resolving more complex issues or proactively reaching out to customers.
6. Seek customer feedback
Asking for someone’s opinion is a great way to develop a two-way communication path with them. And that can lead to a fruitful and long-lasting relationship.
Not only should you pay attention to the feedback given to you voluntarily, but you should also seek it out proactively. Consider that only one out of every 26 customers is likely to bring up complaints on their own. The other 25 customers will simply take their business elsewhere without a word. This means that it’s important to let customers know they have a voice and ask them questions regularly.
Some ways to seek feedback are through email surveys (or even via SMS or WhatsApp) or standard CSAT or NPS surveys. Once you gather feedback from your customers and identify areas of improvement, act on them. This is the final test for customers to see that you actually care about their opinion and your surveys aren’t just a formality. This can create loyal customers, ultimately resulting in building better relationships with customers.
7. Use sentiment analysis
Sentiment analysis is a method that uses NLP (natural language processing) to assess the emotions of text automatically. For example, in customer service, you can use this technology to understand what your customers feel when they interact with your products, services, or brand (e.g., on social media).
This helps you build customer relationships because it fills a communication gap: the understanding of emotions on a large scale. Imagine, for example, you launch a new product, and reviews start flooding in. With sentiment analysis, you can get insight into whether people like this product or not, allowing you to get feedback or offer support proactively.
The same goes for customer service interactions, where you can use sentiment analysis to evaluate your team’s performance in appeasing frustrated customers. It may also be possible to sort customer support messages by tone to prioritize extremely negative ones, making it easier to maintain relationships.
Trust: A must for building customer relationships
At the end of the day, it’s building trust that will help you build a solid customer base. The more transparent and honest you are with your customers at every stage of their purchasing process, the better for building customer relationships. Just put them first, understand their needs, and ask for their opinion when you can.
What do you think goes into building great customer relationships? Let us know with a comment below.