Are you the first call your client makes when they experience joy or sadness in their life? In my field of financial planning, building strong relationships is key to delivering the best work for clients and standing out from the competition.
In any company or industry, people can choose where they look for similar products and solutions, and I’ve found this to be especially true in a service-oriented company. The competition is intense. That’s why I’ve made it a priority to establish best practices for maintaining positive relationships with customers.
Here are a few of the best practices I follow at my company that can help your business too:
1. Be proactive, not reactive
To build trust with your customers, you need to be proactive about meeting their needs, not just responding to requests. This means being proactive about scheduled check-ins and updates, whether it’s monthly calls or face-to-face meetings.
When your company takes on a new customer, ask how often they want to be contacted. It differs per field and per person. Some people like an annual review; others like checking in once a week. Some people find frequent contact annoying, while others fear being completely forgotten. It’s personal, so be sure to note how often someone wants to hear from you.
2. Offer value, not a sales pitch
When you engage with your customers, offer them value, not a sales pitch. This could be useful advice, timely information about changes in their industry or simply an update on how your team is achieving their goals and objectives.
The goal is to keep communication open and keep learning about your customers’ needs and how best to meet them. Perhaps you present them with a piece of education in an innovative way; it could make them think differently and reveal something about themselves that hadn’t been discussed before. Remember, it’s a relationship, not a transaction.
As an idea, my organization started hosting “coffee talks” last year to continue to provide value to the existing customer. We invited customers to a Zoom conversation on a variety of topics and kept the format casual with the intention that our customers got involved in the conversation and weren’t afraid to ask questions or share their thoughts. It’s a great way to understand what’s on your customer’s mind and get to know them better, simply by presenting information through a different medium.
3. Personalize the experience
For many, the journey is just as important as the destination. Try to personalize the experience for each customer. This could be as simple as remembering their partner’s name or where they want to go on their next vacation. Personalization lets your customers know they are more than just a number or dollar sign to you, and it makes them feel remembered and valued.
Make sure your Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) includes fields with information you care about so all team members can personalize the experience, whether it’s for you as a leader and consultant or for your customer service coordinator.
Your team should note communication preferences, such as calling, emailing, or a specific time of day to get in touch. Not only should your notes have room for family members’ names and favorite things, but also make sure you have a dedicated space or a way for this information to be easily shared with everyone on your team.
4. Find and use feedback
Find feedback from your customers and use it to improve the experience. This can be done informally; maybe during a conversation you ask how they are doing and if there is anything you can do better. Or it can be more formalized, such as conducting a survey or a focus group.
Negative feedback can come in a variety of ways, such as a disappointing customer interaction or someone taking their business to one of your competitors. In these cases it is crucial to listen and take it in. Listening to feedback can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that it’s a gift and an opportunity to improve and grow so you can continue to provide an exceptional experience.
Feedback from your team is also important. Ensuring your team is working together efficiently has a direct impact on your customer’s experience. If behind-the-scenes communication is lacking, customer needs will not be served as effectively as they could be. I’ve found that team members often have great ideas for improving communication and the customer experience, and implementing their suggestions can help improve your business.
5. Show that you care
Making sure your customers know you care has always been the way to show they are appreciated. This can be done in many ways, such as sending a handwritten note after an important life event, or perhaps including a small gift. It can be as simple as taking the time to ask about their day.
Caring for your customers goes beyond providing them with your products and services. It’s important to be there for them in good times and bad. If you build a strong enough relationship, they can begin to feel comfortable sharing both the highs and lows of their lives with you. In turn, you can offer support and guidance through some of life’s toughest challenges.
Customer relationship management and experience always start with the very first interaction. By making a great impression and nurturing the relationship, you can turn a customer into a friend and advocate for your business, helping you scale your business sustainably.
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