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How to Build Personal Relationships With Customers


									How to Build Personal Relationships With
Companies in all industries and of all sizes understand that customers are perhaps their most
valuable assets. Improving the overall customer experience is vital for continued success and
survival, and always has been. Here’s how to manage those relationships.

 Customer loyalty and repeat business are the cornerstones    of today's market conditions. In
the words of many industry professionals, losing a customer is the absolute worst thing that
could happen to your company. This mantra has always stood true, but when you're fighting with
competitors       for     every      dollar,      customer        retention       is      key.

According to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer released July 7, 61% of
1,000 American consumers surveyed think good customer service is more important amid
economic instability and are willing to spend an average of 9% more at a retailer that provides it.
Some additional numbers from the survey are that 81% of American Express respondents are
more likely to give a retailer repeat business after receiving good customer service, while 75%
say such measures will make them spread the word about a company that treated them well.

As Charles Green puts it in How to Build a Culture of Corporate Trust, 'most sales models are
inherently transactional. But if you start thinking about your customers in terms of relationships
rather than transactions, where it's never about one deal, you'll build relationships.' This guide
will explain what customer relationship management is and the principals you should follow for
better               relationships                with              your                customers.

How     To    Build    Personal    Relationships     with    Customers:      What     Is   CRM?

So while everyone seemingly understands the importance of customer relationships, they have
come a long way in a short time. In the 1990s many academics and industry gurus spent time
popularizing theoretical visions of how strategically managing customers would improve
relationships, then in turn sales, loyalty and profits. What that led to was a boom in technology
software aimed at managing and measuring CRM (or Customer Relationship Management).

But what exactly is CRM? According to the experts at CRM Magazine, 'it is a company-wide
business strategy designed to reduce costs and increase profitability by solidifying customer
satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. True CRM brings together information from all data sources
within an organization (and where appropriate, from outside the organization) to give one,
holistic view of each customer in real time. This allows customer-facing employees in such areas
as sales, customer support, and marketing to make quick yet informed decisions on everything
from cross-selling and up selling opportunities to target marketing strategies to competitive
positioning                                                                              tactics.'

In fact, CRM users, vendors, analysts and consultants from around the world descended upon
New York City last week for a three-day conference called CRM Evolution which featured
panels, seminars and discussions on how technologies and economic forces are changing the

'If you don't have any kind of relationship with a customer, they're simply not going to be a
customer,' says Brent Leary, a columnist for Inc. Technology and the co-founder and partner of
CRM Solutions, LLC., based in Stockbridge, Georgia. 'If we can build a relationship where they
know who we are, they like what we can do, and give an example of how we can help them, then
we     can     give   them     the    trust   and     that  helps     solidify   relationships.'

How To Build Personal Relationships with Customers: Defining Your Strategy and

But once a business recognizes the need, how can they implement strategies to improve customer
relationships? It is actually considerably easier than many may think. First and foremost, it's
about your talent. If you understand your employees and get the right people involved in
relationship management, you'll be at a benefit right away. But you should also be collaborative
with the customers to see what they want and whom they want to work with. Remember, it's a
two-sided                                                                           relationship.

'Focus on people, process and technology,' says Esteban Kolsky, a noted blogger and the
Principal and Founder of Thinkjar, an advisory firm focused on Customer Strategies. 'With
technology, the software you adopt will differ based upon what type of company you are, your
employees, and much more. But there is so much available now that every company should be
able to find a CRM solution that fits them individually.' With that said, here are some core
principles to relationship management that any company can, and should follow:

1. Communication: Listening is just as important as telling. Think about how often you
actually speak with your customers. Then evaluate, am I only calling when we need to make a
sale or close a deal? Focus on less financial-driven communication (whether it's email, phone or
face-to-face interaction is up to you). Do you have a newsletter or a new tool you're testing out?
If you make your customers feel involved, they feel as though they actually have a stake in your
company, and feel like you care about more than just getting the sale.

2. Rewards: Every industry has companies who do reward and customer loyalty programs
differently. It is a very simple form of saying 'thank you.' And particularly of late, loyalty
programs seem only to have grown in popularity. Why? Customer loyalty programs are the next-
generation marketing strategy. It is a viable and measurable marketing tool that small businesses
can use to retain their customers and grow their business. It's all about recognizing and
understanding your customers (and each one is unique, so learn about each of them separately).
Once you do that, you can gear a loyalty program around their habits, likes and dislikes (think
about the way LBS services like Foursquare, GoWalla and others are implementing rewards

3. Enhanced Customer Service: This rule goes without saying, but as Ray Wang, a partner at
Altimeter Group in San Mateo, California, put it best at CRM Evolution, 'Customers no longer
care about what department you're in, they simply want their problem fixed.' With social CRM
channels like Twitter replacing traditional call centers, it's imperative that everyone in your
company buy into a singular customer service strategy. As the earlier cited American Express
survey notes, good customer service can be the determining factor in repeat business. So why
wouldn't          you          focus           extra            attention        on          it?

4. Start Small and Emphasize Human Touch: Everyone remembers the theme song to the
ever-popular television series Cheers. Well it's very true, as getting to know the names and faces
of regular customers shows that you care. Additionally, as a small business, make the extra effort
to    emphasize      face-to-face   interaction     as     opposed      to   phone    or    email.

5. Be Flexible: Be quick and attentive to a customer's problems or complaints. In the past,
some companies would simply say, 'I'm sorry, it's policy' in response to a customer complaint.
That answer doesn't really work anymore, as customers are savvy enough to take their business
elsewhere if they're not getting the service and attention they want. You should set aside some
strategic ideas for dealing with an unhappy customer, but you shouldn't waver far from the old
mantra that the customer is always right.

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