8 steps to building better relationships with your customers

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In a recent post, Small business can and will win the race to focus on the customer I talked about a recent survey from IBM (IBM Global CEO Study), which identified that CEOs and business leaders believe that their ability to outperform their market and peers will be driven, primarily, by their ability to get closer to their customers.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking and talking to lots of people about what this means and depending on who you talk to and what area of business they are in, it can mean very different things.

As some of you may know, I am a great lover of keeping things simple. So, here’s my boiled down, back to basics, 8 things that, I believe, any business can do to build better relationships with its customers:

  1. Really get to know them – Too often do I see situations where businesses have little idea about who their customers really are……as people, that is. Not just how old or how much money they make…but who they are, how they communicate, what do they prefer, what they like, what they don’t like, and their opinions on how you could be better…..
  2. Build your experience to fit round their journey – There is often a difference between what a business thinks a customer will do or wants and what the customer really needs. Make sure that your whole customer experience is informed by your customers true journey and not what you think it is.
  3. You are only as good as the team around you – Building a great team around that shares the same values and standards is a fundamental cornerstone of being able to deliver to your customers, whether you run a small or large team.
  4. Put people into groups – In order to manage efficiency and effectiveness, find similarities between different customers and put them into groups to make things easier. Before you do this, it’s important to decide what issue you are trying to solve. For example, if you are running an IT support company then maybe segmenting your customers around how technically savvy or what type of technology they use may be a good place to start.
  5. Tailor your approach Create specific content or an approach depending on your their needs. We’re all different and have different preferences. So, be careful to assume that everyone likes a broadcast update email or that everyone is happy to deal with someone on the phone rather than face to face.
  6. It’s ok to prune – This is where reality and tough choices kick in. Not all customers are going to be a good fit for your business so choose which customers will work and be very clear about which ones will not. If you can spot the customer that you know will be disappointed with your customer experience as it does not fit with their needs or requirements and you choose not to do business with them (in the nicest possible way) then you will have saved yourself a lot of time and energy and brand equity in the process. They’ll appreciate the honesty. Refer them onto someone who will be able to fill their needs and you’ll create an advocate for your business without them having spent any money with you.
  7. Develop a memory – Unless, you’ve got a memory like Ray Babbitt in Rainman, or Kim Peek in real life, then having a way of gathering and storing information you and your team have about the relationship with your customer then you will forget things and lose out on opportunities to connect and build your relationship with your customers. This is where technology like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be effective. However, don’t be lead by the technology, think about your customers, your team and what you want ‘your memory’ to allow you to do now and in the future.
  8. Tune and optimise as you go – Set targets, monitor and measure how you get on. It’s probably not going to be perfect first time but you will improve and your relationships with your customers should get better. However, realise that improvement can take time and will depend on the nature of your business and current relationships with your customers.

I’m sure that I’ve probably missed something. What would you add to the list?

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