Businesses go to a lot of effort to attract customers. It takes time and money to find customers, so once you have them, you naturally want to keep them coming back.
Those that put the time into growing good customer relationships will enjoy the significant benefits that come with customer loyalty.
Getting clients is hard, so once you have them it’s important to keep them. Do whatever you can to impress and delight your customers to encourage repeat business and referrals. Communicate well, understand how to make them happy and do it!
Research by Bain & Company found a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to more than a 25% increase in profits. Developing client relationships can also promote positive cash flow in business by creating an engaged, responsive, regular audience.
Top characteristics of a strong client relationship include having good communication, knowledge sharing, positive attitudes and exceeding expectations. Every interaction an individual has with your business is a chance to nurture and grow that customer relationship.
So where do you start in building a good customer relationship? The ideal customer relationship model is based around a few key points:
Get to know your customers – what they want, what their values are, what their preferred work style is, what service they expect. The more you know about who they are, the more you can cater to them. This is on both a collective and individual level – even learning their names is a great start!
It also means establishing the best way of communicating with them, and setting proper expectations. Again, this is about establishing what customers want so you can deliver on what works best for them.
Giving customers what they want is good. Giving customers something they didn’t know they wanted is even better.
For example, if you’re a website developer, rather than just building a website for a client, you can take the time to show them how to navigate the back end themselves. Finish a project ahead of schedule.
Make the extra effort to give customers a positive experience in any way you can, and they will thank you for it.
Understanding how your customers feel about your service is important, and the best person to tell you that information is the customer themselves. Make it easy for them to provide feedback too – if it’s not, they just won’t bother.
It’s important to use feedback to make things better too. Not only does that improve the customer experience, but it shows that you’re listening to them and you value what they have to say.
There are two aspects to having good customer relationships – first, building the customer relationship, then maintaining it. Relationships can be fickle, and one bad experience can ruin years of hard work.
It helps to have systems and processes in place, particularly in the following areas:
First and foremost, customers come to you because they want something. It’s imperative they get what they want and that they’re satisfied with the process. If they can’t get good results, they’ll go somewhere else.
Even better, give them a result that no one else can. If you can do that, customers have no other option but to use you for that result.
Results can also be seen in terms of value. The concept of customer value-based revenue management is about pricing goods and services so the more customers pay, the more value they get.
It helps to understand the value that customers get when they pay more, and ensure that value lives up to expectations. Plainly, keeping high-spending customers happy is particularly advantageous.
Communicating with your customers is a great way to let them know what you’re doing and all the ways you can help them. It needs to be often enough to stay at the front of their mind, but not so often that you annoy or overwhelm them.
A customer relationships management (CRM) tool helps to keep customer communication in one place so everyone knows what’s going on. It’s especially helpful if you have multiple customers, so you don’t have to try to remember everything!
At the same time, communication isn’t a one way street. Understand what’s going on with them, both on a professional and personal level. Again, that helps to understand what they want and need.
Check in if you hear they’ve been sick, or ask them how their holiday was. These types of things are genuine personal interactions that nurture customer relationships on multiple levels.
As an expert in your business area, it may seem tempting to safeguard knowledge and not give anything away for free. However, the opposite is best – being generous and open with your expertise is a great way to maintain customer relationships.
It helps to position yourself as an authority in your customers’ minds. They will grow to trust your advice and respect your knowledge base.
All of your interactions with customers – across all areas – should be easy for them. It’s no different when it comes to requesting and receiving payment. Invoicing and making payments can be a source of friction, but it doesn’t need to be.
Understand how customers prefer to pay you and give them that option. When invoicing, it helps to include multiple payment options so different customers can choose their preferred payment method.
Personalising your service to an individual is not only good manners, but it’s good business. It’s important to treat customers like people – call them by their name and remember their specific needs. This opens up more opportunities to cross-market your service.
For example, if you’re invoicing them for a consumer item that’s hard to get, you can use the opportunity to let them know you’ve just received more in stock, or that they’re on sale. If they want more, they’ll be pleased to know.
There are some aspects of doing business where it may seem tricky to maintain a customer relationship. Billing is one of them.
After all, when you send someone an invoice, you want them to pay it quickly. You can’t exactly say that in those words – you want to be polite and friendly.
However, there are things you can do to make billing a good customer experience and part of building that relationship you want.
A good billing process begins well before you send your first invoice. Doing credit checks on customers can prevent having to have awkward, potentially damaging conversations down the track when customers don’t pay an invoice.
If you provide goods and services before you receive payment, you’re effectively offering credit to your customers. As with any other lending or credit situation, you need to do due diligence to know customers can live up to their end of the deal.
This means conducting periodic reviews of existing customers too. People’s financial position can change rapidly, and regular credit checks help to keep on top of customers’ ability to pay invoices.
A good client relationship is similar to a good personal relationship, but there are things that differentiate the two. With customers, the relationship is centred around doing business.
Making credit terms clear from the beginning is about setting expectations and communicating well. Agreeing to these terms gives both parties clarity on the process going forward, and can be the basis for ongoing communication.
It’s inevitable that some customers will be slow to pay invoices at some point, but you can enforce the terms you’ve agreed and maintain a positive relationship at the same time. It’s about sticking to the standard you’ve both agreed on.
Technology has transformed the billing process, making it much easier for both merchants and customers. Manual payments and processes take much longer, inconveniencing both parties.
Accounting and invoicing software can automate billing and payment reminders to save you time and effort. Automated reminders can be carefully worded to prevent any awkwardness, while also being clear in reminding customers of your expectations.
If you’re having real issues getting payment from a customer, or if they’re consistently slow, you can outsource the issue to a third party. In these instances, it may be that the relationship is beyond saving, but getting a professional is often the best way to chase payment to promote your cash flow.
This can be a frustrating process, and that may come through in your dealings with other customers. Having someone else take care of chasing debts keeps you in a positive mindset to maintain customer relationships with others.
It’s hard to understate the value that comes from developing good customer relationships. Every interaction is a chance to impress and further grow that relationship, but at the same time, a negative experience can be extremely damaging.
Ultimately, the customer’s view of the relationship is much more telling than the business owner. Businesses need customers more than customers need them, so there is a power imbalance in the relationship.
For businesses, that means it’s critical to give customers a positive experience, otherwise they’ll simply go somewhere else. However, that creates an opportunity in that customers with options will remain loyal to their favourite merchants.
Keeping customers happy can also cost money up front, if you have to purchase something to do work for them, for example.
Having positive cash flow really helps to take up opportunities to impress. This is where FundTap can help, as a form of invoice financing that promotes the cash flow you need to invest in this type of work. It’s especially helpful, because customers will understand the lengths you’ve gone to for them.
It comes down to the effort you’re willing to put in and staying vigilant to ensure customers always have a good experience. Loyal, repeat customers can be the backbone of your success if you’re able to deliver for them.