With all businesses relying heavily on repeat business, recommendations and referrals having a good relationship with customers and clients is essential. As accountants we strive to develop great, long term relationships with our clients by following these principles – they might be useful in your business too.
Honesty and openness - This is the number one guideline for successful customer relationships. Be clear and open with everything from a sales proposal through to the final contract and this will assist in developing strong working relationships which should contribute to repeat business from loyal clients.
Show a genuine interest - Relationships are better when the individuals involved take the time to get to know one another. Learn about the client's interests; try to understand their buying behaviour. Think of what the likes of Tesco do through their Clubcard programme. This is their way of getting to know their customers by monitoring and analysing their purchasing behaviour. Whether you spend a lot of time with customers or have a transactional relationship, as in a retail environment, taking time to build rapport and understanding what you customer is buying (and if possible why) is worth it.
Ask questions – Ask, rather than assume and listen carefully to the answers. Take the time to ask how they feel about your service or products and ask what other services your business could provide. Ask about their business, their plans for the future, the challenges they face. Not only does this demonstrate an interest it will also provide useful information to improve your relationship with them and allow you to spot sales opportunities.
Be willing to say "No." - Sometimes clients ask us to do things beyond our capabilities or interests. It’s flattering, to be honest. But it’s important not to try to offer a service you are not equipped to deliver. It’s better to make a referral to another supplier than struggle to meet their needs yourself. The willingness to say no also applies where a customer asks you to go beyond the original service delivery or asks you to offer discounts or product enhancements that are uneconomic. Be honest; don't automatically say yes, because if you agree to something and then fail to deliver, you could risk spoiling the relationship. Likewise if you say yes and deliver something that’s uneconomic for your business it will mar your view of that customer and might influence the way you treat them in the future.
Be willing to say "yes." – Of course sometimes yes is the right answer and only you will know when that is. Sometimes it is worth going the extra mile for a customer. Perhaps they are very profitable or they may be a source of good referral work. If so, then it may be worth putting in the extra effort in order to gain new opportunities.
Solve problems and add real value – Clients and customers want value. Deliver that value by solving their problems. Whether you sell a product or a service, using that sale to provide a solution will help them to see the value that your business offers and will create loyalty towards your brand.
We work hard to develop great customer relationships and to follow these principles of great customer relations. If you have additional suggestions on how we or other business could develop even better customer relationships feel free to comment on this blog below.
Parker Chartered Accountants and Financial Advisors