Before joining ranks at the Center for the Public Trust, I worked in sales for a Fortune 500 company. Seeing how they ran things on the inside taught me a valuable truth about business: building relationships with customers is essential for long-term success.
Without customers, there’s no business. And though that sounds trite, successful businesses never forget it. They aim to build trust and loyalty wherever possible.
Relationship building may come more naturally for some than for others. But here are three key principles I learned from working for a major brand that anyone can apply.
Listen to Your Customers to Understand Their Needs and Interests
When building an effective relationship it is important to know what kind of customer you are dealing with. Most often, you can discern this just by listening and being observant. What topics excite your customer? What do you notice that they are wearing or have on display in their office?
While in sales, I discovered that one of my talents was building a close rapport with our customers in a short period of time. I did this by first listening to customers, seeking to understand their needs and interests. I would then paint a picture of how our services would meet those needs and interests.
It didn’t take long to discover that most people love talking about themselves. So listening became a key skill in building a business relationship.
Always be Genuine
Your credentials, degrees, and prestigious accolades mean nothing if the customer does not believe you have their best interest at heart.There’s a saying that goes, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
One of the best things you can do when building a relationship is to be open and honest about the business nature of your contact on the front end. In most cases, the services I was selling would cause the customer’s bill to go up. But because I was clear and straightforward about the cost of the services, they were receptive to the benefits we were offering and often did not mind paying more.
Customers can tell when they’re being sold a bill of goods. So be genuine.
Honor Your Word
With all relationships, your word is bond. And customer relationships are no exception. When you say you are going to do something, do it.
The fastest way to deteriorate a relationship is to break your word. Conversely, the fastest way to gain trust with a customer is to follow through on your word.
I always guaranteed my level of customer service by inviting customers to give me a call if they had any issues. On one occasion, a customer reached out to me and asked if I could do anything about a service issue that had to do with another department. Even though it was outside of my area of expertise, at the point of sale I had told her to give me a call if she had ANY issues.
I went out of my way to reach out to the powers that be and had the issue resolved. The customer was so pleased that she referred me to many of her friends and family, generating additional business.
Keeping your word not only strengthens current relationships but also opens doors for new ones to be built.
All relationships stand on trust. These three tips will help you earn the trust and loyalty of your customers. And any leader in a Fortune 500 company will tell you, that’s priceless.
As Always… Ethics First!
— Ron Taylor
Student Programs and Development Specialist, NASBA Center for the Public Trust