In the past, maintaining a good relationship with customers was simple. It meant delivering on your promises and sending the occasional card or gift during the holidays. But these days, it can also entail monitoring and liking mentions on Instagram. Publishing your environmental goals. Or, responding to reviews and concerns quickly and publicly on Twitter.
Advances in technology and a more global work landscape have changed the type and frequency of interactions between businesses and consumers. Today, people follow brands on social media. They read and leave reviews. And they expect the businesses they support to be socially responsible and inclusive. To get the most out of these interactions, you need to turn them into a two-way relationship.
Juggling all of that might feel overwhelming. But the importance of building relationships with customers is as strong today as ever. And with the right skills, building strong client relationships can be an easy and effective way to help your company thrive.
Why building your relationship with customers matters
The most obvious reason to establish connections with those you serve is to promote customer loyalty. Retaining existing patrons is a far more effective business strategy than constantly seeking out new ones. But good relationships have benefits beyond customer retention.
- Strengthen your reputation. Creating frequent, positive interactions will grow your brand. When you provide helpful service, offer useful content, and publicly promote causes you care about, people will take notice. They’ll associate your company with values and services that are important to them. And a growing brand will help grow your business.
- Boost profitability. According to research from Salesforce, consumers who trust a company are much more likely to stay loyal to that company. Customer stickiness, i.e. customers who return to your product or service, results in higher revenues. And when people continue to engage with your company, they’ll be more open to upselling and cross-selling.
- Build a network of brand advocates. Happy customers will recommend your products or services to others. They’ll expand your brand through word of mouth with reviews and recommendations. This way, you increase the chances of getting new customers, as people trust their peers.
Examples of companies getting it right
Any way you look at it, building a strong relationship with customers matters. Let’s take a look at two companies that illustrate the value of creating and maintaining connections.
- Patagonia. The clothing company Patagonia has built a strong brand as an actively eco-friendly organization. They extend this value into their customer relationships by making it easy for people to consume responsibly. They promote “recycling” through reselling used clothing. And they offer to repair clothing free of charge to keep used clothes out of the landfills. People stay loyal to this brand because they see the values they care about in action.
- HubSpot. Client relationships are just as important in B2B companies. HubSpot doesn’t only provide software for customer service, sales, and inbound marketing. They go the extra mile and stand out by being a literal hub for useful industry content and resources. They provide anyone—customers or not—with reports and how-to guides that keep up with the latest in an ever-changing field. They even offer certification courses for marketing professionals free of charge. These tactics provide extra value. They’ve also built trust by establishing HubSpot as an expert in their field.
5 skills to help employees build customer relationships
Good customer relationships are strengthened by external content and social causes. But at the heart of it, your employees need to be prepared with the right skills to engage and interact successfully with your client base.
You can train your sales team, customer service reps, and anyone else who interfaces with the public or your clients to be more effective. Depending on their role in the company, employees will benefit from growing the following skill sets.
1. Building and maintaining customer relations
Those who work with solving client problems or making a sale need to know what good customer relationships look like. Often the focus of salespeople lies on how to close a deal or reach sales quotas. Help them see beyond their own agendas and sales goals and recognize clients’ needs and pain points.
Teach salespeople to talk to customers in a helpful way. And show them the value of building trust—and the skills for doing so.
2. Strengthening customer loyalty
As mentioned, customer loyalty is one of the biggest benefits of building good relationships. So your people need to understand why it matters and how to create and maintain it.
Give them the skills they need to provide top-notch service and connect messages with brand values. It’ll help them turn clients into lifelong buyers and informal brand ambassadors.
3. Delivering quality customer service
Those on the front lines of your company need to provide customer service that goes above and beyond the basics. Teach employees what the lifecycle of customer service looks like and how it fits into your overall sales and growth strategy.
Then, give them the skills they need to think outside the box. Help them personalize their approach and provide “high-touch” service that brings people back over and over.
4. Creating connections
Relationships are easier to build when you remember there’s a person behind all the communication and selling. Give your sales reps a strong foundation for building their relationship with customers by upskilling them in how to build rapport.
Help them understand how to create trust by focusing on the actual human interaction involved. You might offer courses that cover how to discover and speak to people’s concerns and interests. Or, content around techniques for effective listening and speaking.
5. Applying communication best practices
Your salespeople, customer service reps, and marketing department may be reaching out to customers through different mediums. Some will contact people directly over the phone or meet for in-person meetings. Others will provide online support and account handling. Or, they may be interacting through social media accounts.
Set your people up for success by training them on the unique skills for communicating through these different channels. Based on your needs, your communication skills training could include anything from understanding body language if you have in-person interactions with customers, email etiquette if you reach out to customers and prospects online, and managing stressful situations.
Next steps: improving customer relationships
Establishing good customer relationships is a big accomplishment. The next step is to keep the momentum going by growing and nurturing customer relationships continuously. Consider the following steps for engaging your existing clients and strengthening your relationship with customers:
- Offer client training. Training isn’t just for employees. You can offer customer training as an extra perk. Remember HubSpot’s tactics? Try sharing online courses that help people understand and use your products and services more effectively.
- Include loyal customers in company initiatives. Invite people to take part in interviews, podcasts, webinars, or other corporate events. They can share their stories and inspire others with their success. Giving people a voice will also help them feel like a part of your culture and show them that you’re investing in the client experience.
- Actively seek customer feedback. You might already be tracking how people interact with your company, e.g., through remarketing campaigns and newsletter open rates. But you should also hear from them. Be intentional about reaching out to consumers and asking for their feedback. Send out polls or do one-on-one calls to talk about their experience with your company and products. Use the information to gauge how you’re doing and fuel future improvements.
Showing customers that they’re an important part of your company plans will let them know you value them and their experience. And when you show them you care about their experience, they’ll be with you for life.
Invest in relationships for success
Building lasting relationships with customers may seem like a lot of work, But the benefits will be lasting, too. It’s worth your time to create a strategy for building and improving connections.
Whether that means internal training or external customer and partner outreach, you’ll see the return on your investment. As your relationships are strengthened, your brand will grow. And with it, your company.