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We all need customers for our business to succeed, but not all customers are the same, so it’s important to build good relationships with all of them. 
Here’s a question for you. 
Who are your favourite customers? 
Have you ever asked yourself why working with some people feels so rewarding? 
It could be because their requirements are interesting and challenging, you might feel as though you’re making a real difference to them (that’s really important for me), or that you are creating something valuable together. 
So, what is it like working with some other customers? 
Do they complain, have unreasonable expectations, or do they simply go somewhere else? 
Good customer relationships will certainly make your working life more pleasant. More importantly, happy customers will spend up to 140% more. 
You can also generate more income by improving an experience that’s already good, rather than trying to boost a poor relationship. That’s because your customers already appreciate the service they receive. Happy customers are also more likely to recommend you to others, helping your business to grow
Here are some things you can do to improve relationships with your customers: 
No matter how much you like and trust your customers, there’s always a chance that something could go wrong. It’s essential to have clear and professional terms and conditions. Without them you won’t have anything to refer to, even if the problem is a simple misunderstanding. 
Having a framework that describes your respective roles and responsibilities will help you resolve problems, save time, and it could ultimately save the relationship with your customer. It will also make the situation much less stressful for you both. 
Before you start to work with your customer you should make clear how you will complete the work, what you will deliver, and when. 
It’s important to take time to get to know your customers. Any relationship will be better when it’s based on shared understanding and interests. You should definitely set clear boundaries about how much personal information you want to give or receive – you’re not getting married, after all. 
However, understanding your customers’ interests, what they like or dislike, and how they see the world, will allow you to deliver a service that they feel is tailored to them. It will also help you to anticipate and exceed their expectations. 
It’s so important that the third Thursday of the first month of every quarter (January, April, July and October) has been designated ‘Get to know your customers day’. Really – they have. 
You don’t have to set a specific date each quarter, but you can follow-up on projects and purchases, ask questions to find out more about what your customers need, reach out on social media, or hold a special event. 
Did you know that up to 60% of problems in business are due to poor communication? 
When working with your customers and their teams, it’s important to listen very carefully to what they tell you and, sometimes, what they don’t tell you as well. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with what they say, but it’s important they feel that you appreciate their views. 
A good approach to show that you are listening is to rephrase what you’ve heard and repeat it back to your customer, just to confirm that you have understood them. You can use a phrase like “So, you’re telling me that…”, or “I see, so you’re saying that…”. 
The power of ‘No’ 
We have all done things against our better judgement in the interests of pleasing a client. We’ve all learnt the hard way that this is a mistake. 
However it can be difficult to say ‘no’ to a valued customer. Learning some simple techniques in advance will help you to respond with confidence when it’s time to use the ‘n’ word. 
The most important thing is to understand the outcome your customer is looking for. Even if they are asking for something specific, you might be able to achieve the same result in a different way. 
Like your listening skills, you can start by rephrasing their request. Confirm what they want to achieve and engage with them to find a way to solve their problem. Then you will be part of the solution without any confrontation at all. This might even involve agreeing that it’s not something you can do, but that you can recommend someone else. 
Stay focused 
At the end of the day, doing what you said you would do and delivering it on time will always be the best foundation for good customer relationships. 
Making sure you not only meet but exceed your customers’ expectations (as long as you have managed those expectations properly in the first place) will show them that you are professional and committed to excellence. 
Who wouldn’t be happy with that? 
If you would like to discuss approaches and techniques that will help you to create strong relationships with your customers, please get in touch. 
Until next time ... 
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