- THE MAGAZINE
Building relationships takes commitment, time, and constant contact. When you don’t see each other or stay in touch, the relationship withers away and vanishes over time.
Remember when you were first dating? To get to know the other person, you spent lots of time talking, having fun, and doing things together. After the date, you would call and talk for hours, send them flowers, and keep in touch on a regular basis. Building relationships takes commitment, time, and constant contact. When you don’t see each other or stay in touch, the relationship withers away and vanishes over time.
Building loyal customer relationships works the same way. Think of it as dating. Without phone calls, gifts, thank-you cards, or time together, there is no relationship. The best loyal customer relationships are built over time in what I call ‘relationship building sessions.’ These are times together with customer having fun, eating a meal, attending a ballgame, playing golf, or doing something enjoyable together. This is how you date your customer to build loyalty.
Customers want to do more business with friends and people they trust and really know. Customers build trust with their customers by first doing a good job for them, and second by getting to know them in a personal way. Just like dating! Look at your calendar. How much time do you spend dating your customers to build loyalty? Once you realize you are in the relationship building business, your company will grow and make more money doing business with loyal customers.
1. Make Customers Your Priority!Spend at least thirty-three percent of your time with customers in face to face relationship building sessions. This includes meals, sporting events, industry meetings, and sitting on boards of community organizations. Put customer time into your calendar. Make it a priority. I try to schedule at least three meals plus one golf game with current or potential customers every week. The only way to build customer relationships is in a relaxed setting where you can really get to know the person.
2. Help Customers!People want to help those who help them. Look for ways to help your customer make more money. Become a business partner with them. Before I meet with customers, I try and identify how I can help them be successful. I come prepared to share a business tip or trick that will help their bottom-line. Send something to help your customers make a profit at least four times a year. Send business articles, books, tapes, technical specification updates from your suppliers, magazine subscriptions, photos of jobsite challenges, new code updates, changes in the law, or industry studies from your association. When you send things to help your customers, you reinforce your relationship with them. Include a little handwritten note like: “I thought this would help your business. It helped me provide better customer service.”
3. Constant Customer Contact!Think how you cultivate personal relationships and build true friendships. Trusting relationships are built over time with lots of one on one contact, conversations, experiences, and fun. In business you get distracted with constant pressure of making a profit and getting projects built. It isn’t natural to stop and take time required to build deep customer relationships. So you continue bidding lots of jobs and selling low price. This won’t generate above industry average net profit.
Put your customer relationships first by tracking business relationships. Make a list of all your customers from the last three years Put them into one of the categories labeled: loyal customers, repeat customers, old customers, new target customers, and referring parties. Next rank them on how easy they are to do business with and their potential to become loyal customers. Next list them in order of their ranking and make sure you spend time with the highest ranked customers.
4. Spend Time With Top CustomersYou now have your customers listed in order of importance to your business. You know where to concentrate your customer relationship time and which customers are your top priorities. Keep track every time you meet with customers and make a commitment to see them at least every two to three months. Don’t forget, your goal is to convert potential target customers into repeat customers, and repeat customers into loyal customers who only use your company for all their construction needs.
5. Be in the Right Place at the Right Time!Lucky people seem to always be in the right place at the right time. In my business, I noticed subcontractors who spend a lot of time in our office, get the most work. Luck? I don’t think so! By making customer relationship time a priority, you’ll land jobs just because you made it easy for customers to ask you questions and advice on projects they are currently working on before they go out to bid.
6. Show You Care!The number one reason customers stop working with companies is an attitude of indifference. They don’t think you care about them. Customers want to know you care about them, their business, their challenges, and them as people. Keep personal files on each of your customers. Track their family, schools, hobbies, goals, vacations, activities, and major life events. Before you meet with them refer to it and then when you meet, ask them questions about their personal life. This caring attitude will set you apart and solidify your relationships.
To show your care, send your top customers handwritten notes as often as appropriate. Mail out to your customer list at least every three months. Send materials that’ll help customers improve their business including: how-to ideas, tip sheets, new product brochures, code updates, business articles, or new industry trends. This constant customer contact will also help you build deep relationships over time.