This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph's, "Don't Do It the Hard Way". Read the book.
Building loyal, long-term, profitable customer relationships
Evolve through the customer experience
Goal: The primary objective of every business: building loyal, long-term, profitable customer relationships.
Process: It’s a three-part process of Marketing + Sales + Customer Service.
It’s all about finding, attracting and retaining customers that bring value to the business in continuous profitable revenue and also become our biggest fans, telling everybody how wonderful we are. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with the hard work managing our marketing and sales efforts that we forget the essential strategic objective.
The financial objective, of course, is to generate and grow sales revenue and profits. But to have sales you need customers. And to have sustained, profitable and growing sales, the best strategy is to develop loyal, long-term customer relationships.
So the marketing, sales and customer service activities must all be aligned to deliver a customer experience with your company and your brand that evolves from a first time buyer to a long-term customer. The marketing and sales efforts bring in the first order and then customer service has to deliver on the rest.
The customer experience with any business should evolve through four levels:
1. Satisfaction with price and availability
On the first exposure to your business, customers will quickly, maybe even subconsciously, compare price and availability to their expectations derived from prior experience with your competition. If this minimum expectation is not met, there will likely be no sale and maybe no second chance.
2. Recognition of superior service levels
The first point of differentiation and the first step to building a stronger customer relationship will be when the customer recognizes that you offer superior service. You can demonstrate it in many ways – more stock, better delivery, easier payment terms, faster response to inquiries or better warranty service and support. Any one of these may be sufficient for you to stand out from the competition and deliver a satisfied customer.
3. Appreciation of the value of your knowledge and experience
After the basic needs of price and availability are met and you have distinguished yourself with superior service, the customer experience should then lead to an appreciation of the added value of your knowledge and experience. This will be demonstrated by your staff having the product knowledge, training, education and experience to help customers make better purchasing decisions. Now you are building a relationship valued by the customer.
4. Connection on values, mission and vision
The final step in cementing loyal, long-term relationships will occur when the customer recognizes a common sense of values, mission and vision in the way you both do business. This connection will be developed over several interactions, particularly when problems are solved together, or you connect on issues not directly related to the buy-sell transaction like honesty and integrity, social values or environmental issues.
The sooner you can meet customer expectations at all four levels, the faster you will build lasting and loyal customer relationships. And that is the primary objective of every business, right?
Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson
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