Evolving loyal, long-term customer relationships

Sometimes we get so preoccupied with marketing and sales activities and all the associated details that we forget the original strategic objectives.

The basic objective, of course, is to generate and grow sales revenue. 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 should all be aligned to deliver a customer experience with you, your company and your brand that evolves from a first time buyer to a loyal, long-term customer.

The customer experience typically evolves through four levels:

1. Satisfaction with price and availability

On the first exposure to you and your business, customers will quickly, maybe even subconsciously, compare price and availability to their expectations based on prior experience with your competition. There will likely be no sale, and maybe no second chance, if this minimum expectation is not met.

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 – faster response to inquiries, easier access, more stock, better prices or terms, better delivery, better warranty service and support.

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 applying your product knowledge, training, education and experience to educate the customer and give him/her the confidence to make better purchasing decisions. Now you are building a valuable customer relationship.

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 meet on non-business related issues.

The sooner you can meet customer expectations at these four levels, the faster you will build lasting and loyal customer relationships.

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