Having worked in the industry for 25 years I was slightly disappointed to see the Market Research Results from the bpma mystery shopper survey. It highlighted to me how important close customer relationships are. As an eternal optimist, I believe that all business owners can soul search and know that 1 or 2 of the results could be taken on board to improve the customers experience and journey of your business and gain repeat business.
A customer relationship should not be about winning the one-off order to meet your target, it should be a partnership with loyalty and trust built up over a period of time. How many distributors and suppliers can hold their hands up and say that they have had customers for 20 years? Sadly only a few. It is wildly reported that millennials only like to do business online which is marketed through social media, twitter and blogs but we can accurately report that this is not the case. Marketers, particularly fresh out of university, need a guiding hand of experience. They require face to face meetings to understand how best to use promotional merchandise and most importantly work with a company that sources and buys responsibly and ensures products are compliant.
Customer service and customer relationships are the lynchpin of any business. You can market as much as you like through advertising, social media, email and postal but the bottom line is if your customer service and relationships aren’t strong, nothing will be opened let alone read and the recycle bin will be where most of your marketing is going. If you truly understand what a customer relationship is, your client should stay with you for years, refer you to their colleagues and transfer your services when they change employment. It is not difficult to achieve this process and if you can repeat the formula your business will grow and flourish without you having to spend large sums of money on marketing your business.
Your time and resources are limited, and it is really important to value your customers and build strong relationships with them and instill this in all of your staff. The most common mistake is that you believe you will receive orders and repeat business because your customer likes you. In my opinion this is a big mistake. Yes they do have to like you, but does their manager or the main decision maker know and like you too? Build a profile of your customer, the brand, what they want to achieve and the target audience. Understand their difficulties and goals and how you can make their life easier by adding value and delivering more. When you have a meeting, ask to meet their manager and other members of the team. Face to face meetings make your business personal. Does your customer know your team members, their account manager and the order processing team? Introduce them on email and make them aware that there is a whole team looking after them and their business. Sometimes it’s the little gestures that can make your business stand out against others, such as gifting clients with a branded goody bag, sending a thank you card on receipt of a large order and diarising their birthday. I believe these things add a personal touch that not only makes a client feel special but also illustrates the importance of their business too.
You want your clients to pick up the phone, give you the brief and have the confidence that they are in a safe pair of hands. Why would they want to go anywhere else?!