Over the last few weeks we’ve seen several reports on the importance of nurturing your customer relationships.
On one side, two studies looked at how relationships between companies and customers are much like personal relationships. The best ones thrive when both parties show respect and consideration to each other. A company that takes the time to focus on the person beyond the analytics is going to be held in higher esteem. That means using data to serve them to your best ability (see "Personalized Marketing" below), but also looking at a variety of intangibles, being there when needed, and staying true to core values. For instance, if they are asking you to stretch deliveries as far as possible, are they in financial trouble or planning to move? How you handle information like this can define your relationship. Related studies have demonstrated a not-so-surprising link between trust and customer loyalty, which can lead to more sales, more referrals and more renewals. When the customer/company relationship status is “good,” it can withstand the occasional disappointment, misstep or mistake.
Another report reviewed negative brand experiences and the differences in perception between companies and consumers. While 74 percent of the study’s consumers reported negative interactions with staff (poor attitude, lack of knowledge) as the cause of bad brand experiences, only 29 percent of companies thought staff interaction played a major role in customer satisfaction. More than 40 percent of consumers also cited either a lack of understanding of their needs or not enough staff as other situations that create a bad experience, but only 26 to 28 percent of companies acknowledged these issues. There was another disconnect in understanding the implications of a bad customer experience. While 23 percent of customers said they would stop using the company, only 6 percent of companies thought negative experiences led to losing the customer.
Taken together, these reports show the importance of customer service and communications for ongoing business success. When you treat customers with respect, take care of their needs, and work with them ethically, they will stay with you, even when something goes wrong. If you don’t; if your staff is rude or unresponsive and you habitually are unable to supply them with the fuel or services they need, they will find someone else.