Your Business

How to build a successful customer relationship

Customer service can spell the difference between a good business and a great business.

It’s important to also do the hard yards when it comes to your customers. Sure, you can win a job based on the calibre of your work, but chances are charm will also play a part. Customer service can prove a tricky game, and for those unfamiliar with its rules, it’s essential to brush up on your skills. You have to lay the right foundations to build a successful customer relationship.

Blueprint for business relations

Let’s turn to the experts for a little advice. Customer service guru Martin Grunstein says there are rules of engagement when dealing with clients. And if we should take advice from anyone, it’s Grunstein – his outstanding results with over 500 Australasian companies across more than 100 industries has made him this country’s most in-demand speaker on customer service.
So, what are the rules of the game? Grunstein says there’s an important distinction that needs to be made – they are different when you are buying as opposed to selling.

Consider this: if you’re looking to sell your services to a bigger company to develop a relationship that will guarantee ongoing work, what do you do if they don’t return your phone call? Grunstein says it’s not rocket science – simply ring again.

“I’ll ring again and be just as friendly to them if it takes me three calls to get through to them as I would if they returned my first call,” says Grunstein.

It seems it’s not just patience that is a virtue, but persistence.

Off the plan

To make sure you’re consistent, it’s a great idea to have a system for customer service. This can include something from as simple as how you answer the phone, to how you follow up invoices. Remember – every interaction you have with your customer is a representation of your brand.

Consider this: if you deliver a project on time and on budget, what does this say about your business? It sends a clear message that you value the customer and you value their business. If you are hard to reach, don’t return phone calls, your workmanship is shoddy and your invoices are not itemised, then that sends the message you don’t value the customer – rather, the opposite!

Strong foundations

It’s an old saying, but it’s important to remember which side your bread is buttered on. “I have heard of a number of situations where a company has lost business by not understanding these rules,” Grunstein says. “A classic example is when entertaining clients outside the business environment. A salesperson told me he lost a big account after taking the client to the cricket as a way of saying thank you for their loyalty. The salesperson had known this client for more than five years and they got on very well. After the eleventh beer, he made the mistake of teasing the client about his appearance and the next day the business was taken away and given to the competitor. The salesperson complained to his boss that it wasn’t fair. He is right. It’s not fair… it’s business!”

Mixing business with pleasure might seem to you like a common courtesy, but it’s important to take heed of Grunstein’s tale of caution. “If you are my client and we become friends and see each other outside business situations, the rules still apply. You can crush my ego but I can’t crush yours. Just as a lot of business is done in social situations, some business is lost in these situations.” The rules, says Grunstein, are non-negotiable. “You may not like or agree with the rules of business but they are the rules and if you are going to play the game you have to know them.”

At a glance – four steps to building better business

  1. Lay the right foundations to build a successful customer relationship – these can mean the difference between a good business and a great one.
  2. Play by the rules – remember, they are different when you are buying to when you’re selling.
  3. Construct winning customer service systems that send a clear message that you value the customer and you value their business.
  4. Mixing business with pleasure might seem to you like a common courtesy, but it can schedule demolition for the relationship if you forget the rules of the game.
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