Invest In Customer Relationships, Not Business Transactions
Relationships are the cornerstones of business success, and yet, most companies continue to be far more concerned with numbers.
Sales teams are fixated on revenue, market penetration, and year-over-year growth. Marketing teams are laser-focused on lead generation, funnel conversions, and the cost of customer acquisition. Even customer support teams–the ones who are supposed to take care of patrons after a sale–deal in cold, artificial metrics like ticket volume, resolution time, and retention rate.
All of these numbers are purely self-serving, of course, and they believe what matters most: Delivering exceptional value and a gratifying experience before, during, and after every sale.
Technology has become the great equalizer, and consumers have more choice than ever before. They don’t have to put up with bad service or limited value, and if their expectations aren’t met, they will swiftly take their business elsewhere.
And why not?
Most companies are focused on the transaction, not the relationship. Like a fly-by-night spouse who is hot for the altar and then disappears after the vows, they’re clearly not invested in a long-term dalliance. And their customer base will invariably dwindle as a result.
In today’s hyper-competitive, consumer-driven marketplace, companies must learn to establish authentic, enduring connections with their customers. And like all relationships, it requires ongoing investment, attentiveness, appreciation, and adaptation.
Successful customer relationships are typically built across five key stages:
- Onboarding. Immediately after a sale – when most companies ring the proverbial bell and move on – is the perfect time to show you care. An onboarding program adds value and experience to a transaction and lays the groundwork for a lasting relationship.
- Adoption. Many companies attempt to upsell or cross-sell new customers before the ink on the initial deal is dry. Instead of doubling down with sales pitches, help customers get up to speed with your product or service and make sure they’re getting the most out of their purchase.
- Value Realization. It’s difficult to maintain a relationship if one party’s value doesn’t meet or exceed the other party’s investment. Whether it’s through one-on-one interactions, customer appreciation events, or user groups, make sure your customers’ expectations are being met – and adapt accordingly.
- Loyalty. Even though brand loyalty is fleeting, satisfied customers are your best salespeople. And when prompted, some will provide a formal referral through case studies or media engagements, others will endorse your offerings through social media or word of mouth, and many will buy again.
- Advocacy. When customers start proactively promoting your products or services on your behalf, it’s the sign of a solid, healthy relationship. But it can’t be taken for granted, and all of the things that helped foster those dynamics must be continued and reinforced.
In many ways, the connection between your brand and your customers mirrors everyday relationships. You need to be present. You need to show you care. You need to listen and adjust. And small, thoughtful gestures can have a big, lasting impact.
Most importantly, it comes down to investment. The brands that will succeed are those that invest in their customers–not their transactions.