How can building relationships increase customer loyalty?

by | Nov 28, 2023 | Blog

We live in an era where the technology, getting the job done quickly, and doing more with fewer resources has transformed the way we do business.  In today’s digital age where we “connect” via apps, we must be careful not to let all that technology distance us from the most basic, powerful, sales tool that no software in the world can accomplish—building relationships!

Many of us agree that technology is great. Our businesses and modern-day lives wouldn’t run without it. The latest sales and analytic software tools are amazing. In spite of the benefits, many of us also agree that customer service has declined over the years. It’s not a huge leap to correlate that decline with advances in technology that may have unintendedly fueled that decline. If that’s the case, then building relationships is a simple, free practice any business can implement with nothing to lose. You can start today!

I’ll be the first to admit I have high expectations for customer service. I can remember a time when everyone did not have a screen blocking themselves from the world around them, but I digress.  All of us, no matter our age, know good customer service when we experience it.

Here are some examples of good customer service that come to mind for me.  One is every time I walk into my local Walgreens drugstore and the clerk at the cash register says ”Welcome to Walgreens.” I’m certain that person doesn’t know me, but that little act can set the tone for my shopping experience. After a long day, when my energy is waning, that simple acknowledgement can put a little spring in my tired step. I’ve experienced this in 2 different states so I’m assuming it’s part of Walgreen’s training and I think it’s a good one.

Can something as trivial as saying “Welcome to ABC Meat Market” set the tone for a good customer experience that settles into their psyche and becomes associated with your store or brand?  According to Gary Vaynerchuk it does matter. This businessman, author, speaker, and co-founder of the restaurant reservation software company Resy and Empathy Wines said, “Saying hello doesn’t’ have an ROI. It’s about building relationships.” And he also says, “The best marketing strategy ever: CARE.”

An important point is that our “relationship building” must be genuine. It requires us to step outside of ourselves and selfish desires and genuinely, actively listen to others. Or as famous speaker Dale Carnegie, author and salesmanship guru said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”  With that in mind, active listening is a huge part of building relationships. It simply requires being fully present. Repeating back what others said is helpful and using their name.  People love to hear their name.

Once you’ve established rapport, there’s also got to be some give and take on both sides to establish trust.  Especially in the food and meat business, this trust factor can help partnerships weather the challenging economic times we live in and the inevitable hiccups in any long-term relationship. It must be a win-win relationship. If you are always looking for “what’s in it for me” to get the sale at any cost, then that is not a true partnership.

A good example of this is my local dog food store.  I’ve shifted my spending dollars based solely on good customer service. And guess what it’s centered around—relationships!  I used to order dog food from a large online company. It was convenient and quick, but when I wanted to do a deep dive into my dog’s diet, it was Sam & Erika at my local Good Dog Healthy Pet Market who took the time and shared their expertise to help me. The bonus was many of the products they sold were less expensive than what I was paying online. For me it’s worth the drive because we now have a relationship with a local, family-owned business. I can call them anytime (and I do) to ask questions and they already know my dogs and my concerns. I just cannot attain that sort of relationship with the previous company or by interacting with an automated attendant or kiosk.

Another example is my local health food and vitamin store, Suzzanne’s, where I personally know the owner Suzzanne and many of the salespeople. Some know me by name and going there always puts a lift in my day.  I enjoy the experience and typically linger around helping their bottom line by spending more than I intended to. Like Sam & Ericka, they are knowledgeable and have taken the time and interest to build a relationship.

So, maybe the simple act of building relationships with customers and internal customers (your employees) can make your store or business stand apart from your competition. In addition to good products, relationship building can support long-term loyalty from your customers. It can even help you build a solid team, with less turnover—and a team that values relationships with your customers.

Building these associations can be fun and provide a nice pause in an otherwise hectic day.  Seemingly small practices of greeting and thanking your customers can help pave the way for loyal customers, happy employees, and increased sales. And what’s great is you can start today with no additional cost to your bottom line.

Greg Mortenson, a professional speaker, writer, veteran, and former executive director of the non-profit Central Asia Institute may have summarized it best when he said, “Slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects.”

Please let us know about what simple steps you take to build relationships with your customers. We’d love to hear your success stories!

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