7 Ways to Build and Maintain Strong Customer Relationships
Customers are my favorite part of owning a business. Their needs and goals are the real “why” behind our business and I am guessing that is also what drives your business. With this is mind it’s clear - building and maintaining strong customer relationships is key to small business success and growth.
As small business owners, we can sometimes get caught up focusing on gaining new customers. However, we shouldn't rely solely on gaining new customers in order to sustain growth! Building personal relationships with existing customers can keep our shop floor full and lead to word-of-mouth referrals for great new customers.
Once a customer purchases from us, it's easier for them to choose us (and you), an independent retailer, next time. Building strong personal relationships with our customers earns their trust. Once we get to know them, their kids and their interests, our customers know shopping with us can save them time. They know they will have a product they will love, and they will feel good about supporting their community through our business.
Here are 7 proven ways to build and maintain strong personal relationships with your customers:
1. Be Positive
As an independent business owner, you carry so much responsibility! Even if you're overwhelmed or stressed, your customers need you to leave them better than you found them. Show them the energy you want them to feel about your store. Enthusiasm and product knowledge are qualities that people want to be around and that will bring customers back again and again!
2. Treat Your Customers as Individuals
Your relationship with your customers is professional but acknowledging that you see them for who they are - more than just a sale! - goes a long way. If you know that a customer in for a second visit is a parent, you might simply ask them how their kids are doing. If you have a closer relationship with a customer, something more personal - such as emailing them when a STEM kit comes in featuring their 7-year-old's favorite vehicles - might be appreciated.
3. Understand Your Customer's Goals
You need to understand your customers on both a 'zoomed in' and 'big picture' level. Zooming in, what brought them into your store today? Looking at the big picture, how does this visit fit into your business as a whole? Is there anything about this customer's visit that can help you be better or fill a need in the future? The ability to understand the goals of your customers can help you build trust and customer loyalty.
4. Share Your Knowledge
If your customer doesn't know that you helped found a school and spent two decades as an educator before you started your cute local toy store, they may be disconnected from why they should trust you when you recommend a toy made by a brand they've never heard of. When it fits naturally into your interactions, share information that helps your customers understand who you are and why you do what you do! This will build trust and confidence. Explain to your customer why you are showing them what you're showing them, and how you came to your decision.
5. Communication is Key
Efficient and timely communication is important. Whether purchases are completed in-store or online, it's important to clearly and consistently communicate through every step of the purchase process. Being available to answer any questions shows that your customers' purchases and satisfaction are important to you. You can also build strong customer relationships by making your customers feel comfortable being open and honest with you. That one toy was a total dud and didn't work as advertised? They should feel that their concerns can be brought to you and that you'll take them seriously.
6. Speak Their Language
Successful salespeople can adapt to their customer's communication style, instead of sticking only with their own preferred method of communication. For example, some of your customers may respond to phone calls better than email. Get a feel for how your customers most often communicate and engage with them in this way when possible.
7. Upgrade Your Delivery Process
Branding is key to making a great impression on customers. Use tools that say who your business is from beginning to end. Consider your customer base - what's valuable to them? It could be as simple as handing their purchase to them in an aesthetically pleasing bag with a bow and sticker, hand-delivering a purchase to a nearby customer who's under the weather, or including a small, value-added treat to their shipment (we love sending little busy bags with sample sizes of some of our favorite items). For your best customers, a token of appreciation and thanks around the holidays or after achieving a special milestone can be an unexpected gift that strengthens your business-customer relationship. It can be a handwritten card, or even a small discount code created just for them.