5 pointers on how to turn a customer into a friend and a supporter

Oct 28, 2015 by Ronnie Apteker

A friend is someone you enjoy spending time with. Someone you can rely on. When you enjoy spending time with your customer you have already started building a lasting relationship. Don’t humour people, be sincere. Be you. If you are reliable and yourself then chances are your customer will enjoy spending time with you too.

A good relationship with your customer goes beyond providing a value-for-money, quality service (yes, we are watching you – so provide the goods at a fair price, okay?) But what a customer ultimately wants is peace of mind. Trust is key. Untrustworthy chancers need not apply. If they can depend on you, then you have a good relationship foundation.

The importance of meaningful customer relationships

No company wants churn. Cost of acquisition is often high, so keep your customers happy, and you will grow together for years and years. But it is way deeper than that. A good relationship can serve as a reference and more.

There is a wise saying that goes, ‘risk everything in life but your reputation’. When you have a good name in the industry for being reliable and for going beyond the call of duty, word-of-mouth reputation spreads. Good customer relationships can be the source of business leads. If your customer trusts you and likes you, they will help you grow.

It can also lead to new product and service innovations. Listen to what your customers want – this will help you to provide an important service, but also to deliver what clients require. Valuing feedback creates greater value.

Regular communications

Friends talk regularly: once a week or month. There is always room for more communication. These days with mobile phones and ubiquitous tools like WhatsApp, it is easy to stay in contact, and with a light touch. Think of customers as friends and it will be a pleasure to maintain connections. However, avoid coming on too strong, stalker types make everyone uncomfortable.

The strongest bonds develop when dialogue can flow freely and people feel comfortable to speak openly. Be open to sharing both the good and the bad. If your clients feel they can talk to you openly, and that you listen and care, your relationship could lead to friendship. Maybe even to love. (We are not a dating site, so if you do fall in love you are on your own. And mazeltov.)

Being good is good for business. If it comes naturally then you are going to win. Usain Bolt is naturally built for speed, John McEnroe for abusing tennis umpires. Speaking of which, be polite and be friendly. It’s the foundation for good communication. And always listen.

Being proactive

Never assume anything. As the saying goes, well, you know the saying about assumption, don’t assume. (Don’t even assume you’ve heard the saying.) Rather ask and find out. Don’t ask with a negative tone. Be confident and one step ahead. Don’t wait for a customer to let you know. Be open and reach out – check how things are. Be positive.

For example, you could ask a customer this question:

Hi Joe, I just wanted to see if anything was wrong.

If you ask this then, yes, there is going to be plenty wrong. Because it sounds negative and lacks confidence. And, well, because you asked.

But, if you rather said:

Hi Joe, I am sure you are loving the service. I just wanted to say hello and see if we can get together soon.

This smacks of positivity and confidence. It also talks about the future of things.

The key is to not wait for your customer to get in touch. Taking the lead gives your client peace of mind, that you are always there if they need anything. Only being reactive will create a weak footing. The best defence is a good offense. Keep communications alive and always be ahead. And remember, nobody wants a friend who only calls when something is wrong.

Good surprises

Capture imaginations. These days with so much content available online there is no limit to the joy we can spread. I love it when someone sends me a stunning story about a new innovation. It’s a great stress relief to receive a funny joke on a hectic day at the office.

Sending jokes on a Monday morning is probably a bit of a waste. Actually, sending anything unimportant on a Monday morning is just adding to that person’s stress. (Unless they’re still drunk from the weekend.) But after around 4pm, people are more relaxed (and hopefully sobered up) and a good joke or interesting story is generally welcome.

Back to our earlier example, imagine sending Joe a short note:

Hi Joe, I am sure you are loving the service. I just wanted to say hello and see if we can get together soon.

P.S. Heard this classic joke? After our discussion about the legal system, I know you’ll want to share…

What is the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer? A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge.

There is a growing collection of funny stories for you to share and surprise others. Also, consider trying an intriguing icebreaker like this Sweet Prediction or Stretching the Truth.

Be human

Yes, we all want our own R2D2 but we will settle for a sympathetic ear any day. Healthy relationships and friendships are between humans, not machines. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. People are more likely to connect if they see you are normal person with strengths and weaknesses.

Friendships involved physical activities. Think how big golf is in the corporate world. Besides being healthy, stretching your limbs, sport brings people together, sharing a common passion. Golf leads to a lot of business transactions. So, get out there with your customers and bond outside the office. Have fun with your clients. Maybe even let them win once in a while - save your outperforming nature for your competition. Take one for the team.

Nothing brings people together like international adventure. Travelling with customers to a far away conference, for example, is a great thing to do. Seize these opportunities when they arise. And what happens on conference stays on conference.

Always remember to show gratitude for your relationship.

Summing up

Don’t try too hard. Be yourself. Put others first. Prioritize your customers’ needs. Be transparent. Communication is key to everything. Keep dialogue flowing, and always be on the ball. Don’t leave things hanging and don’t ignore people. Treat people with respect. Yes, like patience (which you’ll also need), being nice is a virtue in today’s world. All healthy relationships are based on mutual respect. Take the lead and show the way.

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