By Ory Olindo (@OryOlindo)
Traditional African culture is based on community and relationships. Everybody knew each other, had time to talk, and did their business at a casual pace. A totally different approach from how we do business today. Today, with the focus on efficiency, effectiveness and timeliness, there is very little time to sit and chat with a customer. More and more corporate institutions have started timing how long it takes to satisfactorily serve their clients on an individual basis. The advantage is that a large number of customers will get needs met and everyone goes home happy. However, the down side is that one is unable to identify their customers on a personal level.
Consider your estate kiosk; depending on how often you frequent it, and how friendly you are with the shopkeeper, you are probably on a first name basis, and you may have some idea about him, his family, and his business. Every time you make a purchase, there is time for some small talk. You slowly build your relationship to the point that you can comfortably pick your paper in the morning and pay for it in the evening or the following day. You have built a level of trust. Translate that into the growing business economy where there are numerous small businesses coming up every day.
Your business model may be unique, but the truth is, there is very little differentiation between the products and services currently in the market. The difference comes in how you handle your customers.
You can build relationships with your customer by:
Making time for your customers
Take some time to know your customer. Go beyond just knowing their names and find out where their interests lie, and a little about their family. When they get in touch with you, take a little time to find out what they are up to and how they have been from the last time you spoke with them. People tend to gravitate towards those who take an interest in them. That is why it is possible to find someone who persistently visits a place that does not have the best product, but they enjoy the reception they receive every time they visit.
Giving your customers a platform to share their opinions
The best place to get ideas for product improvement is your customers. People are always willing to give you input on what can be improved, or what works for them. Give your customers a platform to share their opinions about your products or services, and you can learn how to better meet their needs. Feedback is available to those who are willing to listen. Even the customer who is not willing to talk to you is still giving you feedback in one way or another. When listening to your customers, keep in mind that the product you are selling is for their consumption and they are the ones paying for it and using it, and they have an opinion about it. If your goal is more sales, listen to what your customers are saying about your product.
Responding to customer requests
Although there is a lot of information made available by customers, very few business people take that information and use it to develop their products to better suit their customer’s needs. Take caution when giving your clients what they ask for. Just because one person says they would like the product packaged a particular way does not mean they share that opinion with the rest of your target market. Be sure to do your research and risk assessment first before implementing any changes. Building customer relationships is one way of building customer trust and loyalty. It is usually easier to do business with someone you know. Automation is the in-thing at the moment, but there is some value to knowing and interacting with the faces behind the business.
As you think about making your business more efficient and effective, remember to balance automation with face to face interaction with your customers.
For more insights on Customer Relations, we recommend the book Customer Relations book – On Purpose: Delivering a Branded Customer Experience People Love by Shaun Smith and Andy Milligan
Don’t be jealous of successful people. Your attention should be on your ability to pay the price & shoulder the burden of your own success #accountabilitytoself