Doing business involves a product or service and a buyer and seller. In large part, it also involves the formation of relationships. The fact that some of them are quite temporary does not diminish the importance of these buyer-seller relationships. The objective, of course, is to limit the number of temporary relationships and increase those that are ongoing. Repeat customers are intrinsically valuable for the success of a business.
Naturally, these relationships should be as positive as possible. To do this effectively, you need to be sensitive to the needs and desires of the individual. Never forget that your customers are, first and foremost, individuals with personal needs.
In years past, some companies dealt only sporadically, if at all, with this issue, trusting fully in their products to supply what the customer needed. But, the relative success and failure of many such businesses have proven this outmoded attitude to be counter-productive.
Indeed, an entire industry has grown up around the concept of customer relationship management (CRM). Today, software is available from many sources. This software can make it far easier to manage all customer contacts, enhancing the relationship to the utmost, producing greater sales through better communication. However, it still comes down to the one-on-one relationship and your awareness in general, as well as specific customer needs.
As has always been the case, a successful appreciation for the needs of your customers is driven by sensitivity–treating people as people rather than simply as customers. Since a business’ customer contacts are most frequently engaged in by employees rather than management, a company’s employees and their training are of paramount importance in achieving better customer interaction.
A company is in a far better position for growth when its employees are made aware that their overall performance will be judged by their customer interaction–the levels of satisfaction those clients have achieved. After all, customer satisfaction is the most effective means of achieving customer retention, a far more efficient way to increase sales than continually reaching out only for new customers.
One key element in developing satisfied customers is to ensure that they deal with satisfied employees who present a positive picture of the company. A satisfied employee is a valuable tool. This is especially true when your employees are dealing with customer complaints. When a customer is most upset about something is when your employee’s "soft skills" are the most critical. Soft skills involve the ability to address customer complaints with politeness and de-escalation of the client’s emotional responses.
This brings to mind the movie, The Negotiator, where Samuel L. Jackson’s character tells another negotiator, "Never say ‘no’ to a hostage taker." He then tricks the other guy into saying no several times, each time castigating him for his ineptitude. As humorous as this scene is, it also highlights the importance of a skillful use of words and an awareness for the needs of your counterpart in conversation. While your employee is not going to cause someone’s death, she just might cause a lost sale. Making certain that every client conversation concludes with a positive perception can result not only in short term sales but also in a greater number of positive stories being shared among new potential customers.
With businesses becoming ever more international in scope, many organizations are increasingly investing in staff training to enhance cultural sensitivity. Cultural, political, religious, and linguistic differences do exist as potential barriers, and learning to navigate this new international landscape is an important ingredient for future growth.
Never underestimate the power of positive relationships. Sensitivity to customer needs is key to a better public perception of your business.