In a world full of emails, text messages, and Skype calls, the art of forming a lasting and solid customer relationship is dying. 20 years ago, many business deals were made over dinner, golf, or a charity event. Without face to face contact with your customer or spending quality time with them, the chances of the relationship lasting or being one of quality are slim to none. Texts and emails are impersonal and can lack substance. It is quick answers, often without much thought or time put into responses. There is also the issue of tone. So many people can misinterpret one email or text message because they are reading the tone of the email wrong. This causes a multitude of issues and can turn customers off, even if it was not done intentionally. One harmless misplaced comma could affect the simple dynamic of an entire relationship.
What we need to do, whether in sales or customer service, is invest and maintain. Invest your time – not just money – and maintain the relationship. Landing a business deal is 10% of the battle. Maintaining and building that relationship is the other 90%. Don’t just win the customer over with an elaborate meal or outing, but pick up the phone, call them just to check in and see how things are. In todays day and age, it is often uncommon to get a phone call from a business partner. Often, calls are only made when something is wrong, so receiving a phone call can even cause an initial fear that something is wrong. Who hasn’t looked at their caller ID and seen their customers phone number pop up, feeling confident something is wrong? Now think of how many times they have called you just to say hi and tell you things are great. That’s rare.
One of the best things you can do for your business is to not necessarily call it a customer relationship, but a business partnership. It lends the idea of longevity and investment. Instead of sending a basket of cheer, find out what they like to do, take them to a sports game or a Broadway show, spend that bonding time together. Many people let their guard down outside of the business environment and this would allow the relationship to be built on a stronger foundation.
This all doesn’t have to be with CEO’s and Executives. My theory for improving overall business relationship health is to bond the teams from the ground up. A good idea for team building is volunteering. If two companies that are in a business relationship together decide to partner for a volunteering or charity event, it allows their teams to meet, spend time together and do something positive for the areas they live in. Not only will it break down the walls of electronic communication, but it will allow the teams to gain respect for each other and bring awareness to important issues. A great example would be volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. If two teams spend a weekend building a house together, it forces them to communicate in person and physically work together in a setting they don’t normally interact in. Not only is there a finished product, but memories are made and relationships are strengthened.
So, I encourage you, think of a personal relationship you have and how detrimental not communicating in person or verbally can be to your rapport. The same goes for a business relationship. Put the cell phones and laptops away and do something positive with your business partners.