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Building Customer Relationships | Print |  E-mail

Reprinted from CSP Magazine

Building relationships and loyalty with customers goes beyond product, price, place and promotions. The four “P”s of marketing are not enough to build lasting loyalty. The element often overlooked yet critical is the “emotional tone” of the customer. In other words “how they feel”.

Loyal customers feel a certain closeness and comfort level with a company. And that closeness or lack there of stems from the frequency with which customers are made to feel certain positive and negative emotions. The emotions elicited from an interaction between a customer and company can take many forms and in many cases are independent of the core product. Without such emotions there’s only a series of transactions.

So the question to ask yourself is “Is my staff merely assisting the customer with a transaction or are they creating positive emotions (or negative) with our customers?’

The most intangible driver of customer satisfaction is the emotional tone of the encounter. A company that can elicit positive feeling will place itself in a competitive advantage. A large percentage of business is lost simply because management had no idea what negative emotions are being generated. Take for example satisfaction survey cards. They generally ask about the product and timeliness or cleanliness of the store. A valuable question would be ask your customers how they “feel” when doing business with your staff. They will generally have one of three responses.

1. Positive: appreciated and valued.
2. Nothing: typical transaction, nothing to write home about.
3. Negative: interruption to the employee, rude treatment.

Most customers feel nothing in typical retail transactions. And that’s where companies are missing an opportunity. Your staff has a tremendous opportunity to create a competitive advantage for you simply by the way they communicate with your customers. Many of you are fortunate and already have certain associates that are naturals at making customers feel good when they leave your store. These are the folks that know the customers names, likes, dislikes, where they work, how many kids they have and much more. The customer is almost like a friend to your associate.

The people on your staff that are able to create these relationships with customers are valuable assets to your business. Companies should focus more of their efforts on identifying how to hire more of these personalities and how to recognize them beyond the employee that merely completes a transaction.

Store managers should spend time out front with each employee and observe how they interact with the customer. You’re looking for more than the mere polite greeting and closing with customers. You’re looking for an exchange in dialogue that goes beyond hello and thank you and demonstrates they really know the customer. You can even make it into a game. During any given one hour period see how many customers the cashier knows by name and any other details about the person. Or within that same period of time see how many people the cashier can get to know by name. You don’t need a credit card to see the name. You can simply ask the customer what their first name is and tell them thanks for stopping today. That’s the start of getting to know them. During a staff meeting ask all your cashiers to write down all the customers they know by name and what they buy. Some will have fun with this and do a great job. The employee that sits there staring off not sure where to begin is probably just handling transactions for your business and not creating relationships.

The more relationships you have the greater advantage you have in the market place. Those customer relationships are the foundation for building a true customer loyalty.

© 2009 Employee Performance Strategies Inc.
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