Five Easy Steps to Sustaining Customer Relationships

I spent last weekend in Galena, Illinois with 11 of my 14 college girlfriends. This was the 20th year we have gone away for a weekend together…which is rather remarkable in itself. On Saturday night, we gave my college roommate (who was unable to attend) a call. She’s an avid reader of the Adventive Blog, so one of the things we discussed was possible topics for my next post.  Imagine my surprise when I checked my Blackberry the next morning and found an email from her (at 1:07 am, no less). Here’s what she said:

I was just about to go to sleep when I thought of an idea for a future blog for you. When we think of the new catch phrase “sustainability”, we think of sustaining the economy, sustaining our resources, sustaining the environment, etc. But do we think of the importance of sustaining relationships? In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of an individual’s life is their relationships. I know for a fact our group of friends has got that concept down. We get it. However, when you think of marketing a company or a product, you’re also creating a relationship. When you grab the attention of another you are creating a one-on-one relationship. Or at least it should be viewed as that. Relationship building is the key to growth. Tend to that relationship; know its importance; and you are sure to succeed.

As you can imagine, her email got me thinking about the business relationships I have with my clients and how they have developed over the years. So on that note, here are a few thoughts on how I try to sustain and nurture these relationships.

  1. There’s Nothing Wrong with Over-servicing a Customer. Always take their calls, always answer their emails in a timely fashion, always take a ‘we-can-get-it done” attitude with everything you do.
  2. Be Respectful of Who’s Paying the Bill. Customers have ideas and many times they’re very good ideas. But even if it’s not such a hot idea, you still need to address it along with other suggestions.
  3. Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep. The best way to lose credibility is to blow a deadline or submit an invoice that’s above the approved estimate. Promise what you can deliver; not what you think you can deliver.
  4. Know Where You’re Going. Most projects need some kind of road map to keep everyone on track to reach the end goal. Project briefs, content outlines and trade show graphic plans are good ways to do this. Even better…a full-year/multi-year plan.
  5. Never Say No. There’s always a way to get something done. It may not be the perfect way, or the cheapest way but I’ve yet to find something that absolutely, positively couldn’t be done some way/some how.  And remember, if you don’t do it, somebody else will.

Obviously, sustaining a relationship is a two-way street.  But if you provide top-notch service, thoughtful ideas and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, what’s there not to like?


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