Everyone knows it’s easier and less expensive to keep a current customer than to find a new one. But don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s no effort involved. Customers can be demanding — especially when other companies are vying for their business. If you don’t work on building strong relationships with customers, you won’t maintain their loyalty.

Follow these tips for building strong customer relationships — which will help you build your business.

  • Put the ‘service’ back into customer service. Technology such as automated phone systems, online message boards, and Web sites all have a role to play in customer service, but human contact should not be abandoned.
    • Every customer should be able to access a person in your company to seek out help, ask questions, or file complaints.
    • Set up a program where each customer gets a personal phone call at least once a year from your company; you can enlist sales, marketing, support, product and administrative people to participate.
  • Create customer-specific communications. Here’s a place where technology can serve to demonstrate your commitment to your current customers.
    • Consider an e-newsletter exclusively for current customers, filled with topics of interest to them.
    • Segment your customers into groups based on the type of products they have purchased, then design specific communications relevant to those groups.
    • Host Webinars that give customers early previews of upcoming products, which helps foster the idea that customers are “insiders” with access to exclusive information. Be sure to record the Webinar for customers who can’t make the event to view at a later time.
  • Ensure that customer support is a priority. Post-sales support and service is often the deciding factor in whether a customer will do business with you again.
    • Clearly communicate your product support and warranty policies—and make them favorable to the customer.
    • If there are problems or customer complaints, lean toward being generous to customers. Empower employees to make decisions when customers have problems that need solving.
  • Get customer feedback. Communicating with customers must be a two-way channel, and listening to customers is the only way to find out what they are thinking.
    • One good way to get feedback from customers is to write a blog and monitor the comments you get from them.
    • You could also establish a customer advisory board that helps shape future product direction.
    • To collect greater volumes of data and reach more customers, conduct online surveys to better understand the wants and needs of your customers.
      There are many free or inexpensive online survey tools you can use:

  • Reward customer loyalty. Establish a team that develops incentives and rewards for repeat customers. Offer product discounts, extended warranties, free support, or gifts for loyal customers.
  • Maintain your Web site. The number-one place customers go for information is your Web site. Make sure it is easy to navigate and complete with updated information about products, services, support and more.
    • Be sure to publish and post technical articles, white papers, videos and other educational content that helps make your customers do their jobs better — and keeps them coming back for more.
  • Keep your brand image polished. Everybody wants to do business with a winning company; nobody wants to be associated with a weak brand. Therefore, maintain a strong online presence to keep your brand visible to your customers and the overall market.
    • Your presence on industry Web sites, in online directories, in third-party e-newsletters, and at virtual e-events all demonstrate that your company is known and respected, and helps customers feel confident in their choice to do business with you.

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