Three Pillars Supporting Long-Term Customer Relationships

All companies want customers who stay, buy more, and tell others how great it is to do business with them.  But great companies create great customers.  How do they do that?  It takes a thoughtful approach and a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.  I believe three pillars support a loyal customer base: innovation, performance, and service.

1. Innovation

One sure way to erode your customer base is to take them for granted and stop innovating for them.  Great companies use innovation not only to attract new customers, but also to keep current customers dazzled.  When was the last time you offered a new way of doing things that made life easier for your customers?  How about a new process that saves them time and money?  There’s a growing tendency for companies to try and upsell us at every turn.  It’s irritating unless it seems more advantageous for us than them.  Great companies roll out offerings that help customers, not slightly fixed versions with more promotion than substance.  

2. Performance

You have to keep performing to keep your customers.  So you got a big contract and life is good, right?  Then inevitable issues occur with production quality and delivery issues.  If you want to stay in the game you quickly have to find the problems, resolve them, and make sure you’re back on track.  Great companies obsess over performance metrics.  A former boss often observed that when you continually measure something, the trend improves.  Your customer base will reward you for great performance.  It’s tied to the Basking in Reflected Glory effect, where we identify with the success of others we associate with.  Everyone loves a winner.

3. Service

Customer service is essential to supporting long-term customer relationships.  But great customer service won’t help unless you also innovate and perform.  It’s like working with a disgruntled customer.  You can’t begin to fix them until you understand them and know the details of their issue.  Another way to look at this is that your customer service staff shouldn’t be the only people on your team helping customers.  That’s like no one but the goalie in a hockey game playing defense.  You’ll get crushed.  And you’ll go through a lot of customer service reps.  Just as everybody on your team should be in sales, so should everybody on your team be in customer service. 

With innovation, performance, and service you can keep customers for life and turn them into sales associates. 

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