4 Things to Avoid When Building Relationships With Customers

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The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. The essence of trust building is to emphasize the similarities between you and the customer.- Thomas J. Watson

Building relationships with customers once they have put their faith and trust in you is a complicated process. In the end, customers have many choices when choosing to purchase products and services.

Remember, they chose you for a reason.

Your product or service offerings may be great, but in the end, the customer had a good feeling about buying from you. Below are a few things that you really need to avoid in order to maintain that trust with your customers:

1. Failure to set expectations

There is nothing more damaging to a relationship than both parties thinking that the other is going to do something one way rather than another and in each instance, they may be wrong.

Let’s put ourselves in the customer’s shoes for a moment.

They bought into your marketing message on your website or advertisement. They were intrigued by your salesperson’s pitch. They got really excited once you showed them a demo of what your product can do. Then, they bought the whole kit and caboodle.

Now what?

The customer thinks that everything up to this point would be exactly how the rest of the relationship would be. Unfortunately, they would be wrong in many cases.

Most organizations fail to create a process that ensures that clear expectations are set for what the business relationship would look like going forward. Recently, a client of mine complained to me that their customers perceive them as a commodity, and don’t seem to understand what it takes to deliver a great service based upon the parameters under which the customer operates. My client feels like they could deliver a much better service if more of a mutual understanding of each other’s pain points could be understood.

I asked whether they had a customer scorecard and whether they set expectations up front to have quarterly business reviews with the customers.

They answered in the negative.

This is one of the first things I decided to help them with as I knew that it is crucial for both parties in a business relationship to co-create mutual expectations.

Customers want you to meet or exceed their expectations. This is not possible unless you know what those expectations are.

Write them down.

Track your progress toward those expectations.

Let the customer know how you have performed.

Finally, and a very important point, let them know what they can do to help you perform even better!

Put these types of processes in place and you will be that much closer to maintaining that strong relationship you worked so hard to build.

2. Over-promising and rarely delivering

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.– Abraham Lincoln

I have worked in a customer-facing leadership role for most of my career, and I can say that over-promising and rarely delivering can get any organization in deep you know what very quickly.

This is true whether you are in healthcare, financial services, staffing, management consulting, and on and on. I can think of no more relevant example of this than in the software industry. There are an infinite number of requests that a customer might make to an organization around software upgrades or fixes. I have heard exchanges with customers about what an organization plans to do to fix the amount of time a site is down and  then proceed to fall short on those promises. I have heard promises to customers about shorter than normal timelines to add particular upgrades in order to “sell” or “keep” the customer. They fell short here too.

Bottom line is that every single time this type of over-promising and rarely delivering on those promises takes place, it breaks down the trust the customer has in your brand.

The trust your customer has in you is the tree. The tree is your character. Over-promising and rarely delivering ruins your character.

Don’t do it!

Be modest in your assertions. Be conservative in your projections. Then, behind the scenes, work your tail off to exceed what your customer’s thought was possible. They will love you for it!

3. Ignoring inevitable conversations

Initiating a conversation with a customer who we know may not be happy with our products, services or service overall can be one of the most difficult things to do.

Standing tall while doing it is crucial.

I recall having a team member whom dreaded entering into emotionally-charged conversations so much that she would just pass those calls over to me to handle them.

Do I love to talk to angry customers? Absolutely not, but I do see these conversations as an opportunity to listen, empathize and truly show that I care.

We show our value and our heart when we face the difficult times with our customers. It is in the low times that our relationships are strengthened for the long haul.

Don’t dread or ignore those inevitable conversations with customers when your organization falls short on delivering upon expectations.

Have courage. Show them that you are prepared to do what it takes to back up your brand promises no matter what! It is in these times when true mutual respect and understanding is born.

4. Putting your needs above theirs

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Theodore Roosevelt

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt holds true when building relationships with customers.

Customers are people.

They can see right through any insincerity, and they know when you are putting your needs above theirs.They know if you are covering your own backside. Show them you care by letting them know what is on the line for your organization and what you are prepared to do to keep their business.

Let them see that they are not just a number, or a revenue line on a profit & loss. Sure, they pay your bills, but let them know that your relationship with them is about more than that. If it is not about more than that, I can assure you that very few customers will remain loyal to organizations that are not loyal to them.

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Building relationships with customers starts with them trusting your brand through a whole series of interactions. The faith they place in you to deliver on your brand promises should not be taken for granted. Avoiding some of the mistakes I outlined here will really help you maintain their faith and maybe even get you referrals along the way!

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Thank you for reading this post. I get really excited talking and writing about this topic. If you found it of interest, please do Share it with other who might benefit. I am always open to feedback as well.

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