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The Right and Wrong Way to Build a Relationship with Your Customers

by Tom Ruwitch

My business just landed a new customer who broke up with one of our competitors because of broken promises.

I’m not going to name the competitor. That doesn’t matter.

What matters is the lesson about why customers dump businesses.

The customer signed up for our competitor’s service and had some problems with creating and sending the first email.

The customer was willing to work things out with our competitor. He was encouraged when he received an email from the competitor’s CEO.

The CEO thanked the customer for choosing his service and asked him to reply with questions, comments or complaints. The CEO said he monitors all replies.

“That’s great,” thought the customer, who took the opportunity to air some grievances.

The CEO never replied. The customer felt neglected and misled.

The customer broke up with our competitor and now has a relationship with us.

This reminded me of another guy we used to work with.

He used our service to send surveys to more than 30,000 of his customers.

He would respond personally to anyone who gave his business a less-than-glowing review. He ran fast-food restaurants. The surveys asked customers to judge the food, service and ambience in his restaurants on five-point scales. Five was the best. One was the worst.

He wrote a personal email to anyone who rated any category three or lower. He answered their concerns and engaged in further conversation.

He ran a tight ship, so he wasn’t flooded with threes, twos or ones. But some months, he had more than a few.

I asked him once why he bothered. This is fast food, after all. Small margins. High churn. A volume business. Even if that unhappy customer returns, the money earned is not worth the time spent, I suggested.

That was a long time ago, and I now know better.

He helped me understand that every business is a “relationship business” as long as those in charge treat it that way.

Even if you have millions of customers, you have an opportunity to forge one-to-one relationships with them. Each interaction is a chance to build the relationship.

Sure, it might cost a little to engage that customer who criticized your service or food. But that conversation turns the disgruntled customer into a very happy one.

Very happy customers tell others about their experiences. That leads to viral growth.

Neglected customers go elsewhere, tell others about their unhappy experiences and damage your business.

Tom Ruwitch is the president and founder of MarketVolt, an interactive marketing firm. For more business-building marketing resources by Tom Ruwitch, go to MarketVolt.com/resources.

Submitted 23 days ago
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