Top-Shelf Tip No. 193:

"Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Damon Richards

Cultivating a Healthy Relationship with Customers

Much has been said over the years about customers. Maxims like "the customer is always right," "the customer is king," "the customer pays our wages," and "the customer is our boss" are all nice ways to characterize the importance of customers to business, but they might not capture the true complexity of the relationship in a meaningful way.

David Royce, founder of pest control company Aptive Environmental, argues in a recent article in Entrepreneur that developing and maintaining a happy and healthy ongoing relationship with customers is just as important to a company's bottom line as its cash flow. For Royce, there are four primary keys to building and maintaining those relationships, as you'll read in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Create flexibility. Empower your front-line employees to allow exceptions to the rules. These exceptions are not to placate customers; instead, they should allow employees to exceed expectations and help to make customers feel valued and special. By training employees to use their latitude to provide exceptional experiences, customers will become loyal advocates and bring you more business.

Work together to overcome differences. The bottom line for your company should not be about money, but about relationships with customers. For example, Royce describes how his company sent out emails to notify customers about their upcoming service visit. Many customers complained about not being informed because they don't regularly check their emails. The company added text messaging as an option, which cost more, but cut miscommunication complaints in half over the next service cycle.

Keep the fire alive. A complaint is an opportunity to resolve a potential problem, and statistics show that you can make customers 10 percent more loyal to you than before a negative experience occurred by simply connecting with them to resolve the situation. One of the best ways to uncover and fix issues is to give customers incentives to provide honest feedback, such as providing a discount on the next purchase for honestly answering a three-question survey. Then immediately respond to any feedback that is less than satisfactory. The policy at Royce's company is that a manager reaches out to any dissatisfied customer within one hour of their survey submission.

Get out of toxic relationships. If you've done everything you can to go the extra mile and it's still not enough, don't be afraid to let those customers go. Forcing an unhappy customer to stay with you because of a contract or other tie is shortsighted. This can cause more negativity than keeping the customer is worth.

Source: David Royce is the founder and chairman of Aptive Environmental, a company that's ranked among the country's top pest-control providers. He's built a staff of 2,000, providing entrepreneurial training and financial success to his employees while instilling core values.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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