Have you heard of this social networking site called Facebook? Unless you just reentered society from a cryogenically frozen state, the answer to that question is DUH. Or YES. If you’re like the millions of people around the world that have played around on Facebook, you’ve no doubt seen the relationship status of your closest friends and have investigated the reasons why your dear friend Cindy went from “in a relationship” to “its complicated” to “single” in a matter of hours. Well, businesses should also be in relationships and should seek to be in long-term, healthy ones. And, unlike our (respectable) human profiles, businesses can and should be in multiple relationships at the same time. Here is a quick guide in social networking terms.
“(YOUR COMPANY NAME) is in a relationship with ______ “
This is where you want to be. You want healthy relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, and other stakeholders. For the sake of this blog, we will focus strictly on your relationship with customers. As you’ve probably heard, it’s much cheaper to keep a good customer than to go out and find a new one, and your relationship with that customer is what keeps them doing business with you. People do business with people that they trust, and if you are fortunate enough to establish that trust over the span of several years, you are miles ahead of any competitors that might come knocking on your customers’ door in the future.
LRI has been in central Iowa for over 20 years, and have many customers that have been with them for 15+ years. Larry Parker is a 20-year employee of SourceHOV, recognized by Fortune Magazine and one of the world’s leading providers of business process outsourcing services. Parker works at SourceHOV’s Urbandale location as the Laser Print Operations Manager and has had a relationship with LRI since 1991. “LRI started with us when we were UIS (United Information Services). We were their first account. We were a very small operation then; we maybe had 2 printers,” Parker said. “We have been with LRI ever since.”
Even when bigger print competitors have come to SourceHOV, the relationship LRI established with them has kept Parker comfortable with his current provider. “We stuck with LRI even though Xerox has knocked on our door pretty hard. We’ve had that long-standing relationship with LRI and I felt I got better service from them,” Parker said. As you can see, the value of good relationships can earn, and keep, great customers like SourceHOV.
You really don’t want to be here, whether in business or life in general. This relationship status most likely means that you were doing something right, but now you have lost your way. You don’t want complicated relationships with customers, because that causes frustrations for everyone involved. It creates more work than is necessary for both of you, and it will lead both of you to openly look elsewhere for an easier solution to your problems. The good news here is that you have proven in the past that you know how to treat customers right and earn their business. If you can return to what you were doing correctly, you can save this relationship. Ask customers what is causing frustrations on their end and what you can do to make it easier for them. Bust out the guitar and the box of chocolates!
“But this is a lifestyle choice!” In life, sure…but in business, a “single” relationship is one-way ticket to the end of your organization. If you just sell goods/services and don’t follow up with customers or get their input on your work, then you’re single. If you simply don’t have relationships with your customers, now is the time to start developing them! Ask what customers think of your business, ask if they have organizations you could partner with to reach mutual goals, ask what you could do better, ask anything to get that relationship started. Then, keep appropriate information on customers so you can develop a database to identify your “ideal” customers in the future and improve your relationships.
So there you have it. Seek out good relationships with customers and work hard to grow them into even more business. And if you would stop relentlessly checking the relationship status of that girl in the sales department, you can start right now!