The other day I ran to a grocery store to purchase some breakfast pastries for the team. Being that I was in a hurry, I was in the store maybe five minutes. But in that five minutes, I was greeted by a minimum of five people. And I mean really greeted — eye contact, a cheerful “good morning!” and a smile that spread across their eyes and face. I left that store feeling great and even more loyal to what is already my favorite store. Why? The experience or interaction. This grocery store is not the cheapest. It’s also not the closest to my office or home. Yet 9 times out of 10, I will opt to shop there. The reason is simple: My “brand” decision has less to do with the product and more to do with the relationship or experience I have in the store.

I’ve always been a firm believer that life is about relationships. When I choose a bank, a hairstylist, an insurance rep or almost anything, the major influencing factor is relationship and whether or not there is a good connection.  This relationship-driven tendency transcends all businesses and regions and should be a key consideration for every company. The following are some quick tips to consider:

  1. Be genuine – From a customer perspective, it’s easy to tell when someone is really genuine and when they’re simply putting on a show. You can tell in the way they smile, in their body language, and in the way they maintain eye contact. You can’t force being genuine – and people will recognize if you’re trying to do so.
  2. That being said, match your people to the right positions based on their talents. If someone doesn’t enjoy working with people, don’t put them in a role that requires that – even if they have years of experience. I have always felt that the right attitude and personality equates to more than experience. To this point, I’ve not yet been disappointed.
  3. Understand and get to know your customers.  In this day and age, the trend is to desire personal marketing rather than mass marketing. Learn how to do this.
  4. Never let them see you sweat – No it’s not a commercial for deodorant, but rather an appeal for calm. Everyday, you will be faced with challenges. But no matter what, the customer should see the same smile, hear the same calm voice and sense the same disposition. Insulate your customer from any panic, frustration, or stress and just handle the problem.
  5. Share credit and take blame. When things go well and there is a “win”, give your customer the opportunity to share in that success. When something goes wrong and you or your team have made a mistake, your best bet is to bring it up, offer a solution, apologize and move on. And, most importantly, learn from it.

From grocery stores to marketing firms to equipment, the same rules apply. So what do you do to build relationships with your customers? How has that paid off for your company?


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