Customer relations and how to grow your company
Customer relations are the lifeblood of a company, but it can be challenging to develop strong relationships with your audiences. Digital transformation has moved many customer bases online and opened more avenues for competition.
But it’s possible. AI-powered technology lets you create a seamless, personalized customer experience and build long-lasting customer relationships, strengthen brand loyalty, and improve your business’s reputation.
This post will explore everything you need to know about customer relations, including:
- What customer relations is
- Customer relations vs. customer service
- Importance of customer relations
- Benefits of customer relations
- How to build customer relations
What is customer relations?
Customer relations refers to how a company interacts with its customers. It aims to improve the customer experience, deepen engagement, resolve problems, and build a long-lasting relationship that benefits both the customer and the company.
Although it is common to think of customer relations as limited to the customer service department, almost every department is responsible for some part of customer relations. Customer relations starts with product development and sales and continues through the fulfillment of orders and support after the sale. The entire team must be committed to developing and maintaining good customer relations.
Customer relations vs. customer service
Customer relations encompasses much more than just customer service.
Customer relations includes every interaction that someone from your company has with a customer and all the steps you take to ensure a good customer experience.
For example, a customer speaks with a salesperson about the product before buying it. If that conversation goes well, it may motivate the customer to purchase your product. That is an example of good customer relations.
Customer service is one piece of customer relations. It is an inbound or reactive action that occurs when a customer contacts your company about an issue or to get help. It may occur before the sale or after. Customer service is a channel you provide to promote a positive engagement with your company. How you handle customer service makes a big impact on your brand’s reputation.
Importance of customer relations
Building good customer relations is foundational to your success and growth. It improves how your customers view your band and enhances the customer experience. In addition, building brand loyalty and retention drives sales and increases the organic promotion of your products or services via social media or other word-of-mouth advertising.
Then, existing customers who view your brand favorably are much more likely to purchase from you again. Building a strong bond between your company and your customers makes it easier to inspire repeat purchases and attract new customers.
Benefits of customer relations
Developing good customer relations has many benefits that are critical to your business's success.
Customer relations span the entire customer journey and accounts for how audiences feel after interacting with one of your team members. Even if something goes wrong and a customer contacts your company with a complaint, a good customer relations strategy can help you keep that customer. They leave the conversation satisfied and you have improved the long-term relationship.
Repeat business comes with a much higher ROI than sourcing and selling to new customers and clients. As you develop better relationships, your customers will feel valued, trust your brand, and return to make additional purchases. Strong customer relations reduce customer churn.
Customer retention is the first step, but a competitor’s targeted campaign or deep discount may still lure clients away. Building strong customer relations helps prevent this. Companies who have cultivated deep connections with their audiences don’t have to react to every competitor campaign or sale.
When customers feel they can trust you, they will provide helpful feedback that you can use to fine-tune your products, services, and customer relations skills. During times of growth, feedback may be especially helpful as you navigate a new marketplace.
How to build customer relations
Customer relations strategies look different for every company because your audience and your team are unique. As you focus on building relationships, you will develop some of your own, internal best practices, but there are a few standards that will help you get started.
- Prioritize customers. Before designing new products or rolling out new features, consider how they will impact your customers. Cultivate a customer-centric culture by anticipating your customer's needs, being proactive with customer service, and asking for feedback to refine your skills.
- Improve customer service. Train your employees on the products you offer, how to handle difficult customer interactions and escalations, how to communicate with customers, and how to use the tools or resources at your team's disposal to resolve issues. For example, a specific goal might be to improve your first call resolution rate.
Improving customer service might also mean supporting the work-life balance of your customer service representatives. If your customer service team is happy, they are more likely to provide a great customer experience.
- Be available 24/7. It's not always possible to employ people to work around the clock, but chatbot technology can allow users to contact you at any time of day or night, helping you establish a reputation for being available 24/7.
- Collect feedback. Ask for customer feedback about the product or about their interaction with your team members. Be sure to follow up so your customers feel heard. Thank them for their time and show them how you plan to act upon their insights, especially if the input is negative.
- Build community. To build a loyal base of customers and clients who keep coming back, you need to create a community. You can do this using meet-ups, online or in-person events, forums, or social media groups. Engaging with your audience even when you aren't selling to them builds strong relationships that last for a long time.
- Show appreciation. Find ways to show your customers that you appreciate them. One strategy is to use loyalty programs where customers earn points to redeem for merchandise, special discounts, or access to new products and services before they go live to the public.
Types of customer relations
Your business will relate to different customers in different ways. Understanding the various types of customer relations helps you quickly identify which one applies to any unique buyer, so you can nurture and develop the relationship more effectively.
A transactional relationship is really no relationship at all. It usually refers to a single purchase of goods. There is no long-term connection and no follow-up. Buying sunglasses at a gas station is an example of a transactional relationship.
A long-term relationship is an ongoing connection between the company and the customer that’s designed to build brand loyalty and trust and encourage repeat purchases. It includes a consistent connection with frequent communications from the company to the customer, like weekly promotional emails or social media ads. A good example is a home goods company that sends weekly emails to promote new items to repeat customers.
A personal assistance relationship is when a customer reaches out to a company representative for help before or after the purchase. It's a personal one-on-one interaction through a phone call, meeting, email, or chat, such as a software user calling customer support to get help with a technical error.
These types of relationships are crucial to customer relations. If the customer services team handles the inquiry well they can earn a long-term relationship. If not, they might forfeit that customer’s business forever.
Dedicated personal assistance
Dedicated personal assistance is the most intimate type of customer relationship. A single representative works directly with a specific customer, like a personal banker with whom you establish a long-term relationship and get to know over time. Anytime you need financial assistance, you call on that specific banker. Other examples include dedicated salespeople or account managers assigned to particular customers.
In a self-service relationship, the company has no direct contact with the customer. Instead, the company offers technology and resources that allow clients to get what they need without any intervention.
A self-service relationship might include a company website where customers can quickly purchase items without speaking to anyone or asking questions. Then they could visit the store and pick up their item from a locker without interacting with a company employee.
Automated service relationships enhance self-service journeys with technology or other resources. In these relationships, companies provide artificial intelligence (AI) tools to answer questions and provide more personalized or complicated services.
Customer profiles are necessary for automated services. Companies can then set up AI programs to sift through customer data to send relevant offers, direct users to the right answers on self-service portals, and more.
One way that companies are building strong customer relations is through user communities. The company deputizes its customers to field questions and help other buyers. These types of communities can also give the company great insights into customer preferences, behaviors, and buying habits.
Community relationships might look like forums on the company website, social media groups or hashtags, or sponsored in-person meet ups. For example, some companies create a digital space where users of the same product can compare notes, offer help to one another, and ask questions.
A newer type of customer relationship is co-creation, where companies are creating value with their customers. In these relationships audience members are both vendors and customers.
A good example is Amazon, which encourages customers to write reviews, post product pictures, and answer questions to help other buyers decide on purchases. The review system helps to promote top quality brands and products.
Other companies use research forums made up of current customers to gain insights and help them design new products or test new features. Additionally, a business may ask customers to join them in creating content for the public, deepening the relationship and building a bond that extends beyond traditional customer relations.
Get started today
Building a strong customer relations program benefits your company in many valuable ways — strengthening customer retention, loyalty, and satisfaction. Ultimately, strong customer relationships yield great ROI.
Before tackling the best practices list, evaluate the success of your current customer relations program. Find out where your strengths and weaknesses lie, address those issues, and then build upon them.
And when you’re ready for the next step, Adobe Experience Platform can help. Experience Platform is an open system that provides comprehensive customer profiles that drive relevant experiences for every customer. It allows you to analyze the data that matters most to you and your customers' journeys. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning models, you can put your customers first and connect all your customer relations technology in one easy-to-use solution.
Watch the platform story to learn more about all the ways Adobe Experience Platform helps leading companies build better customer relationships for greater business value.