Manage customer relationships

Customer Relationship Management is about managing your relationship with existing customers with a focus on creating loyalty towards your business. After you've made the investment in finding new customers, it’s important to consider how you can manage your customer relationships to build your business and your customer base, and keep your customers returning.

Benefits of building relationships with customers

What are some of the benefits of building relationships with customers?

  • You’ll be able to build goodwill and the value of your business.
  • You’re more likely to keep your customers returning to your business.
  • Improved word of mouth will help attract new customers.
  • The after-sales service you provide becomes an investment in the customer relationship.
  • Being customer-focused can drive innovation and improve profitability.
  • Focusing on customers can help you with your business planning activities for long term success.

Understand your customers

Understanding your customers is crucial in knowing how and why they buy from you. Customer profiling and market research can help you in better understanding your customers.

Read our tips on understanding your customers for ideas on how to build relationships with customers to better meet their needs and wants.

Communicate with your customers

Managing the customer relationship involves building trust with your customers so they’re less likely to buy from your competitors. Communicating with your customers is a good way to build up trust and improve customer satisfaction.

Regular communication with your customers across all your channels is important in keeping them up to date with your business and helps maintain the relationship. It’s also important to communicate with your customers in a way that suits them. If they have subscribed to your social media channels, calling them may not be an appropriate or welcome form of communication.

Read Communicate with customers for more tips on keeping in touch with your customers.

Focus on service

Providing a high level of customer service is important in building customer relationships and to keep customers coming back.

As part of implementing good customer service practices in your business, you may decide to develop policies and procedures to help encourage a customer focused culture amongst your employees. This includes procedures for greeting and serving customers to resolving customer complaints.

Remember to train your employees in good customer service practices when they start with your business - and throughout their employment - to ensure a consistent experience for your customers.

Seek continuous feedback

Seeking regular feedback from customers may help improve your customers’ satisfaction with your product or service, leading to repeat purchase behaviour and an increase in sales.

There are a number of ways to gain feedback and it’s important to remember that customer complaints can give you valuable insights to help you improve. Head to our Seek customer feedback page for ideas on how you can gain feedback.

As part of good customer service, remember to thank your customers for their business and for any feedback they provide.

Keep your loyal customers

Once you have invested time and money in finding new customers, focus on keeping these customers and making them loyal to your business. Customers that meet your preferred type or customer profile are the customers that are worth focusing on. It’s your loyal customers that become particularly important when business is slow, as they can help keep you in business! They may also refer your business to their family and friends, helping you build your customer base.

Read Keeping loyal customers for ideas on how you can keep your most important asset returning to your business.

Handle customer complaints well

A customer complaint presents an opportunity for you to turn a poor customer experience into a positive one. By handling customer complaints well, you’re more likely to encourage these customers to return to your business and prevent negative word of mouth. You might also turn them into long term loyal customers. Ensure your employees are adequately trained in customer service, particularly handling customer complaints and dispute resolution. Having this process documented in internal policies and procedures can ensure that customer complaints are dealt with correctly and consistently.

Remember, customer complaints can be a valuable source of feedback for your business, so you may wish to keep a record of complaints to help you find areas needing improvement.

Measure your customer service levels

Whilst you may feel that your business is delivering good customer service and providing a consistently high quality experience, your customers may not agree.

Measuring your customer satisfaction levels is important for ensuring that you’re meeting your customers’ needs. There are several ways to measure your customer service so that you get a good idea of where your business is at in the eyes of your customers. Measuring your customer satisfaction can also provide you with ideas and suggestions for where your business can improve.

There are several ways that you can measure your customer service levels. Try using several methods, such as:

  • Asking customers after a sale or service experience what their thoughts or opinions are on your business.
  • Place customer surveys in store or provide a questionnaires or feedback form online.
  • Hire secret/mystery shoppers to try your service and gain feedback.
  • Reading online review websites or forums.
  • Observing interactions between employees and customers to ensure your employees are providing good service.

Measuring customer service is an ongoing process and important as part of your regular interactions with customers. Read our Measure customer service page for tips on how to measure service satisfaction in your business.

Keep a record of interactions

Keeping a record of your customer interactions as part of the sales process can help you build and maintain your relationships with customers. Keeping track of who, what and when a customer was contacted doesn’t need to be a complex system - it can be as simple as a Word document or a spreadsheet.

Read about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to determine what approach is best for you. The information you collect in your CRM can be used to identify customer trends and help you build a profile of your customers.

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