Developing an amazing product is one of the hardest challenges that a company can overcome — but it's not the only factor that will determine the success of a business. Today's consumers have more industry influence than they've ever had in the past, allowing them to focus on more than just the product that you're selling them.

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Now, consumers are interested in what you're selling them, how you're selling it, and what happens after you've sold it to them.

The shift has placed pressure on companies to invest in their customer service teams and meet rising customer demands. In fact, a 2018 study showed that 59% of consumers have higher expectations for customer service than they did in 2017. Businesses are now facing the challenge of creating an excellent customer experience that's consistent across every interaction.

To achieve this, many companies are now focusing on how they manage their customer relationships. Building strong customer relations is a great way to develop customer loyalty and retain valuable, long-term customers. If you're looking to improve customer relationships at your company, it helps to understand what successful customer relations look like and how you can create them with your clientele.

Customer relations is present in all aspects of a business, but it's most prevalent in the customer service department. Customer service teams, customer support, customer success, and product development all play important roles in building a healthy customer relationship. Customer relations also extend to marketing and sales teams as well since these departments have a significant influence over the company's interactions with the customer.

What functions does customer relations include?

Customer relations includes both the reactive and proactive functions performed by your customer service teams. Reactive functions are the efforts made by your team to solve issues that are reported by customers. This includes tasks like responding to customer complaints and solving problems with the support team. Being able to solve unexpected customer roadblocks is essential for brands that are looking to build strong customer relationships.

Proactive functions are the measures taken to ensure a long-term relationship with customers. These efforts are aimed towards fostering customer success by consistently satisfying evolving customer needs. Customer success teams do this by providing information about products and updates as well as by promoting discounts and exclusive offers. This type of long-term customer relationship management helps companies create lasting impressions on customers who eventually become loyal to the brand.

Customer Service vs. Customer Relations

You may think they're one and the same, but customer service and customer relations are two very similar concepts with one distinct difference. Customer service is what your company provides to ensure customer success. It is an inbound function that's now expected by customers at the first point of interaction with your business. Companies can provide proactive customer service features, but most customer service functions are delivered in response to customer action.

Customer relations differs because it consists of both the inbound and outbound measures taken by your company. It considers your organization's ability to react to present issues as well as your approach to bettering future experiences. Customer relations focuses on the proactive steps you're taking to engage customers and improve the customer experience.

Customer relations encompasses all of the important functions that customer service performs, but also includes the efforts made before and after customer interactions. While responding to immediate customer needs is a great way to provide excellent customer service, searching for solutions to future roadblocks is how your company can build positive customer relations.

Benefits of positive customer relations

Positive customer relations can result in an array of benefits for your company including more potential leads and higher customer retention rates. To narrow it down, here are the top three benefits that positive customer relations can provide for your company.

Customer Retention

Companies that do a better job of managing customer relations are more likely to see higher customer retention rates. In fact, studies show that 61% of customers stop buying from a company if they have a poor customer experience. Compare that to the 60% of customers who said they would likely do business with an organization again if the company handles a customer service issue fairly, even if the outcome isn't in their favor.

These numbers prove that customers know when your company is being genuine and are willing to overlook your mistakes so long as you demonstrate a dedication to their success. That type of transparency is essential when reducing churn as well as when you're building a positive customer relationship. It can also be financially beneficial too, as studies show increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase your profits by 25% to 95%.

Customer Loyalty

When you have a good history with your customers, it makes it more difficult for your competitors to lure people away from your brand. Customers loyalty is highly valuable for businesses as repeat customers are nine times more likely to buy from you than leads that have not yet converted. Building positive customer relations drives customer loyalty because it creates an intangible incentive for the customer to return to the same business. thinkJar Research even shows that 55% of consumers will pay more money for a product or service if it's a guaranteed good experience. While it may cost more for companies to invest in building positive customer relations, the payoff in customer loyalty can be instrumental for generating consistent revenue over time.

Customer Satisfaction

Often times it can be hard to tell whether your customers are truly happy with your business or not. In fact, 91% of unhappy customers who don't complain simply don't return to a company for another purchase. Having strong customer relations can act as your insurance policy for preventing these unidentified customers from churning without warning.

Positive customer relations give companies more insight into their customer's problems because it creates an open channel of communication for relaying customer feedback. This leads to better individual interactions with customers which builds up trust over time and influences their buying decisions. Studies have even found that 65% of consumers believe that a good experience with a company has more influence over their purchase decision than advertising does. So while the commercial of the cute dog may get a smile or two from your target audience, customer satisfaction actually is the result of your brand creating memorable customer experiences.

Every company should aim at building positive customer relations but hitting your target can be a lot easier said than done. It takes a complete effort from the entire company to build a long-lasting and trustworthy customer relationship. In the next section, we break down some of the important components needed for fostering positive customer relations at any company.

How Do You Foster Positive Customer Relations?

Since customer relations considers all of your customer interactions, there are a lot of factors that can influence a customer relationship. When building positive customer relations, organizations need to take a company-wide approach that's focused on promoting customer success. To do that, here are three key factors that any business should consider when pursuing positive customer relations.

Employee Training

A great customer experience comes not only from the product being sold but also from the employees who interact with the customer. These marketing, sales, and customer service employees need to be highly skilled in their trade and motivated by quickly solving customer problems. Studies show that 67% of customer churn is avoidable if the customer's issue is resolved after the first interaction with the company. This puts pressure on your

service and support teams to be able to handle all types of issues that customers will present.

Companies faced with higher volumes of support and service cases can adopt customer service tools to help manage customer relations. Adding a help desk software can significantly help customer service, support, and success teams monitor interactions with customers over time. Tools like a customer relationship manager, or CRM, can help your team expand its bandwidth and create satisfying experiences for every person that interacts with your business.

Accessibility

To provide an excellent customer experience, your service and support teams need to be readily available to help. A Microsoft survey revealed that over a third of consumers reported that their biggest complaint with a company is not being able to get help from an agent when needed to. While it helps to have things like chatbots and self-service help desks, your team still needs to be there when the customer has a problem. Technology can help ease some of the stress for your customer service team, but it can never recreate the memorable experience that a live rep can provide. This human interaction is crucial to creating a meaningful relationship between a company and its customers.

Upper Management

Companies that want to create positive customer relations need to install a customer-centric culture into the organization. This culture has to be focused on customer success as well as creating long-term solutions for every customer. Companies can do this by creating a customer journey map that outlines the buyer's journey for a target consumer. Employees will be more motivated to help customers as they can see exactly where they play a role in the customer's success. It also helps to hire a customer relations executive who can lead the development of customer relationships.

For more information on improving the customer experience, read our guide to customer experience strategy.

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Originally published Mar 1, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated October 30 2019

Topics:

Customer Experience