5 Essentials For Building Healthy Customer Relationships

by Jeannie Walters

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Just like any kind of relationship, customer relationships are emotional and sometimes fickle. Your customers don’t just need you to be there, they need you to listen. And you need to be sure their expectations are made clear before you can promise to fulfill them. Have you ever been in a relationship with a friend, family member or love interest and found yourself thinking, ” What does this person really want from me? What do they expect to get out of this?” Most of us have.

customer relationships

Customer relationships are no different.

What customers, or people in general expect from you sets the stage for how they will react emotionally to the experience you actually deliver.

I have a five year-old son. His emotions are full-on at any given point. They include “WOW! This is the most amazing moment in the history of mankind!” and “This is the worst thing I or anyone else has ever experienced.”

His reactions really come down to one thing – his expectations.

If he is expecting something to be great, it should be great. If he’s expecting it to be so-so, if it’s just a little more than that, he’s thrilled.

Don’t your customers behave the same way? We all have expectations. Shopping at Target is different than shopping at Tiffany’s. But what about the everyday expectations? Customer expectations, in general, are changing every day. What are some of the expectations we all have now as customers? Here are a few I see:

1. Acknowledge me.

Whether I call your tech support line or show up in your office, please do me a favor and acknowledge me in a positive way. Ignoring me, answering with a “what’s your policy number” or barely making eye contact is lower than any expectation I have.

2. Provide many channels and communicate with me.

Gini Dietrich provided a great perspective on the abysmal job cruise companies are doing with communication in light of the bad experiences (boats sinking, virus outbreaks, passenger robberies). Customers now expect to be heard, no matter what channel they choose.

3. Don’t hide things from me.

Thanks to the awesome work by financial companies, we now have LAWS on the books like “The Truth In Lending Act” to help companies remember that it’s better to say what you mean and mean what you say in a transparent and honest way. If you hide information from me, and then I find out about it, I’m not going to like it. Just look at the reactions Facebook, Pinterest and Google get when they make changes in their privacy policies.

4. Stand by your word, your product and your people.

Ever have a bad experience with someone at a company and request the manager? Ever have that manager either throw the specific person under the bus, “That guy doesn’t get how to do things” OR act like it’s clearly your fault, “Well Jack is our best representative. I’m sure he did it correctly.” BOTH are the wrong answer.

5. Thank me.

I’m a customer. You’re welcome. Do I have to sign your paycheck to get you to see that I fund it?

I could go on and on and on about expectations. Look at what expectations you’re setting for your customers. Pay attention to the brand message of your company. Are you ready to back it up? Do you already know that the actual experience is not living up to expectations? It’s time to go above and beyond to exceed the expectations set. That’s what delight is made of. Just ask the five year-old!

Image Credit: LaLaMiMiSaSa via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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