Customer Service

Customer Relations—Definition & How to Manage [9 Examples]

Agnieszka Sienkiewicz · Updated
building relationships with customers - cover art

Before we jump into the subject of customer relations, consider this—

There are three varieties of customers: those you have, those you don’t (yet), and those you used to. And while it’s always a priority to focus on the current ones, the other two types are just as essential.

Why?

Well, you want to get new customers, that’s obvious. But you wouldn’t like your past customers to speak badly about you, would you?

This is where building strong customer relations comes into play.

By developing this area of your business, you’ll take good care of all your past, present, and future customers.

In this article:

  • What customer relations are in the first place
  • Why a good relationship with customers is important
  • How to build a customer relationship strategy for your business

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Customer Relations—Definition and Importance

Let’s start with a quick customer relations definition.

Customer relationship is about managing interactions with previous, current, and potential customers. Companies that manage their customer relations well deliver positive customer experiences that strengthen customer retention and promote customer acquisition.

What’s crucial here is that every stage of a customer’s journey will shape the relationship. That’s why everyone in the company should have customer relations in the back of their minds, no matter what positions they hold. 

Activities related to building better customer relations can be either proactive or reactive. For example, a press release about your new product would be a proactive tactic. Apologizing to your unsatisfied customers and giving them a discount would be reactive.

Now—

It’s obvious that customers can buy from whoever they choose. But once they find a solution they’re happy with, they tend to stay.

Why do they stay?

Convenience, for one thing. Searching for another company, learning a new product’s or service’s features—it all takes time and effort.

If your offering is great, your customers will even cut you some slack if they’re not super delighted.

But not all the time.

As many as 59% of customers in the US will ditch a company after several bad experiences, 17% after just one bad experience (even if they love the brand or product). Ouch.

The question is—

What kind of bad experience is it that pushes people away?

In most cases, lack of interest (read: poor customer relations) or bad customer service.

Nearly 56% of customers worldwide have left a brand because of a poor customer service experience. And 68% percent because they felt the company didn’t care about them.

You will have noticed that we’ve mentioned “bad customer service” as one of the top deal-breakers. Does this mean that customer service and customer relations largely refer to the same thing?

Not quite.

Customer Relations vs. Customer Service—What’s the Difference? 

You can think of customer relations as a more general concept that spans all interactions with a brand. Customer service is one of such interactions. You can think of this in terms of jigsaw puzzles: your customer service team and their work is one piece and a successful customer relationship is a picture that you create.

To learn more about customer service, read our dedicated guide What Does Customer Service Mean To You? [Definition, Tips & Examples]

Strong Customer Relations—Benefits for Companies

Despite being notoriously hard to define, happiness can translate into measurable results—

Happy students get higher grades. Happy cows produce more milk. Happy couples live longer. Happy customers generate more revenue. Simple as that.

If your customers feel they’re in good hands, you can expect wonderful things to happen. Here are some of the most important benefits of maintaining great customer relations.

Higher Customer Satisfaction = More Sales

A paper by Dimensional Research reveals that customer service reviews influence 88% of buying decisions. If someone finds out that you don’t care about customer relations or your customer service agents are rude, your business will suffer. Conversely, if the word of mouth is in your favor, your sales will likely reflect this.

Better Customer Retention

It is hard to turn a lead into a sale. Sometimes brands focus most of their attention on getting new paying customers. But in the long run, it may be much more beneficial to take care of your existing customers first. If you develop great relations with your current customer base, they will stay with you longer.

Better Customer Lifetime Value

When your customers are happier and stay longer, you can expect the Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) metric to grow. It can be a real game-changer for your business. Higher LTV means that the dreaded customer acquisition cost won’t be as scary.

More Brand Advocates

If you take a closer look at any customer journey map, closing a sale is not the end of the road. When you build stronger relations, your loyal customers will turn into brand advocates. At some point, your customer base will start growing on its own.

How to Build Strong Relationships With Customers—9 Strategies 

Managing customer relationships is an essential part of modern business. There are also many software solutions that make this process easier to control.

The best strategies to improve the quality of your customer relationships involve:

  1. Learning who your customers are
  2. Personalizing communication
  3. Collecting customer feedback
  4. Building trust by being honest
  5. Rewarding your customers
  6. Providing responsive support
  7. Educating customers with resources
  8. Delivering positive customer experiences
  9. Using the right CRM software

Now—

Let’s go through each of the strategies.

#1. Get to Know Your Customers Better

You can’t build good customer relations if you don’t know who your customers are and what they value most. There are far too many companies that rely on intuition rather than data and feedback. Almost half of them don’t collect customer feedback at all. 

Getting to know your customers is not a simple task. But it is an essential part of increasing retention and revenue. There is, however, an easy technique you can try.

Start talking with your customers. Messenger and live chat software apps are becoming popular customer service channels. You can integrate live chat with Messenger for customer service speed and convenience.

Very low wait-time and convenience are what customers like and expect. As many as 79% of them admit they prefer live chatting because of the immediacy it offers. 

You can also get to know your individual customers in a less direct way—

By looking at who visits your site in Google Analytics.

This way you’ll be able to create accurate buyer personas, and take your customer success metrics to the next level.

For example, the Acquisitions tab in Google Analytics will show you which social media platforms, industry blogs, and professional forums your visitors come from. This will help you with the right customer segmentation, which in turn will let you approach your customers in a more personalized way. 

Acquisition Overview dashboard in Google Analytics

#2. Personalize Your Communication

Personalized communication builds healthy relationships.

About 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that provides value and personalized experiences.

So, no matter which channel you use to communicate with your customers, you must always treat them like humans, not like numbers. In fact, bad treatment frustrates about 71% of customers.

Reaching out to customers only to sell them something can also affect your relationships. Such an attitude screams “Hi, I’m here only for your credit cards. Thanks. Bye.” 

Instead, keep your audience engaged and continue helping them to become successful.

  • Send them special offers they’re actually interested in. Hand-pick and share resources to educate them about your products or services.
  • Call them by their names. Getting on first-name terms with customers will bring you both closer and make visitors feel appreciated.
  • Keep order history. Whether you have had a chat with first-time visitors or regular clients, you can track order history and offer personalized offers.
  • Go the extra mile. If you want customers to keep returning to your store, you need to show a genuine interest in their lives.
Chatbot greeting a customer: “Hi Andreas! Great to see you again :)”

#3. Listen to Feedback From Your Customers

In short, feedback is about telling what works and what doesn’t. And there’s nobody who knows this better than your customers.

Plus—

  • Asking for feedback shows that you care. When you ask your customers what they like, what they’re missing, or what you could do better, you show that you value their feedback.
  • Feedback attracts (or discourages) potential customers. As many as 98% of buyers read online reviews before buying. If your business receives a lot of positive reviews, you can use it in your marketing.

Yes, you got it right. An invaluable source of customer feedback is in the reviews that people leave.

Although a single negative review can turn potential customers away, it can tell you what you should immediately fix. When a bad review happens, never leave it unresolved. Respond to it immediately and do whatever you can to fix the issue and make the customer happier.

Another great source of feedback is the customer satisfaction survey (CSAT survey). You can personalize and send surveys to customer segments of your choice. They can give you valuable insights into your customer base and help you improve brand perception.

#4 Build Trust With Your Customers

Have you heard of the Ben Franklin effect? If you want someone to like you, ask for a favor. A similar paradox also happens in business and customer relations.

Sometimes a frictionless customer experience is frictionless and forgettable. But being honest and showing that your business can resolve an issue can be very beneficial in the long run.

Roughly 89% of people say a business can regain their trust if it admits to making a mistake, and resolves their issue.

Obviously, it is not about delivering bad experiences on purpose only to save the day later. But when problems occur, there are several things you can do to make the best of them:

  • Keep your customers informed. For example, if you know the order will not arrive on time, do let your customer know about it. Even if it turns out that this isn’t an issue for them, the sheer act of being transparent will mean a lot.
  • Always take the bullet. When anything unpleasant happens, don’t play the blame game. It’s not worth it. Your business can lose customers and credibility.

Building trust is about being direct and transparent. It means communicating good and bad news alike.

#5 Make Your Customers Feel Appreciated

Have you ever received a free dessert at your favorite restaurant? Or maybe the owner wanted your opinion on a new brand of wine?

A small token of appreciation to your clients can forge strong customer relationships. It could be a physical item or a discount coupon—whichever you can afford and goes in line with your business.

Think of these tokens as an investment to help you build a loyal customer base. About 75% of consumers say they prefer companies that offer rewards—and you could be one of them. 

There are many ways in which you can show appreciation to your customers and get their loyalty. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a loyalty program or a premium customer section on your website.
  • Set up a chatbot that gives discounts to returning customers
  • Send personalized emails with special offers for your best customers
  • Send an appreciation gift showing that you value their business

Showing customers that you appreciate their loyalty helps you retain more of them. Since retention is way cheaper than acquisition, you should always do your best.

#6 Respect Your Customer’s Time

As many as 67% of customers hang up the phone in frustration when they cannot reach a customer service representative. 

Well, no surprise here.

After all, nobody likes to waste their time in a line, especially when several digital solutions can speed up the support process by a lot.

Live chats, chatbots, customer service software, self-service options, and other types of customer service make it easier to build a relationship with each customer who needs your help.

So, if your company is getting swamped with customer requests and it takes a lot of time to answer all of them, don’t let your customers wait and hope for the answer to arrive quickly. Instead, ease the situation professionally and lead customers through the waiting process by:

  • Estimating the wait time
  • Communicating every step of the way
  • Speeding up the conversation with canned responses

Canned responses (or quick responses) are predefined responses that a CS representative can call during an interaction with customers to speed up the conversation:

Canned messages make customer service faster and create better customer relationships

#7 Help Your Customers Help Themselves

As a small business owner, you may not have the capacity to provide on-demand one-to-one support at all times. But you can provide the necessary tools for your customers to help them solve their issues or answer queries on their own through the so-called customer self-service.

Self-service is what 40% of consumers prefer over a service that requires contact with another person.

By empowering your customers to troubleshoot their issues without any assistance, you’re not only giving them what they want, but you’re also not letting them feel abandoned once your support goes offline.

Here are a few ideas for self-service that you can quickly implement on your business website:

  • Chatbots can support your customers 24/7 by answering their questions, collecting queries, helping them find what they need on your website or store, and much more. 
  • A knowledge base is another great way to address some of the most common questions customers have. You may populate your base with helpful articles, tutorials, videos, and guides.
  • An FAQ is a list of questions your customers often ask. If you know what your customers frequently ask about or what they might want to know, FAQs are a way to go. Plus, it’s easy to maintain and doesn’t take too much effort to produce.
A customer service chatbot

#8 Provide a Top-Notch Customer Service

Customer service plays a HUGE role in delivering a positive customer experience. It can make the bond between you and your customers even stronger—or sever it forever. 

The bottom line? You can lose as many as 58% of consumers due to poor customer service. 

And what’s even worse is that your customers will not always complain. About 96% of them will leave without a word—but will tell their friends about their poor experience.

In short, poor customer service makes you lose customers. Great customer service retains and attracts new ones. And if people are happy, they will tell you about it!

Tidio customer’s post left on Facebook

What’s the recipe for delivering the best customer service?

Invest in your support staff.

Help them develop such customer service skills as active listening, professional communication, troubleshooting and solving problems efficiently. This way they’ll tackle even the most difficult customer interactions, address all your customers’ needs, and build positive relationships.

And remember—

Exceptional customer service can be a great differentiator of your business.

#9 Leverage Customer Relationship Management Software

If you aren’t looking for contact with clients, you’ll never form long-term relationships with people. One-time purchases don’t foster customer loyalty. 

What you could do is deploy a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program that would track customer activities, analyze their behavior and deliver solutions. 

In other words, a program that will take care of clients for you. 

CRM software is currently the biggest software market in the world and continues to grow. It’s expected to reach more than $80 billion in revenue by 2025.

What does it owe such immense popularity? CRM is one of the best technical solutions you can choose to create personalized interactions with customers. This way, thanks to the CRM software, you can boost conversions by 300%!

With the right CRM tool you can:

  • Figure out different customer profiles based on their behavior
  • Track how the number of interactions with customers affects sales
  • Monitor the quality of your leads and the growth of your client base
  • Organize the work and check the performance of your customer support

Small and medium companies usually use CRMs that are included in their customer service solutions. For example, Intercom is an all-in-one platform that has some essential CRM tools. 

But if you are on a budget, you may want a more affordable CRM solution and have a look at Intercom alternatives.

Building Relationships With Customers: Summary

If your sole goal is to “get more sales fast”, good customer relations are difficult to maintain. They seem less important than activities related to acquiring new customers with advertising.

But if you are serious about your business, you should play the long game. And building relationships with customers is an essential part of the process.

To build and maintain great customer relations you should:

  • Connect with customers and collect their feedback
  • Be responsive and address customer issues fast
  • Track the satisfaction level of your customers
  • Use your empathy and develop communication skills 
  • Build trust by being honest and transparent
  • Reward your customers and show your appreciation
  • Use tools such as live chat or CRM software
  • Offer personalized customer experiences

Modern businesses don’t grow without positive relations with customers. Even the ones with brilliant products and cool marketing.

But there is some good news. If you’ve been neglecting your customers for some time, you can catch up quite fast. For example, Tidio is an all-in-one customer communication software. And it is free. Care to try it out?

Turn your website visitors into delighted customers.

Set up the Tidio live chat app in 5 minutes and watch your sales grow.

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Agnieszka Sienkiewicz

Aggie is a content writer at Tidio. She writes about customer service, eCommerce tools, and marketing to help online entrepreneurs take their business to the next level.

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