What is Customer Relations (and Why is It Important)?

Jan 14, 2020

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  • Customer Support

Customer relations describes the efforts that a company takes to create ongoing relationships with its customers. Often with a long-term view, these activities can range from updating methods of communication to completely evolving the customer experience. Each organization often chooses a specific approach to customer relations that suites their unique customer needs, but typically the goal is to maintain a constructive environment for solving issues while collecting valuable feedback for future improvements. It is always best to create a mutually beneficial relationship that delivers value for both the customer and the company.

Customer relations may not be a new topic in business, but what has changed is the way that we interact. With today’s digital and web-based environment, customers are becoming savvier and continue to seek more convenient ways of communicating with brands. Also, with more streamlined solutions provided to companies for the manufacturing and distribution of their products, a key differentiator is becoming the ability to create a compelling customer experience.

It is important to remember that these customer needs are driving a significant opportunity for companies as there are clear gaps between customer expectations and the ability of brands to deliver. For example, one study found that 77% of customers think that it takes too long to get in touch with a live agent. In addition, the results showed that the average person waits for 11 minutes before hanging up, with 67% of customers hanging up because they couldn't talk to a person. This data paints a clear picture of the typical customer’s level of patience and the high value that they place on personalized interaction.

Why Is Customer Relations Important?

The primary benefit of healthy customer relations is the influence that you can have over long-term customer retention. Building trust today means giving your customers what they want, both in terms of product performance and also services that your company provides. Thinking through your entire engagement with a customer can help to identify any weak points that may lead to disappointment. Finding and improving those capabilities with a holistic approach can lead to higher customer satisfaction over time.

Through customer relations development, your company can take a proactive approach to building customer relationships. It's different from customer service activities, which tend to be reactive and based on customers' immediate issues and needs. It is necessary to be proactive with customer relations, but also to involve customers in the process by collecting feedback and keeping communication channels open. Engaging your customers gives them a voice in your future direction, allows you to anticipate future needs, and builds immediate trust.

Your loyal customers can provide some of the most critical feedback directly to your company and also among people they trust. Word of mouth can help or hurt your brand, depending upon the experience that each customer has had. It's imperative to find ways to make each interaction between a customer and your brand a meaningful one. Your product and branding may get them to buy, but ongoing relations is what gets customers to stay or pushes them to leave. Developing your customer relations competency can be a true differentiator for your operation.

How Can I Improve Customer Relations?

There are a number of steps that a company can take to strengthen their customer relations. Improvements to consistency and responsiveness of service are two of the most impactful. Implementing innovative technologies that support collaboration and streamline customer relationship management is a step many companies take. A shared inbox, for example, can be used by your support team to manage tickets and maintain a streamlined approach to fulfilling customer requests.

Another common tool for developing customer relations is a knowledge base, which creates an accessible database of information that your support team and customers can access. Once established, it can become an essential resource for finding answers to common issues and accessing product and service information. Many companies also take advantage of customer portals to give their existing customers direct access to their system. Through a customer portal, customers can log in to access company resources, manage their tickets, and communicate with your team.

Technology plays a vital role in developing customer relationships by putting more power in the customer’s hands through self-service capabilities and numerous modes of communication. Beyond technology and software, it is also important to maintain transparency and keep your customer service team visible and accessible. Technology can help connect customers with your team, but it will always be the human interaction and personalized interactions that will make all the difference.