While many of our “Know Your Customer” articles focus on gathering data or technology that effectively helps you stay in front of your audience, we never want to undermine the value of a genuine customer relationship. Our animal nutrition industry tends to be more relationship driven as many of the people who own, manage or support businesses, like your dealership, are also in the business. This results in easy conversation, a real understanding of customer needs and a true comfort level between the business and customer. While we may be preaching to the choir on this one, we want to offer a few techniques to ensure your customer relationship is genuine and true.
Be patient in building new relationships.
Relationships take time. Resist indulging in disingenuous schmoozing, as it can be a severe put-off. Instead, take the time to get to know your customer, and share a little bit of yourself. Most importantly, remember that the product and service you provide is paramount in building a relationship. At the end of the day, no amount of personal connection can substitute for great product and service.
Understand the business.
We have a vast amount of segments within animal nutrition. While you may be an expert in the cattle business, equine or rabbits may not be your forte. You don’t have to be a professional, but learn to speak the same language as your customer, understand what keeps them up at night, and cater your interaction and products accordingly.
Go the extra mile.
As you grow your business and your customer relationships, there will be times that you’ll have to make a decision on when to adjust or expand your products and services to cater to the needs of a customer. The benefits of offering customized solutions are two-fold: 1) customers remember the times you came through for them and 2) it may open up additional revenue streams and new product offerings you had not previously considered.
Treat every client as your most important one.
Simply put, happy customers are more likely to make referrals. Provide all customers with your best service, regardless of whether they are a large ranch that run thousands of head or a family just getting started showing. You never know whom your customers may know or to whom they will refer you.
When a customer calls, emails or messages you on a social channel, acknowledge the receipt of the communication as quickly as possible, even if you do not have the answer they are looking for. You will give them comfort by simply acknowledging the receipt of their request and by communicating that you’re on it. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we often see dealers worry about having the right answer, and as a result, they forget to acknowledge they are looking for a solution.
Be more than a contact.
Despite the importance of collecting an email address, cell phone number for text messaging services, a social handle etc., these types of communication can often be misconstrued, especially during stressful situations. Consider a phone call or an in-person meeting to put a face (or voice) to a name. Often the phone gets a bad reputation when using it to ‘get on the same page’, but if used for good news, a phone call is a great way to build a better relationship with your customer.
Every customer segment in your business has events they attend. Your show audience gather at the county fair or local 4-H or FFA events, your equine customers at rodeos and your cattlemen at field days. Seeing your face and knowing you care enough to attend these events to show your support or learn more about their involvement will not go unnoticed. Consider participating in those events, offering your time or sponsorship. With every new technological advance in communication, there is nothing more important or powerful than face-to-face interaction.