Relationships are at the heart of every business. It is the interaction between people, the discovery of needs and wants as well as the solving of problems that builds and binds the relationships we enjoy and call business. It is easy to think of stories that profile great relationships.
- A Regional CEO of a grocery store chain frequently stops a customer in one of their stores and give the customers a few business cards which are actually coupons for $3.00 off the purchase. Rather than just handing out the cards, he invites the customer to have a cup of coffee with him at the coffee shop located in the store. Over coffee, he learns a lot about the customer’s experience, needs and wants. Each time the shopper feels important and flattered, usually relaying the story to others and making that store the preferred place for groceries. It is now a relationship with not only the CEO but, more importantly, with the company.
- REI engages their customers in a 360 degree relationship experience that creates loyalty and sales. The company excites the experience of the enthusiast through the dreamers with expertise, quality and branding of a lifestyle and adventure. The value component is driven not only through a product selection that aligns with their mission, but also with giving customers the opportunity to actually participate in the company. It is hard to be a great relationship company if your employees are not a part of the relationship formula. The company is rated as one of the 100 best places to work by Fortune Magazine.
Even in the most automated supply chain sales processes, it all starts with a business relationship. The business relationships built in our companies, through our companies and because of our companies are assets that must be protected, nurtured and grown. Relationships should be enhanced rather than managed through databases, CRM systems and data mining. The vibrancy and value of these databases come through the actual touches with the customer not the listing of their data.
Newer technologies now begin to factor in behavioral patterns that indicate the propensity to purchase a product or service, and may even offer it automatically. The customer who buys as a result may purchase one time but will evaluate the experience on the basis of that one transaction. If the experience is favorable, they may buy again, but may not explore other company offerings without more interaction. Expansion of the customer’s experience and ultimately purchases comes through developing a relationship, which in almost all cases requires interaction between people and developed by people.
We are seeing more companies take advantage of live chats as a way of facilitating the communications and building relationships. Some augment that with text messages, social media exchanges and other vehicles of engagement and interaction. All of these build relationships and require interaction.
The Loving and Business series blog has taken a look at people, practices and behaviors profiling loving and business throughout February. All of these point back to relationships being the heart of business.