Relationships. What do relationships mean to clients today? What do relationships mean to businesses? Is it something that focuses on driving the most traffic to your web site and getting clients to buy products or services? Or is it having a large number of followers or fans on Twitter and Facebook?
Building real relationships with clients and followers means different things to different businesses. The focus of building relationships and relationship stewarding is shifting in many directions. Some forget that there’s more to relationships than occasional Facebook and Twitter updates sent to fans and followers. Others rely too much on web presence and forget to exercise their people skills in person.
Dictionary.com puts it this way:
1. a connection, association, or involvement.
2. connection between persons by blood or marriage.
3. an emotional or other connection between people: the relationship between teachers and students.
Relationships are a unique connection between people. It is more than a monetary and business transaction. A relationship sets humans apart from other earthly creatures. The same goes for a business that reaches out to consumers to sell services or products. It is almost impossible to avoid relationships, regardless of how they are manifested.
So, relationships are harbored in a number of ways: in person, through websites, social media, e-mails and lots more. Clients tend to speak out their opinions on web and traditional mediums. Our job is to listen, understand, explain or even change our approach.
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are tools that help drive the communication. They help, NOT replace. It is by no means the only form of communication that yields lasting relationships. It is easy to get caught up in the sea of clients, followers, comments, complaints, suggestions but if we focus on building relationships and not tearing them down we can really hit a home run with our clients.
Here are some approaches to building and stewarding client relationships. Start as simple as listening. Listen. Don’t try to jump in the conversation forgetting your initial role. Continue with transparency- tell people what is actually going on, sugar coating might lead to more damage. Add corporate social responsibility, which means caring about the community, the environment and employees by acting for the benefit and not harm of others through company services and products. Insist on actually caring about clients by inspiring two-way communication that educates, encourages and morphs into lasting relationships.
What do client relationships look like for you?
How do you continue stewarding relationships when your main desire is to make a profit?
Here are some extra resources: