Customer Relations

by Roisin Murray & Wallace Murray

Introduction

Business success is based on a quality product or service, supported by effective business systems.

These do not guarantee success, however.

Customer relations can make or break a business.

Example

Ratner’s Jewellers

Ask Gerald Ratner what happened to his family jewellery firm after he joked that their merchandise was ‘crap’.

The Ratner name was once a fixture on British high streets, underpinning a nationwide chain of cut-price jewellers. But Mr Ratner effectively killed the company in 1991 with a speech to the Institute of Directors, when he joked that one of his firm’s products was ‘total crap’, and boasted that some of its earrings were ‘cheaper than a prawn sandwich’.

The speech, instantly seized upon by the media, wiped an estimated £500m from the value of the company. Mr Ratner left the firm the following year, and his name was expunged from the company in 1994.

Developing excellent customer relations can

  • Increase the customer base
  • Build customer and staff loyalty
  • Maximise the return on sales effort
  • Enhance the bottom line
  • Build long-term success
  • Enhance the organisation’s reputation.

To encourage effective human interaction, organisations need systems and procedures to

  • Encourage a culture that nurtures customer relationships
  • Value, develop and encourage staff
  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Deal with product issues
  • Turn complaints into catalysts for change
  • Address the real problem, not the symptom
  • Measure things that will enable progress
  • Develop systems that benefit the customer
  • Understand what customers want and think of the organisation
  • Keep ahead of the game.

Excellent customer relations are also beneficial for you as an individual. They can improve your quality of life at work; just ask anyone who works in a call centre. Research suggests that good relations with customers improve job satisfaction. That applies to employees across industrial sectors, whether or not they deal directly with customers.

Every single thing anyone in the organisation does will tend to turn customers into either your ambassadors or your critics.

That last sentence bears repeating because it is so fundamentally important.

Fact

Every single thing anyone in the organisation does will tend to turn customers into either your ambassadors or your critics.

You may not think a customer can see or hear you. They might – or they might hear about it.

So do whatever you can to keep customers coming back, buying, or using your service more, and recommending you to anyone they know.

Key tip

It’s not just about getting it right – it’s about getting it better.

Achieving excellent customer relations is a journey, not a destination. Despite that, the steps have no pre-set sequence. Start from wherever you are now. You may not feel able to influence all aspects of customer relations. Simply aim to influence what you can and tackle any issues in the best order you can, in your circumstances. The main thing is to cover all the angles at some point.