By Michael Gunther

Last week I had lunch with a friend of mine, Chris, the General Manager of our local Honda dealership. He told me they recently hired a new receptionist to begin answering the telephone with a live person, instead of the automated answering system. He said the response has been amazing. His customers have been commenting on the value of getting a real person to handle their requests, as well as what a great customer service experience this creates overall.

It made me ponder how many organizations have lost sight of building client relationships in their day to day interactions. In the vein of wanting to be more efficient and cutting overhead costs, organizations have been using technology to replace various customer service or relationship building experiences with their customers.

Think about it – when was the last time you actually spoke to someone at your bank? Between direct deposits, online banking and ATM’s, the cost saving systems have basically ended the majority of their personal relationships with clients.

This thought process had me wondering where else have organizations been breaking their bonds with customer relationships. Automated telephone systems are just one aspect (I had an experience recently where I was stuck in automated telephone system hell and after 20 minutes I still wasn’t able to get a live person. I ended my relationship with that business because of it.) Using email communications instead of face-to-face conversations and countless transactions via the internet, text messaging, etc. also weaken relationships with clients.

I’m not suggesting organizations should do away with some of the technological tools that streamline servicing clients, but I would recommend evaluating what you are doing to reestablish or enhance the relationships with your clients.

Here are some ideas:

•    Call your clients out of the blue. When was the last time you called a current or past client just to say hello and get reconnected? You will be surprised by your client’s response. I know our team tries to touch base with at least four different clients each month – it’s an easy goal to meet and creates phenomenal good will.

•    Have a live person answer your telephone. If you have an automated telephone answering system, switch to live people. The additional cost could be made up through improved customer service and a better connection with your clients.

•    Send video emails. If you can’t see someone – create a short video email to send to a client. It adds a whole different element in building your relationships.

•    Incorporate videos on your website. Have you added video client testimonials or employees videos on your website? These are great ways to instantly build relationships with potential clients.

•    Pick up the telephone vs. emailing a response. There are times when picking up the telephone just makes better sense. A quick five minute call can end numerous emails flying back and forth as well as providing you with an opportunity to reconnect with your client.

While none of these ideas are earth shattering, they are some basic ways to reconnect with your clients and continue building a strong relationship that will allow you to stand out from your competitors.

Bottom Line

Business is about relationships – so what are you going to do differently to improve the relationships within your organization? I encourage you to call, email me or visit my blog to share some of your ideas!

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