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3 ways to build stronger customer engagement and retention

You became a business owner to earn a living. To do what you know how to do best, your way. To take care of your family (and maybe enjoy a nice vacation now and then). But it’s easy to get laser-focused on crunching numbers and forget that it’s people that make or break a business. And if you want stronger sales and better customer retention rates, you have to make fostering genuine engagement a priority. Here are three good places to start:

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1. Use your collection system to build relationships

One of the tasks business owners dread most is collecting overdue bills. It’s far too easy to think that if you just keep waiting, the debt will eventually get paid. But if you wait long enough, you’ll find yourself in crisis mode. Your next step might be to send the unpaid bill to a collection agency—but that’s the fastest way to destroy your relationship with a customer.

What you may not realize is that your collection system serves two equally important purposes: getting paid for the products or services you’ve provided and maintaining strong client relationships. Without both parts of the system functioning as intended, your business will suffer. You need customers to pay what they owe you, but if they don’t like how they’re treated in the collection process, they might settle their debt and then take their business elsewhere.

Your collection system should provide a consistent, low-stress and empathetic way to work with late-paying customers. It helps them get back on track while preserving and even strengthening your relationships with them; and it helps with your cash flow and profitability too.

2. Use your sales process to create connection

We call it the “sales process,” but the primary objective isn’t getting sales—it’s creating customers. When you have the right product for the right customer and follow a selling process that’s driven by the customer’s needs, a sale will be the inevitable result. Just having a good product or service isn’t enough. 

Businesses often think price is what matters most to potential customers. But the truth is that people make buying decisions for emotional reasons first and logic next. The one thing they’re always looking for is a relationship. That’s never been truer than it is right now.

If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re interacting with a prospect, they’re already interested in what you’re selling. The next step isn’t to convince them to hand over their credit card information. It’s to provide the logical and emotional support they need to be comfortable with their purchase decision. If your sales process focuses on showing customers that you care about their needs, they’ll be more likely to buy—and more likely to keep coming back for more.

3. Create a relationship-based company culture

You can’t create the illusion of relationships with your customers if you're lacking the reality of relationships with your employees. You need to always be looking for the intersection between the employees' needs and interests and the good of the company. You need to make space for your people to be open about their roles, responsibilities and goals.

By fostering relationships with your employees, you’ll help them develop in the ways that most interest and motivate them. They’ll then use these new strengths and capacities to help your business grow. Developing strong connections internally will bleed out into every other area of your business—and you’ll see it reflected in your sales. 

No matter how big your business gets, designing systems that are centered around building and maintaining solid relationships will lead to a happier, higher-performing workforce, stronger sales and better customer retention. If you need help identifying relationship-building opportunities in your small business, we'd love to talk.

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Jayne Speich

Written by Jayne Speich

Jayne is Chief Engagement Officer at EMyth. With a background in training, adult education and public policy, Jayne became an EMyth Coach in 2004. She’s passionate about supporting a diverse, community-centered economy through building the capacity of EMyth Coaches to help small businesses take root, grow and thrive.