Success in business is a byproduct of the relationships that are built within the organization itself, and ultimately with the customers that choose to point their purchasing power in your direction. When relationships are nurtured in a caring and consistent manner, they grow strong and the return on investment for everyone involved is high.
Think about the strong relationships you have in your life, the ones you enjoy, and repeatedly return to. They are meaningful simply because the experience is a consistently positive one. The same is true in business. When customers have a wonderful experience while engaging your business, they will think of you first, frequently purchase your products and/or services and they will spread the word by referring you to other potential consumers.
To illustrate how relationships in business can be both neglected and nurtured, and the effects of both choices, I will share with you two very different experiences I had with the same business over the past year.
I have been frequenting a local restaurant for years. Why? Because the experience has been consistently positive, pleasant and fulfilling. As a customer, the R.O.I. was high. About a year ago, Kellie and I visited this restaurant with the intention of having a wonderful evening out. However, this was not the case. While it wasn’t a terrible experience, we definitely did not feel cared for like we wanted and had grown accustomed to.
On this night, the food did not match their usual quality, and the service lacked the energy and high degree of caring we had come to know. It was as if our meals were thrown together without the attention to detail that normally goes into them. As a consumer, when you invest money to purchase a product or service you are looking for an experience that at least equals, and hopefully exceeds, your investment. When this does not happen, the business relationship is tarnished and sometimes permanently damaged in the mind of the consumer.
With only the desire to bring awareness to the situation, we contacted the owners the very next day and discovered that the head chef was not there at the time of our visit. Without his presence, quality oversight in the kitchen had been absent. They took responsibility for our poor experience, and reassured us that this was not their standard of business. We were asked to give them another try, and assured that our next visit would be on them.
In spite of our positive history with this restaurant, this one experience instilled a lack of desire or excitement on our part to go back again. It took a full year for us to return and take the owners up on their offer.
I am glad we did! Throughout our entire experience we were treated very well indeed. Our waiter was amazing, as were the support staff and the owner himself, who visited our table at the completion of our meal to personally apologize for the past experience and hear our opinions of this one. The food was again, top notch. In addition, we did not pick up on any negativity coming from the ownership and staff throughout our entire visit.
The owner kept his word regarding taking care of our meal, and he and his staff followed through on the promise that we would have a very different experience if we gave them another chance. The relationship was cared for and nurtured in this instance, and through the process, it was rebuilt. Kellie and I are now excited to return for another wonderful evening out at this establishment. And, because our confidence has been rebuilt in the entire organization due to the solid effort that was put forth, we now feel good again in referring the people we know to this restaurant.
This represents how, with integrity and constructive action, even a damaged relationship with a customer can be rebuilt.
It is important to understand that if your relationships with your customers are neglected, they are likely to stop doing business with you, and they won’t be giving other consumers positive recommendations. This is how businesses shoot themselves in the foot. Conversely, businesses that deliver a consistently positive and rewarding experience to their customers strengthen the shared relationship, and grow as a result. To put it another way, in order for you to increase your R.O.I., the customer must receive a high return on their investment with you.