In fat or lean times, the greatest way to build business and strengthen relationships is to become the best option for your customers. Consistency and responsiveness are paramount to becoming the best option. The foundation to this can be achieved in a few simple ways:
1. Don’t rely on voice mail or automated menus—avoid them whenever possible. You can’t build relationships by having your customers talk to a machine; people want to know they have been heard. Customers need to feel they are important.
2. Be consistent in pricing—your prices don’t always have to be lower than the competition, but the price should match the value.
3. Understand your customers enough to know what a proper response time is, and be consistent in reducing yours. Whether a proper response time is seconds or hours, never delay communicating with your customers.
When building relationships, being able to say: "We are going to be the most responsive organization you will work with"—and then proving it goes a long way. When "I hear you" is coupled with "You hear me," then "I like you" can turn into "We like each other." That sounds like a relationship to me.
Joseph Gabriel Founder and CEO Southern Computer Warehouse Marietta, Ga.