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7 Proven Strategies to Improve Customer Relationships for Brands, Wholesalers, and Distributors

July 25, 2018 By Stacey Woods

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Your relationships with your customers are one of the most invaluable aspects of your business. While it’s important to constantly generate new business, it can cost almost seven times more to acquire new customers than to keep and nurture your existing ones.

While we know it’s very important to retain our customers, it’s easier said than done. The average business loses about 20% of their customers annually simply by not attending to basic customer needs in the relationship.

Following are seven proven strategies backed by statistics that will help you to improve your customer relationships, and in turn see a positive impact on your business.

Build your KPIs around Customer Service

The impact of customer service in manufacturing and wholesale cannot be ignored. If you think about it, when a manufacturer loses a single distributor, they may lose millions of dollars and all of the customers that go along with them.

An effective means of improving your customer relationship is by revamping your customer service. Define and measure customer service KPIs that provide accountability and measurability -- company-wide -- to gain visibility into which areas of your business need improvement, and to compensate your employees according to their relative success.

Metrics such as time taken to fulfill quote requests, on-time delivery, order fill rate, frequency of customer visits and customer surveys, should be measured on a monthly basis, and their trends should be tracked and communicated internally. This will increase your company’s  customer-centricity and improve your customer relationships

According to a study from Deloitte, “confronted by low-cost competitors, the escalating complexity of their global supply chains, and ever-increasing customer demands, manufacturers ignoring the needs of the service business do so at their peril.” Deloitte found in this study that some of the best performing companies are generating 50% of their revenue from services compared to the average revenue generated from services at just 26%.

Encourage Proactivity

Being proactive when it comes to providing service to your B2B customers -- distributors, wholesalers, or retailers -- can make a big difference in their satisfaction level. Instead of waiting for your customers to contact you the instant they have a problem, anticipate these problems so you can eliminate them beforehand. As the old adage goes, you get what you give. If you expect to receive loyal customers in return, today your company must establish meaningful conversations with customers to ensure everything’s running smoothly.

Manufacturers should reach out to their B2B customers frequently to discuss sales performance by product, product feedback, consumer buying trends and more. To ensure that you plan and monitor customer outreach, make a note of it in your CRM or activity management app, so no client is left unattended.

Set the Bar High

The earlier you can set your client expectations, the better. One great method is by ‘under promising and over delivering’. For instance, in B2B sales, companies who consistently fulfill orders to their B2B customers on time set a standard for their service.

The moment you ‘under deliver’, that’s the experience your customers will remember. It’s essential you set the bar high from the beginning by showing exceptional service so this will stick with them throughout their time with your company.

Build Social Relationships

Do you know where your customers are hanging out? Chances are it’s online in the social sphere, so if you’re not taking advantage of all of the time they’re spending in front of their screens you’re missing out on a crucial part of this relationship. The majority of your customers are active on either Linkedin, Twitter, of Facebook (many all of the above), so focus on connecting with them where they’re already spending their time.

Use your company social media account to share with your customers valuable information in their field, trends that they may find interesting, share your thoughts on relevant topics, and make sure to engage with customers that give you comments and feedback. Relevant information that may be interesting to your customers could be case studies, reviews of new products, or new market trends.

Introduce a Frequent Communications Calendar

A rolling calendar of communications will make it very easy for you to set up reminders for all necessary forms of communication with your customers. It gets difficult to keep track of each client during their life cycle of doing business with you. It’s an essential part in building your customer relationship to keep this communication flowing and personal.

Send personal notes or cards when they’ve just signed up to say thank you, to offer a customer you haven’t done business with in a while a special offer, or to find out how your new line of products is being accepted by consumers. The time sensitivity of these communications makes them even more personal, allowing your customer to feel valued and important.

Run Relevant Promotions

You may or may not know, but 80% of your future revenue comes from just 20% of your current customers. If you have a significant portion of customers who have been inactive for a while, promotions have been proven a very successful way of reeling them back in and keeping them engaged with your business.

Loyalty programs can be a great way to encourage repeat business, but it’s not the only way re-engage your inactive customers. Special discounts are also effective, especially when personalized based upon buyer behavior. Offer your customers promotions based on previous purchases, holiday discounts, or new product introductions. The more personalized the offer, the more your customers will appreciate your customer intimacy.

Keep Everyone on the Same Page

Building and maintaining customer relationships requires that everyone remains on the same page. When you employ a sales automation platform for your sales reps, everyone remains up to date on the progress with customers so you don’t have to waste time back tracking, going through previous customer reports, flipping through files to find historical records, etc. The customer is also thrilled because you have instant access to previous interactions, and their sales order history to help guide their decisions.

Brammer, Europe’s leading distributor of industrial maintenance, repair and overhaul products and services, employs a mobile CRM platform from Pepperi for activity planning and monitoring. Pepperi has played a key role enabling Brammer’s distributed sales force and their management to collaboratively plan and keep track of their customer activities, interactions, and sales transactions.

Your relationship with your customers should be treated with the respect and nurture they need. We hope that these 7 customer-centric initiatives will prove useful to you as well. If you’ve come across other great initiatives to improve customer intimacy, please share with us all!