Start improving your relationships

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Brandel

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Brandel

I walked into the bank the other day to deposit a check, and was greeted by the teller with great warmth and asked how things were going. My first thought was that she must greet everyone that way, probably as a requirement of her job, but then she spoke to me by name and asked how work was going. She remembered me, and that was a pleasant experience.

The amazing thing is that I don’t go in the bank all the often, maybe every couple of weeks to deposit a check. I do most of my banking online, and I don’t have a lot of complicated transactions or big banking demands. So there’s really no reason for me to stand out in this woman’s mind, which is why it was so surprising that she had taken the time to start building a relationship with me.

And you’d better believe I will continue using that bank and going to that particular branch, and I will certainly recommend it to others.

It got me to thinking about how important relationships are in business, and how we seem to be getting away from them. With everyone so busy and with internet, email and text transactions becoming so predominant, it’s not surprising. When you can buy tickets online, donate to your favorite charity, shop or look up information at any hour, who needs to speak to a person?

When I started bookselling at Borders years ago, part of what drew me was the culture of building relationships with our customers which led to recommending and handselling titles. I left when the culture changed to quotas and treating customers as numbers or dollar signs.

I work in a nonprofit now, and we are constantly building relationships with donors, volunteers, and supporters. But even there we are moving steadily toward online donation opportunities, email blasts and sign ups for volunteer through the internet. We need to still be mindful of the importance of that one-on-one interaction.

It’s not just in the business world that relationships are important. Engaging people at church is an important part of nurturing their spiritual life and helping them have a richer experience, not just for new members but for everyone. I’ve noticed that I start to feel disconnected when I just come for services, but when I rekindle my friendships even just a little bit, it sparks something in me and I leave with a different feeling of community.

Sure, it’s a lot harder to conscientiously make efforts to connect, but the payoffs are huge. Think along the lines of how loyal customers will purchase more often, trust your recommendations, and tell their friends how great your business is. It’s a win-win-win!

There’s still a place for things like the online sign ups or the email blast for quick information, but it should not replace personal interactions and relationship building in your business plan.

What are some ways you can start building better relationships with your customers or clients?