> Psychology can tell us a lot about marketing. Such as this article in the December issue of Harvard Business Review: Making Relationships Work, A Conversation with Psychologist John M. Gottman by Diane Coutu.
Business/customer relationships are a lot like a marriage. Both parties have to agree to the union, both parties should be happy with the relationship, and both parties should want the bond to last a long time.
From Dr. Gottman’s study of marital relationships, I think we can learn some lessons on how to maintain long-term customer relationships.
ONE: Look for ways to accentuate the positive.
Say ‘yes’ as often as possible. This doesn’t mean there will never be disagreement. Gottman uses the metaphor of the saltshaker to dispense yeses. Instead of filling it with salt, you fill it with all the ways you can say yes.
That means knowing ahead of time what is OK to say yes to and then looking for ways to season the customer relationship. “Yes, we can order that product for you,” “Yes, that’s a great suggestion on our displays, I never thought about that.”
TWO: Create small moments of intimacy and attachment.
Gottman says that trivial moments provide opportunities for profound connection. Simple, personal conversations are important to personal bonds. Are your employees robots, or do they engage in conversation? Are you, personally, spending time in personal conversation with your customers?
See your customers as human beings or there will be no social glue. You can’t just look at customers as customers. They are not just a sale. Spend time with them and engage them in warm conversation.
THREE: Embrace your customers dreams.
John Moore, in his book Tribal Knowledge said that “Everyone aspires to live a certain lifestyle, but most times they settle for living a life below their aspirations.” People often use their shopping experiences as ways to dip their toe in a lifestyle they dream about.
Part of your job as a business is to help your customers experience a lifestyle they crave. Do you know your customers dreams?
Be on guard against these things to help relationships last.
Whether directly to their face or behind their back, don’t criticize customers, even subtly. Customers are not stupid, they did not make the wrong choice, and they are not being unreasonable. They are customers with whom you want a long relationship.
So what if you made a mistake or you are embarrassed by a detail you forgot. Don’t make excuses and don’t let your ego get in the way.
Don’t make it difficult for your customer to do business with you and don’t ever put them off.
This is the worst offense. It communicates disgust and destroys relationships. If you have contempt for your customers, you probably should not be in business. It’s time to find something else to do.
The antidote for contempt is fondness and admiration.
New vs. Long Term
Let’s face it. Forming a new relationship is a lot more fun and exciting, but keeping long-term relationships is more rewarding. That’s especially true for a business.
Many businesses are in a continuous search for new customers because they just don’t have enough repeat business. If that’s your situation, it’s time to take a look at your customer relationships.