Relationships have been tested. Distancing guidelines and safety concerns have understandably made us a little more discerning about who we interact with. In many cases, only the highest priority connections are making the cut.
For businesses, relationships they’ve established with their customers are determining where they rank. Some sections of the marketplace – the hospitality industry, for example – have had their operations upended by ongoing mandates and guidelines. Those businesses are leaning especially hard on client relationships to not just survive during a turbulent time, but maybe even thrive.
Connections Turn Corners
John Thompson is the owner of Jet Setting Culinary Concepts, a BBB accredited hospitality consulting and planning business that operates out of Newcastle, Washington. Because Thompson’s operation prepares and delivers meal plans directly to residents’ homes, he knows that relationship-building is a prerequisite for success.
“When we develop relationships with our guests, we see things turn a corner,” says Thompson. “If you think about that family – magically transform yourself into their household and think about how they're going to be – then things become easy.”
But arriving at that point of ease and then staying there requires a solid sense of responsibility. For Thompson, crafting meals means catering not only to different taste preferences, but also adhering to any health considerations, both within and outside of a pandemic.
“We're making up to 80% of the food some of our clients consume in a month,” said Thompson. “We have a responsibility to ourselves and to our guests to protect their health and safety.”
That protection is often personal. It’s not unusual for Thompson to field calls or texts from guests after they’ve been to a doctor’s appointment resulting in some prescribed dietary changes. When that happens, he carefully reviews the doctor’s detailed instructions with the client and then creates a palatable meal plan that meets their updated needs.
Those conversations are reflective of a relationship with staying power. When customers feel like a business has their back, it’s a bonding opportunity. It’s creates conditions that bring trust into the dynamic.
“It's that relationship that keeps them coming back and staying with us,” said Thompson. “Even if a guest calls us at 10 o'clock at night with a question, they hang up feeling surer that they have a connection with someone who provides 50%-80% of the food they consume.”
Expert Relationship Advice
So, how can other small businesses develop customer connections Thompson’s? He passed along some relationship advice for other business owners looking to build a bond:
- Be real and reciprocate. “As a business owner you need to be as genuine, honest and open as they are. And we only promise what we can deliver. In fact, it is our intention to overdeliver on what we promise.”
- Aim to be desirable. Don’t be a demand. “We engage our customers so that we are not a necessity in their life; we are a want or desire in their life. We want customers to say, ‘Your customer service has been great. We love your personality. You guys are always prompt and on time.’”
- Get ready to grow. Together. “One of the only constants we can count on is that people will change. You will be different tomorrow than you are today. If we don't grow together, then, we will inevitably grow apart. So, be open and honest and genuine with each other about those changes and how they're affecting you.”
Learn more about how your business can build relationships with your customers.