The following is a guest post.

Customers are key to running a successful business. Without a steady stream of satisfied customers, your start-up company is unlikely to make it through the first year, no matter how amazing your products or services are. But in order to successfully manage customer relationships, you need to remember that your customers are people rather than the means to an end.

1. Understand the Importance of a Great Customer Relationship

Your business is unique, so it is important to decide from the very beginning how you intend on interacting with your customers.

  • Is your relationship a direct one or a virtual one?
  • What demographic are you targeting?

The answers to these questions will help you work out the best way to build successful relationships with your customers.

2. Design a CRM Policy

Effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is very important when running a business. Unhappy customers tend to vote with their feet, so you need to have a comprehensive CRM policy in place from the very beginning. A CRM policy should include ways of developing detailed strategies on how the business should be:

  • Attracting new customers
  • Improving the customer experience
  • Retaining existing customers

3. Employ a Dedicated Customer Relationship Manager

A dedicated customer care manager will help to ensure all customer complaints are dealt with consistently and efficiently. Small companies may not feel they need to create such a role, but at the very least, give responsibility for customer care to one member of staff and make sure they have some kind of training in the art of customer service.

4. Encourage Customer Feedback

Customers need a place to vent their dissatisfaction. There are many companies out there offering live answering services for this very purpose. In fact, even something as simple as an e-mail feedback form could work. If you don’t provide a feedback outlet, you run the risk that irate customers will have a rant online instead.

5. Establish a Loyalty Scheme

A loyalty scheme is a useful way to encourage repeat business. A loyalty scheme helps customers to feel special and rewarded. This in turn will improve your relationship with them.

6. Take Advantage of Social Media

Social media can be a powerful tool if used correctly. Use social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter to establish a meaningful dialogue with your customers. Encourage customers to offer feedback online, recommend your brand, and share your posts with friends. You can also use social media to thank customers for their business.

7. Monitor Online Chatter

Social media websites are a great place to monitor what people are saying about your business. By keeping track of the online chatter you can hopefully address any problems before they snowball into a PR disaster. Use automated software to track specific keywords on Twitter or spend time on Facebook engaging in conversation with customers.

8. Encourage Word of Mouth Referrals

A strong customer relationship is more likely to lead to a word of mouth referral, so it is in your interests to encourage this. Always strive to meet customer expectations and include positive customer testimonials on your website and social media accounts. The more satisfied customers you have, the more likely people will remember your brand and recommend it to their peers.

9. Deal with Complaints Quickly and Courteously

It should go without saying that dealing with customer complaints efficiently and politely needs to be a priority at all times. Treat customer complaints as a way to improve your service rather than an irritation to be dealt with by someone else.

Customer satisfaction is important for every business but those who are new to the business world need to place a lot of importance on it.  How can you better manage your customer relationships?

Summary: A fundamental part of customer relationship management is learning how to listen to your customers. Successful start-up companies are the ones who listen to feedback and then adapt their service accordingly. Always strive to treat your customer with respect because earning their trust will help you earn their business.