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create-customer-connectionsTip for Creating a Better Experience

This article may not fall under the category of customer service. But it is one of the strongest strategies or tactics you can use to connect with your customers. While interviewing owners of successful Ace Hardware stores for my newest book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about their charitable efforts.  This is a way for them to connect with their community on a deeper and more personal level. One of the keys to delivering great customer service and creating loyalty is building a relationship with the customer.  I’ve written about building rapport, communication techniques, managing first impressions, and many other topics.  There are dozens of these, and all are good and very important.  The idea of being charitable and giving back to the community as a relationship-building technique is another layer.  This connects with the customer at a deeper level, sometimes even an emotional level. Some Ace retailers will have food drives, put out charitable collection receptacles and contribute to the local sports clubs.  One of my favorite examples is how some retailers will allow kids’ teams and clubs to sell cookies and candy or have a bake sale in front of their stores on Saturday mornings.  By giving back to the community, at many different levels, the customers feel a connection and reciprocate with their business. Now you might think that one of the reasons a business like Ace Hardware is charitable is to get recognition and get more business from their customers.  And, you’re right. There is no doubt that recognition and goodwill are benefits to giving back to the community.  However, that’s not so bad. Rick Alspaugh from Kingwood, Texas, one of the Ace retailers I interviewed, uses most of his marketing budget for local charities and his community.  Everyone knows him.  He says there isn’t a Little League team, a bake sale, or a school or charitable event to which he doesn’t contribute.  His business is deeply interwoven into the community.  As much recognition as he may get, his customers receive just as much appreciation. Your business might not have a storefront that can handle a bake sale.  You may not be a “local business.”  You may not even be in retail.  But that doesn’t mean that the concept of giving back and building relationships with customers on a charitable level can’t work.  Many companies take their “giving back” strategy very seriously.  Just Google the phrase “charitable companies,” and you will be amazed at the number of great companies, like Ace Hardware, that are committed to giving back.  It builds a relationship with the community, helps with employee fulfillment and can create an emotional bond with customers.  And when the customer feels good about who they do business with, well that can only lead to a better customer experience, which can then lead to more business. Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at Connect with Shep on LinkedIn. (Copyright ©MMXIII, Shep Hyken)

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