What kinds of relationships are you offering as part of your business? A $10-per-cut salon isn’t going to spend time and effort developing the kind of rapport that will keep the same customer coming back for years — it’s just not profitable. But a more luxurious salon, charging $150 for a cut and color, would benefit from developing much deeper relationships and maintaining a steady clientele.
The same thing is true for blue jeans and sneakers. A sporting goods store that sells thousands of pairs of jeans and shoes at razor-thin margins must work at the side of the communications spectrum that reaches tens of thousands of potential customers. But a store that sells very limited runs of name-brand athletic shoes aimed at collectors should work hard to maintain close relationships with that targeted customer base.
Long-term relationships can be built in hundreds of ways. A salon owner can give clients the ability to schedule appoinements through a secure web page, log customer preferences, send out appointment reminders, call to ask about customers that haven’t been in for a while, offer new product samples, train stylists on how to build relationships, give small gifts during the holiday season, reward customers who bring in their friends, and so on. The type of relationships you create with your customers can strongly influence the brand you create for your business. If long-term relationships are the key to your profitability, that part of your offering must be clearly communicated in your brand.
Babysitters, maids, personal assistants, stylists, personal shoppers, organizers, dog walkers, caterers and personal chefs — many of us have to hire help in one form or another at some point. But the prospect of interviewing, hiring, evaluating, instructing and retaining temporary assistants can be daunting, and we often don’t know whether we’ve selected the right people until the work has been completed. Once hired, we must keep tabs on the work being done to evaluate performance. Of course, issues arise — the babysitter comes down with a cold or we find out the dog walker spends most of her time sitting in the park and talking on the phone while the dogs are tied to a fence. Good relationships are hard to come by. And if we discover a problem, we have to go through the uncomfortable task of firing someone we’ve come to know.
Harry decided to solve this problem, aggregating the entire process and all of these complex interactions into a single relationship with his company — Harry’s Helpers.
- He created an online hub for all kinds of temporary help, offering prescreened service providers a place to present their qualifications.
- Harry made himself the contact person, rather than just create an online portal. If a difficulty arose — anything from a scheduling conflict to a helper who did not perform as advertised — Harry quickly found a new service provider to replace the first.
- Person-to-person contact became the focal point for Harry’s brand, as most online services of this type rely solely on user reviews, which some assume are untrustworthy.
- Instead, Harry made phone calls to get reviews on each person he recommended. If an employee didn’t meet his criteria he weeded them out, creating confidence for his customers.
- His customers were able to offer private reviews without worrying about publicly disparaging service providers. They were more likely to be honest with him and allowed him to rank helpers without creating resentment between providers and customers.
- Being listed with Harry also created a point of pride for service providers, for precisely this reason. This gave Harry access to all the best helpers in the area and simultaneously improved his reputation.
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