Customer Connection: Building a Long-Term Relationship

Connecting with customers is more than just communication. Connecting is a strategic effort to create relationships beyond the initial transaction. It involves communication, but it is so much more.

Why is connecting important? Because connected customers tend to become repeat customers, and repeat customers are vital to business success. Also, it is less expensive, and therefore more profitable, to KEEP a customer than to create a new one. Connected customers may not need to be enticed to come back, they come back because they want to. They may make more frequent purchases and become advocates for your business.

Connection is a two-way street. Both parties, you and your customer, have different perspectives and different needs. You each seek something and you both have something to give.

What do you want from a customer relationship?

  • A sale, reasonable profit, loyalty and referrals. 

What about your customers? What do they seek from you?

  • Quality/value, honesty, information and support.

If your business provides what the customer wants, it is far more likely the customer will give you what you want. 

Initiate

The customer connection begins even before your first personal interaction. The image of your business plays a role in how you are initially perceived. If you present your business as friendly, knowledgeable, trustworthy and providing value, then the customer will come to you expecting a positive experience. Your website, advertising and social media presence all have an impact on your image and customer expectations.

The first actual meeting, the initial in-person selling experience, is an important factor in customer loyalty. This is where the connection begins, so it is essential to provide a great experience wherever that first encounter takes place: in the home, at a trade show or on the phone.

The key to a successful initial meeting is listening. Ask questions, get to know the customer and find out their actual need, not just what they are looking to purchase. Their need is why your business exists, so meeting that need within their budget and to their satisfaction is essential for sales success. Remember that consumers typically want options, both in product choice and payment options. In your discussion, help the customer avoid potential problems, provide value and assure them of support after the sale. And, make sure they do a fair share of the talking.

This first encounter sets the stage for future interactions, so it is important to establish trust. If they trust you, they could be more likely to buy from you and perhaps become a repeat customer. They may also provide their contact information, which is extremely valuable in establishing a connection.

Communicate

If they are willing to share their contact information, then you can begin to communicate with them on an ongoing basis. It is important that you do not abuse this privilege. Overcommunicating is a turn off and can kill the connection. When you communicate, here are three things to remember:

• Provide useful information – a special sale or discount, new product offering, seminar or something else of real value to the customer.

• Make it personal – use their name and pronouns such as “you” and “I.” Write as if you are writing to a friend, and keep it brief. And remember to acknowledge their birthday, purchase anniversary and other milestone dates.

• Online communication can be an effective way to connect with your customers – although which channel may depend on the age demographic. Younger consumers may prefer Instagram or a text, while older customers make prefer traditional email or Facebook.

Responding to customers is a powerful connectivity tool, too. If they reach out to you with a question or complaint, get back to them right away, the sooner the better. A same-day response is best, but certainly within 48 hours. In the customer’s mind, the swiftness of your reply reveals the value you place on their business.

Educate

You are an expert in your business. You know more about your products than anyone (or you should). Customers look to you for answers. Become their trusted advisor. But also beware; make sure you know the correct information. Make sure you’re up-to-date on all the latest industry innovations, trends and local news.

You can become a trusted advisor by sponsoring or participating in events. Host seminars or webinars. Become a media contact for your area of expertise. Use social media to create friend groups relevant to your business. The goal is to make your business a hub of information and activity for your area of expertise. This will encourage customers to value their connection with you.

Validate

It is great to feel appreciated. Show your customers their value by reinforcing their behavior through connectivity.

Service after the sale is a great way to connect with customers and make them feel appreciated. Any time you can solve a problem or make something right for a customer, do so, even if it doesn’t make complete financial sense for you. Going out of your way to make a customer happy can reap significant rewards for your business. Your customers will feel special, it adds value to the purchase and it enhances your reputation for honesty and integrity.

Commit

Connecting with customers is not a campaign, it is a commitment. It is a business philosophy that impacts every aspect of your organization every day. Consumers are always looking for businesses they can trust. Earn their trust in that initial visit then grow it through strategic and consistent communication. Stay connected and you will make customers for life.

Synchrony (NYSE: SYF) is a premier consumer financial services company delivering customized financing programs across key industries including retail, health, auto, travel and home, along with award-winning consumer banking products. With more than $140 billion in sales financed and 80.3 million active accounts, Synchrony brings deep industry expertise, actionable data insights, innovative solutions and differentiated digital experiences to improve the success of every business we serve and the quality of each life we touch.

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Snowstorm in the Gym

I was recently introduced to Mike Pickel, co-founder of Texas Traditions Roofing in Georgetown, Texas. We were busy preparing case studies for our education issue, so I asked him if he’d worked on any interesting school projects lately. He replied, “Well, I did just get a call about a snowstorm in the gym.”

It took a second to wrap my head around that statement. A snowstorm. In the gym. In July. In Texas.

Now, that got my attention. I must admit, that wasn’t at all what I was thinking about when I asked about projects for our education issue. Our case studies usually put the spotlight on marquee projects like the new basketball arena at Ole Miss or the new indoor football practice facility at Liberty University covered in this issue. We were also following stories about a metal roof on a new construction project in Texas, a large hot-mopped modified bitumen re-roofing project in New Jersey, and a solar installation on a school in North Carolina.

But a snowstorm in the gym—I had to hear more about that. Talking with Mike Pickel reminded me that trophy projects are one thing, but there are a lot of less glamorous but no less important tasks that can make up the typical day in the life of a roofing contractor.

Texas Traditions had helped out at Summit Christian Academy in Cedar Park, Texas, before, solving some tricky leaks in the mechanical wells over the classrooms that had puzzled other contractors for years. “They started saying we were miracle workers,” Pickel recalls. “I said, ‘No, we’re just roofers, ma’am.’ But they just loved us from that day forward.”

So, it was natural that school administrators called Texas Traditions when an unusual problem revealed itself in the gym. “They called us and said, ‘We’ve got a problem out here. We don’t know what’s going on. It looks like it’s snowing in the gym.’”

Pickel doubted it was a roof leak, but he went out and took a look. “It did look just like snow,” he says.

Luckily, Pickel had seen this once before. Years ago, he had a residential customer with the same problem—army ants. “Sure enough, army ants were up there just eating away at that iso, and it was falling down like snow through any crevices or cracks.”

Working with the private school to handle small problems is just part of the job, notes Pickel. So is helping administrators manage their budget to prepare for necessary re-roofing projects. “In some cases, we have to patch these roofs and nurse them along until they have the money for a roof replacement,” he says. “You do what you have to do to help a client. So, now we’re a pest control guy as well.”

Replacing a roof is something building owners might do just once in their lives, so explaining what’s involved is critical, notes Pickel. “You’ve got to educate the owner,” he says. “You’ve got to go out and craft a custom solution for each client. That’s what we tell our residential roof advisors all the time: Stop selling and listen to the client. That’s key for us. We excel at listening to the client and problem solving.”

Listen to clients and come up with a plan to meet their specific needs. That’s great advice no matter what line of work you’re in.

MBCI Appoints Viechnicki President, Green Vice President of Sales

Joel Viechnicki is appointed president of MBCI.

Joel Viechnicki is appointed president of MBCI.

MBCI has announced that Joel Viechnicki will succeed Bill Coleman as president of NCI Building System’s Components group. In this position, Joel will serve as president of MBCI, in addition to overseeing the commercial organizations of American Building Components, DBCI and Metal Depots.

In an effort to further improve collaboration and operations across the NCI family, Bill Coleman has accepted the position of president of NCI Building System’s Buildings group.

Joel has 25 years of experience in the metal building components industry, and most recently served in dual roles as vice president of MBCI and president of American Building Components (ABC). He began his tenure in 1993 and has worked in various progressive positions across both MBCI and ABC since.

“I have worked side-by-side with Joel for many years and have confidence that he will fulfill our brand promise to our customers and drive the organization,” says Bill Coleman.

Bill Coleman accepts the position of president of the NCI Building System's Buildings group.

Bill Coleman accepts the position of president of the NCI Building System’s Buildings group.

Additionally, Bruce Green has been appointed to the position of vice president of sales for MBCI. Bruce began his career with MBCI in 1989. He has grown within the sales organization, most recently serving as general manager of sales for the South Central Region.

“Bruce has demonstrated our values in his leadership, dedication and commitment to providing quality customer experiences,” says Coleman.

He concludes, “MBCI invests in creating relationships with our customers. Our commitment to serving you is in every aspect of our organization. This is our true differentiator, and while our leaders may change over time, that will remain constant.”

CertainTeed Gypsum Receives Award for Customer Service from Do it Best Corp.

CertainTeed Gypsum was rewarded for its perpetual commitment to excellence in customer service by Do it Best Corp., a home improvement industry co-op. Do it Best Corp. named the Gypsum division the 2015 Building Materials Vendor of the Year at its annual Member and Vendor Excellence Awards in Indianapolis. The ceremony recognizes outstanding performance among Do it Best vendors based on four criteria: product quality, service level, sales growth and sales/customer service.

CertainTeed Gypsum stood out this year for the high level of support it gives Do it Best member-owners through competitive pricing, enhanced programming and improved market specials offered throughout the year.

“At Do it Best Corp., our number one goal is helping our members grow and achieve their dreams,” says Joe Corah, divisional manager for building materials sales at Do it Best Corp. “CertainTeed Gypsum has been a highly effective partner in pursuing that goal as we work together to strengthen independent dealers across the country with top-notch programs and services.”

CertainTeed Corp.’s gypsum product division was first awarded Vendor of the Year in 2013 when its scored high marks in the areas of inside and field sales staff support, quality products and accurate invoicing. The product division has continued to excel in these areas, proving its commitment to Do it Best Corp. and its members.

“We are honored to receive our second Vendor of the Year award from Do it Best Corp., especially because of what it represents,” says Dave Engelhardt, president of CertainTeed Gypsum. “Maintaining strong customer relationships is just as vital to us as manufacturing innovative, high-quality products, and this award is evidence of our commitment to our valued distribution partners.”

Atlas Roofing’s Redesigned Website Provides Better Contractor Assistance

Atlas Roofing unveiled a redesign of its website recently. An improved visual design and upgraded functionality combine to deliver a best-in-class online information and contractor assistance portal. The website redesign continues Atlas Roofing’s tradition of delivering a superior customer service experience and implementing technical advancements to better serve their markets.

The new website design offers users an enhanced online experience with efficient navigation, fast access to product information and technical updates to ensure accessibility for as many visitors as possible. Contractors will have continued access to Atlas’ popular selection of apps and online tools:

    • Atlas ProApp
    • Atlas DOCS
    • Atlas Signature Select Roofing System
    • Atlas Select Your Roof App
    • Atlas Shingle Visualizer

“Consumers in general rely on the internet as an important buying-decision tool,” says Brian Short, business unit manager at Atlas. “The website redesign gives residential contractors an always-accessible resource to assist with marketing, sales and customer service.”

Atlas consistently offers residential roofing contractors web-based solutions to augment traditional business development resources. Atlas online tools and apps, such as ProAPP, Atlas Docs and the Atlas Signature Select program, provide everything a roofing contractor needs to run a professional business. By offering contractors mobile-ready solutions, the manufacturer meets the needs of an industry that conducts much of its business in the field.

In accordance with the company’s core commitment to customer service, users can continue to complete warranty registrations via the Atlas website at their convenience. Online warranty registration provides a more efficient and documented process that takes less time to complete.

As an information portal, the newly redesigned website offers industry resources and product details. Atlas intends to do more than simply sell or market products, the company wants to assist visitors with increasing their roofing IQ. From common roof problems, to energy conservation, to various building code standards, the site offers a complete roofing library.

Union Corrugating Focuses on Customer Service

Union Corrugating Inc. has been a metal roofing manufacturer for more than 60 years, creating a brand that brings commercial and residential material excellence to the industry. CEO Keith Medick, who joined Union in mid-2013, has set his sights on being the best in another aspect of the company: service. “Our customer service record is a good one, but I’d like to make sure we’re doing everything we can,” says Medick. “Our team is currently working on ways to elevate what we can do from a service perspective to give our customers what they deserve, which is an A+ experience from the first phone call to final delivery.”

The recent launch of the Union Corrugating MyMetalRoof iPad App was one of the stepping stones to the A+ experience that Medick talked about, providing customers with a visualization tool that has the ability to see what a metal roof looks like on their application. “We are continually looking at these types of innovations to move us forward with what we can offer our customers,” said Medick.

Union Corrugating’s contractor team will continue to have Union’s MetalPro training classes offered to them. MetalPro helps both new and experienced metal roofing contractors refine their skills and stay up to date on the latest installation procedures. A proven program, it has become the #1 factory trained residential metal roofing contractor network in America. “MetalPro helps lay the foundation for that A+ experience. Metal roofing is the best technology out there, but if it’s not installed correctly, the homeowner will be disappointed. We won’t let that happen,” said Medick.

“Our employees are some of the nicest, most reliable and most ethical folks around, coupled with their ability and aptitude to deliver quality product on-time, complete, and with a smile,” said Medick. “Our goal of being a world-class company is a heartbeat away, and we are all committed to what it takes to make that happen. We believe our service strategy will see that come to fruition.”