Former marketing and sales professional, turned college professor Robert Bergman believes that certain tried and true principles of good personal relationships can be carried over into establishing, maintaining and enhancing customer relationships.

Bergman, director of social media marketing and a marketing professor in the College of Business at Lewis University near Chicago, schooled a group of nearly 100 marketing and sales professionals on the “15 Elements of a Great Relationship” on Monday at the CRM Evolution 2015 conference held in New York City's Marriott Marquis. The conference ran from Monday, Aug. 17 through Wednesday, Aug. 19.

A direct correlation can be made between what makes great personal relationships work and what makes great relations between businesses and consumers. Bergman described what he termed the “nucleus” of all marketing strategies: “Everything in marketing revolves around satisfying the needs, wants and desires of your target audience.” He continued, “That is what it is all about. It is not about satisfying my needs, it is satisfying their needs.”

He told the attendees that the marketing message, the product description, the pricing, the color, etc., “has to be in the context of the (target) audience and fully relatable so that they can understand what you are trying to convey to them.”

15 Elements to a Great Customer Relationship

Bergman cited 15 elements critical for businesses to attract and maintain great consumer relationships — all based on catering to the customer’s wishes. He said marketing and sales professionals and their respective products and services should embrace these principles to create successful and rewarding relationships:

  1. Open, honest, frequent communication
  2. Trust and honesty
  3. Loyalty and commitment
  4. Supportive of the relationship
  5. Understanding and forgiving
  6. Similar beliefs
  7. Be attractive to the viewer
  8. Treats you as an equal
  9. Makes you feel good
  10. Spends quality time with you
  11. Easy to deal with, easy to play with, easy to work with
  12. Looks out for the other person — caring
  13. Interested in getting to know you
  14. Does nice things for you
  15. Respects you, your time, and your money

Relationships Mean Never Saying You're Sorry

Bergman stressed that honest, full disclosure and even forgiving a consumer’s mistake and apologizing for your own mistakes are attractive to consumers.

Companies that forgive the mistakes and transgressions of their customers are more attractive than those that do not, he related. “Forgiveness is so important in a relationship because we all screw up. Companies do it all the time too …. The good will from a single bit of forgiveness creates more value for your organization than all of the fees and penalty revenue collected from a customer.”

Bergman, who spent 18 years in marketing, sales, business consulting and corporate training before turning to teaching, noted the tangible power that comes from a business apologizing to a customer for poor service or some other mistake. Bergman pointed to significant consumer research that indicates that most customers that have been wronged are not looking for money and compensation, but a sincere apology.

“The power of the apology significantly increases customer satisfaction and limits significantly the chance of lawsuits,” he said.

Another major takeaway from his often light-hearted presentation was that businesses must understand the customer’s reality and also find ways to make their experience pleasurable. All of the company’s messages should be attractive to the visitor. This goes for little details too, like having executives smile in their photos on the company website.

Fair, easy and reasonable policies that will not anger or frustrate your customers go a long way to enhancing customer relationships.

Bergman urged companies to apply his 15 elements at every point of contact with a customer, including the company or product’s website.

Customers should enjoy surfing your company’s website. “Every contact point should be an enjoyable experience… Every customer contact experience should make them feel good,” Bergman said.

During the question and answer session, Bergman addressed how a company can balance the problem of providing too much or too little information to the consumer.

His suggestion? Offer alternatives. For example, on the company website offer a full detailed product description or allow the consumer to select a shorter version of the more important elements of the product description.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  butupa