Connecting to Establish Long-Lasting Customer Relationships

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June 8, 2020

Most businesses understand the importance of having a solid relationship with their customers. However, many do not realize it takes a lot more than just reliable service and reaching out with business offerings in order to establish a loyal and long-lasting relationship. People want and need a more genuine and altruistic connection. According to a Cone Communications Social Impact Study, an estimated 82 percent of U.S. consumers consider community involvement when deciding where to spend money for a product or service. In other words, customers are more loyal to firms that they know are doing good and giving back.

Given our current reality navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital for pest control companies to be active and visible partners in their communities. It’s an opportunity to help people in their time of need — to be a resource of information and a source of support. During times of crisis, the community notices and remembers the businesses and individuals that step up and do their part.

To help establish long-lasting customer relationships for your business, consider ways to get involved in the local community, the importance of integrating corporate social responsibility into company policy and how to effectively communicate with your community in good times — and also in times of crisis.

WAYS TO GET INVOLVED. Being an active member of the community is an easy way to make a genuine connection between your business and its customers. It also increases name recognition for your company within the community. Simply put, the more you do for the public, the better they get to know your business and its values.

According to the marketing research company Mintel, 84 percent of consumers feel it’s important that a company support charitable causes. There are many effective ways to incorporate charitable giving into your own organization. From sponsoring a local sports team to partnering with nonprofits in the community, from giving back to families in need to getting involved in local schools, companies need only think of the causes and organizations close to them and brainstorm ways they can help. If you are struggling to come up with the right fit, consider polling your employees. Chances are your employees’ preferences may coincide with those of your customers. Even better, if your employees are passionate about the charitable work you are doing as a company, they are more likely to help you spread the word about your work.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CSR. Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is a broad concept that encompasses many different definitions, but according to Forbes magazine, it is when companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations. This can be anything from pledging to reduce the company’s environmental impact by a certain percent over time or giving a percentage of each sale to charity. It also includes the popular “one-for-one” business model, essentially, “I buy one, they give one,” a strategy within CSR that is easy for consumers to understand and see, making it easy to understand and connect with the organization’s social impact.

There are plenty of benefits to businesses implementing a CSR strategy. According to Digital.com, small businesses that practice CSR receive three key benefits. First, CSR initiatives lead to more sales because local media are interested in and cover companies doing good in their communities, which potential customers will then see. Second, employees are happier because they feel they have more of an impact when their work is giving back to a cause or serving a purpose. And finally, small companies that implement CSR stand out from competing companies that do not share such a commitment.

CSR may seem like something that only large corporations can successfully implement, but there are plenty of ways for small businesses to incorporate CSR components. A few ideas include giving a portion of each sale to a local charity or cause, devoting one day each year to a local community clean up, practicing sustainability and energy-saving efforts in the office, or matching charitable donations that your employees raise.

COMMUNICATING WITH COMMUNITies. In addition to actively giving back to the local community, it’s equally as important to be in consistent communication with customers. Regular outreach lets your customers know what your business is currently engaged in and what causes it is supporting.

There are plenty of ways to keep this direct line of communication open with the community. A weekly or monthly newsletter is a great tool to keep customers abreast on what the business is doing, such as local charity events you support, or how the local team you sponsor is doing this season. Social media is also a useful tool. Actively posting about the community events, charities, etc., your business is supporting on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms lets your followers know what your business is doing for the community and raises awareness for these important causes.

DURING TIMES OF CRISIS. Being an active member of the community is especially critical during times of crisis and uncertainty, as with the COVID-19 pandemic. When unexpected events like this occur, it is important to reach out to the community and identify the ways your business can help.

During the early days of coronavirus impacting the U.S., we saw companies and organizations step up in ways big and small. From donating to charities and organizations helping the frontline workers, medical professionals and other small businesses to converting manufacturing operations to make entirely new product lines, consumers were inundated with stories about companies doing good. The common thread in these positive stories? The companies were taking swift action because it was the right thing to do. They needed to have a purpose and do their part. Their genuine, giving spirit shone through and they didn’t appear self-serving or overtly opportunistic. As you consider your role in any crisis, this should be your mantra — what’s right for my community?

When donating time, resources or money during times of crisis, it’s not just the community you are helping. In a recent New York Times article, “The Science of Helping Out,” people cope best during a crisis when they are helping others. Taking action and offering support makes the giver feel a sense of purpose and can have a significant and positive impact on their own well-being. So, by lending a hand and reaching out to the community during unexpected and life-altering events such as COVID-19, you’re also helping yourself and your employees weather the crisis.

To avoid seeming insensitive or tone-deaf during times of crisis, be flexible in your messaging and offer advice to help make people’s lives easier during an especially difficult and unprecedented time. For example, rather than a hard sell on pest control services, giv- ing customers and homeowners useful pest- prevention tips to improve their quality of life while spending more time at home is a good way to support your customers without seeming self-serving. You also can organize efforts to donate money, food, time, services or even blood to have an immediate impact.

Establishing your business as an involved community partner provides a valuable opportunity to develop long-standing loyalty. By actively participating in and giving back to the community your business serves, regularly communicating with customers and creating a strong CSR mission, you will create positive and respectable brand recognition, thereby solidifying your position as an important business leader and pillar of the community.

Cindy Mannes is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance and vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association. For more about PPMA, visit www.npmapestworld.org/ppma.