the ceo magazine, customer relations,
Scott Spector AIA, Principal, Spector Group

Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them. -- E. Edwards Deming

We all know the above quote rings true, however time-crunched CEO's and their senior management teams often fall into the trap of forgetting to nurture what's right there in front of them. This happens even more so if their industry is competitive and they spend a good deal of time chasing new business leads.

While expanding upon our client base is always a part of our business model, I strongly believe in the importance of building out existing relationships. It's not just me; data is there to support my take. Marketing Metrics estimates that the probability of selling to an existing client is 60 to 70 percent, while engaging a new prospect is 5 to 20 percent.

As the head of a commercial architecture firm, I know these statistics are more than just fancy numbers. We often design spaces for clients who plan to stay in an office for 10 to 15 years or more. Theoretically, we could do our work, close out the project and move on to the next one, but that's simply not smart business. Instead, we stay in touch with the tenant or landlord and follow up with them periodically to see how things are going. During those check-ins, we're often asked to assist our clients with small requests or to act as a sounding board. Perhaps they'd love our opinion on an aspect of their home renovation. Or they'd like to talk about their son's start-up business and need some referrals. Maybe their daughter has decided to major in architecture and they'd like to have her tour our office. That's where the relationship piece comes in.

No matter what line of business you're in, customer service is at the core. In my 20 years of running this firm, the numbers have told the story. An average of 35 to 45 percent of our project work has been generated from repeat business, referrals and expansions. As leases come to term, we're still top of mind. A foundation of trust in place. Not surprisingly, when we show up on the job, we often see members of the original team -- a real estate broker, an engineer, an attorney -- who share our philosophy and have been re-engaged to take on the next project with us.

Continuing relationships and staying in contact is not an extra; it's essential in today's challenging business landscape. Companies change and grow, and so do their needs. The firm that is present in good times and in bad is often the one that has the privilege of getting that all-important phone call or request for proposal. Receiving that call -- whether it's business or personal -- is a role no savvy business owner should take for granted.

About the Author:

Scott E. Spector, AIA, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 2,000 projects.


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