Building relationships with your customers

In the early 1990s I received a call from the CEO of Borders Books wanting to talk about adding a small section of classical music to its stores. He believed that by adding music customers would increase the amount of time they spent in Borders stores. I immediately suggested that I pay him a visit.

As I flew from Sacramento, California to Ann Arbor, Michigan, I thought about what he was trying to accomplish. Not only was he really impressed that I would make the trip right away, but that I came with some ideas – which were different from his – and wasn’t shy about pitching them. As it turned out, that trip was the beginning of a huge deal for me and a new direction for Borders. Borders added a complete music section to its stores, and they became one of my largest customers.

My first instinct when dealing with customers – either new or current – is to show up. I believe a face-to-face meeting is the first step in building a relationship. By showing up I made the statement that I am interested and enthusiastic about having this person as a customer. Remember customers are judging you all the time, so you need to be looking at each situation from the customer’s point of view. I’ve learned that being involved with your customers will make a big impact on your business.

–Barney Cohen

President, Business 360 Northwest

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