Darold SauberWith numerous transformations affecting today’s beverage industry, it is easy to overlook one of the most critical components of successful business: basic customer relations.

Working in the Contract Manufacturing division of a national dairy cooperative, I have the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of companies, from national beverage distributors to small family-owned companies.

While the diversity of our customer relationships definitely keeps every day interesting, it does create some unique situations, such as when we find ourselves serving customers from competing companies. Considering that some of our clients have invested their entire life savings into their businesses, it’s understandable that their trust may be hard to win.

Regardless of the client’s size or scope of their business, we work to develop solid relationships with our customers that are built on a foundation of confidence. We do this through ongoing communication, active collaboration and an unyielding focus on quality.

Frequent and active communication sets us up to consistently meet (and, we hope, exceed) their expectations. We clearly define expectations from the outset — everything from production timelines to whether the customer prefers to hear from us through phone or email. When questions or problems arise, we address them proactively. Above all, we work to be transparent in our communication so everyone involved has a clear and consistent understanding of the details of our partnership.

For us, communication is more than a give and take of information. We thrive on collaborative exchanges, in which together we are shaping a strategy that best positions our customer’s product for success. Combining our customers’ ideas with our development team’s expertise can be a powerful experience.

But that collaboration can only exist when we have invested the time to communicate thoroughly and openly and develop a trusting relationship. A strong commitment to quality is also integral to developing solid customer relationships.

Certain quality standards go without saying in our business — or at least, they should. Delivering a product to specification, in accordance with state and federal regulations that meet all applicable standards is the baseline. But from a customer relations standpoint, quality has to mean something more.

There’s quality in the interaction with your staff, for example. Employees who positively represent your organization conduct themselves ethically and honestly, ensuring your customers a positive experience every time they interact with your business. With this, each interaction helps to reinforce confidence in the quality products you can deliver and cement a foundation of trust you’ve worked hard to develop.

Quality experiences are key to gaining your customers’ trust, and ultimately, their repeat business.

 We cannot be successful without our customers. Certainly, we must be positioned to provide them unparalleled quality and reliable service at a competitive price. But most importantly, we have to keep the relationships at the forefront and challenge ourselves to earn our customers’ business every single day.