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Cultivating relationships helps business prosper

Two-thirds of clients go elsewhere because they don’t feel appreciated
By Chuck Gallozzi
March 10 2017 issue

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If we value our possessions, job, reputation or power more than our relationships, all will suffer. In fact, the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our relationships. You need to ask yourselves whether your relationships are strong enough to weather the storm of hard times.

In today’s competitive marketplace, solid relationships are far more than beneficial; they are the key to survival.

All businesses will lose some of their customers but, to keep the loss at a minimum, it is necessary to understand customer, client and prospect behaviour.

According to a well-known market research study, businesses lose customers for the following reasons: 1 per cent of them die; 3 per cent move to another location; 5 per cent switch their business to a friend; 9 per cent are “stolen” by a competitor; 14 per cent switch because of product quality or price; and 68 per cent end their relationship because they are not appreciated and respected.

Two out of three customers feel the company they dealt with was interested in their money and nothing else. From their vantage point, what good are the products, services and information offered if their questions go unanswered and their requests for help fall on deaf ears? As leadership expert John C. Maxwell put it, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

If you run a business and customers are not complaining, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are satisfied, for research reveals that 96 per cent of unhappy customers don’t complain; they simply do business elsewhere. Although they don’t complain to the business they’re unhappy about, most do to nine or 10 of their friends, who in turn pass it on to their friends.

When it comes to the 4 per cent of unhappy customers that do complain, 95 per cent of them will remain as customers if their problem is quickly resolved. What’s more, if they are impressed by how well you solved their problem, they will tell five of their friends. Compare this with satisfied customers who normally say nothing, or at best speak to one or two of their friends.

So you should never be afraid of problems, for they are blessings in disguise, providing you with the opportunity to prove yourself and win your client’s praise by coming to their rescue.

So how do you build better relationships? Here are some tips.

Accept people as they are, idiosyncrasies and all. Remember, it is our differences that make relationships interesting.

Successful business relationships are based on a win-win partnership. Always make sure that both parties equally benefit, for when they do, why would anyone want to end the relationship?

The people you deal with form a network. Get to know them, their needs and interests. Whenever you learn of something that will help one of them, immediately pass it on. By providing this service, you will become a valuable resource that no one will want to part from.

Although your aim is to become a valuable resource for members of your network, don’t forget that they, too, can prove to be a significant resource for you. Tap into them from time to time to glean the latest information, tips, referrals and ideas that can help you. This practice will help strengthen your relationships, but don’t overdo it, lest you become a pest.

Become a master communicator. And the most important part of communication is listening. Of what value are all those good questions you’re asking if you’re not listening to the answers?

Don’t allow your relationships to grow lukewarm. Although it may not be necessary to contact some people more than once or twice a year, contact them more often than necessary just to say hello and keep the partnership warm.

Because of the Internet, we can now form relationships and conduct business without meeting in person. But, whenever possible, meet face-to-face, or the next best thing, communicate via Skype. We can never grow as intimate in e-mail as we can in face-to-face meetings. Why? Because 90 per cent of communication is conveyed via vocal tonality and body language.

Before trying to sell your ideas, do some research. Nothing is more frustrating to a prospect than being cornered and forced to listen to a sales pitch that they have no interest in. That’s why asking questions and listening is so important. We build relationships by serving others, not by boring them.

Major factors for effective relationships are trustworthiness, consistency and sincerity. Regularly display genuine interest in others and take the time to follow up and get better acquainted.

And when building a relationship, ask plenty of questions. What are their needs and aspirations? What problems are they dealing with? What are their strengths? What are they interested in? And when sharing your ideas, immediately get them involved by asking a question everyone loves, “What do you think?”

When working with clients, get to know as many people in the organization as possible, not only the boss, but the assistant, secretary and staff receptionist. One day they may become a valuable ally or useful resource.

Keep your network informed of changes in procedure, changes in your position and responsibilities, and ask about any changes taking place at their end.

When speaking face-to-face or on the phone, your enthusiasm can be contagious, but it must be contained because you have to respect the tight schedules your clients are working with. Don’t take up more of their time than necessary. On the other hand, if a client wishes to speak and you cut them short, your behaviour will be considered curt and abrasive. So, if you don’t have the time, explain why very politely.

Don’t take your relationships for granted. Express your appreciation for their business and ask if there are any ways you can improve. Treat them as a valued team member and welcome their input. Their suggestions may nip in the bud any potential problems and prevent a future rift.

Always remember to give back. If you have been helped along the way, received advice and favours, do the same for others. Relationships are for mutual growth and gain; so do your part. Share your knowledge, experience and advice while encouraging those who have yet to reach your level of success.

Be willing to reach out and go the extra distance. If you are actively building relationships, don’t expect everyone to come to you; be willing to meet them on their home ground. But don’t waste their time. First do research and make sure both of you will benefit by forming a relationship. If you can clearly present a win-win situation, the likelihood of success will be that much greater.

Whenever you attend a social event, be sure to mingle. You will never know in advance which of the attendees presents the greatest opportunities. It may be the first person you meet or it could be the last, so be sure to meet as many as possible. And don’t forget to get their contact information and follow up.

Now that you have some tips to work with, use them to make your relationships a growing part of your life; not a life of growing apart.

Chuck Gallozzi conducts seminars for CPA Ontario, founded and runs the Positive Thinkers Group, produces a biweekly newsletter available from, and lived, studied, and worked in Japan for 15 years, immersing himself in the wisdom of the Far East.

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