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3 Old School Tips to Drive Customer Relationships


Maintaining a successful business in today’s ever-changing consumer landscape is hard enough without also having to face the challenges brought on by the economy and the state of the world, but the secret to success always lies in relationships.


For Brian and Jennifer Telford, Huntington Learning Center franchisees who signed on in March 2020, they had to find a strategy that worked for them and their business to drive customer relationships during a time where building customer relationships in person was not an option. Their tutoring and test prep business went online, creating an environment where they had to adapt and find new strategies for increasing their customer base and maintaining strong relationships with their existing customers as they kickstarted their entrepreneurial journey.



The tips below are meant to encourage entrepreneurs to self-audit their customer services practices – putting themselves in the customer’s shoes to observe feelings and emotions that arise from the customer service interaction, even when they can’t do so in person – and enact the tips to strength relationships that will grow bottom line results.

Humanize the Business


In an age of rapid technological innovation, it can be easy to forget about the importance of building meaningful relationships with customers. Customers aren’t just a number—they’re human, and you must balance human-relations as tech advances, even if your communication flow is virtual. One of the best ways to improve customer relationships is by actually speaking with your customers during/after key moments as a follow up, over the phone.


The Telfords run a tutoring and test prep business, so for them, that means meeting regularly with students’ parents to share progress and discuss key details, sharing any additional insight or reflections verbally with parents. This provides one extra step in building and facilitating their relationship with each customer, personalizing the experience in a way that will leave an impression on their customers who will then be more likely to recommend their business to others.


You shouldn’t just get in touch with customers during key customer satisfaction moments or when there are issues – instead, make it a habit to frequently check in via various mediums. This will help customers feel as though you are not just in touch when there is something wrong or you’re in need of something.


Taking extra steps to provide a service that goes beyond what the customer is expecting when they first engage with you will give you more credibility as a business that cares about their customers. Your existing and future customers will see a person behind the business rather than just a service or product.


Set the Right Expectations


One of the worst things that you can do in business is overpromise and underdeliver. Along with being confident, empathetic and authentic in your customer interactions, it’s important to maintain a transparent and honest exchange. Any assumption that a customer could make should be established and clarified from the very beginning in order to create a positive service experience.


For the Telfords, that looks like a thorough explanation of the process that they plan to follow throughout the students’ program with Huntington. The effort put into creating an individualized program for each student is not to go unnoticed or unexplained, and the Telfords set expectations early on for what the process will look like during a student’s time with them, providing progress reports throughout to match that initial strategy.


In service-oriented businesses, setting the right expectations early on is the best way to initiate a clear and transparent relationship with your customers. When expectations are continuously met, your customers will trust you more with their time and money, driving continued relationships with existing customers and opening up potential to create long-term relationships with new customers.


Engrain Yourself in the Community


Building customer relationships extends further than just solidifying existing customer relationships and relying on those to bring in new business. Building relationships with your community is a strong way to reach a new audience of consumers, furthering your business’ potential reach.


Saturate your business within the community through local partnerships, chamber and council involvement and prospective audience relations. The school districts around the Telford’s center were not open to businesses profiting off of their students and initially turned them away when they wanted to be more involved, but Jennifer persevered to network herself in. She met with PTO parents and booster club leaders, eventually allowing the business to become a resource and support system for four major high schools and extracurricular programs.


Additionally, look to areas in your community where you may be able to break ground into a new consumer base. For example, the Telfords looked beyond the traditional school districts to develop a clientele among the local homeschool community in their area. Do the research to find out where else in your community that you could be making an impression and building relationships both for your business and for supporting the area that you and your business hopes to thrive.


It may take a while to make a name for you and your business, but putting in the work allows the community to see your business in a new light and become more willing to support it.


Customer relationship building is an essential piece of successful business ownership, and sometimes it can take going back to the basics of communication, managing expectations, and community involvement to get your strategy in a good spot to drive results. When you’re faced with running a business during a challenging time, it will be these tried-and-true old school best practices that set the foundation to help guide your growth strategy.


For more information on Huntington Learning Center, visit or for franchise opportunities.