There's a reason long-distance relationships usually don't work. Although technology has made communication more available, there's no replacement for a casual or more serious conversation in person. It helps us to connect and understand each other's needs in a way that feels more personal. It is this connection that breeds customer loyalty and long-lasting relationships.
Last week, I was riding my bike, and had a pretty bad crash. I totaled my almost brand new Giro Ionos carbon reinforced helmet, which cost a small fortune and fit my head like a Mustang GT convertible fits a mid-life crisis.
When it comes to my bike, I don't make purchases online. I prefer face-to-face, relationship-based interaction to virtual shopping carts and user log-ins. So back to the bike shop I went, looking for repairs and a replacement helmet.
I walked into the shop, was greeted by name, offered a free crash inspection, and a sweet deal on a new helmet. Not to mention I was asked to recall the details of my crash. Will I keep going back? For sure. Will I recommend them to my friends? Most definitely. I will pick them over their national but absent competitors and online stores lacking a brick and mortar option any day.
I'm a local kind of gal. If I'm hungry, I pick a locally owned restaurant. I order my fruit and vegetables from a local organic delivery store, love the farmer's market in my neighborhood, and won't step foot in a Walmart.
What I value from these experiences and local presence is expertise, great service, and piece of mind that someone will pay attention to my individual needs. Not to mention feeling good from knowing that my support and patronage is helping to create jobs in my area.
Let's take the helmet scenario, for example. Had I purchased the helmet online from a company with no local presence and tried to return it, it would have gone differently. I would not have been given a discount, a free crash inspection, and I certainly wouldn't have been asked to tell my heroic crash story in detail or show my badge-of-courage bruise. Without the relationship built from face-to-face interaction, I would be nothing more than customer order #0042541.
When I think about my strongest candidate and client relationships, they are not the ones that occur from 3,000 miles away, but the ones happening in my backyard. Being close means being hands on, and being hands on requires face time.
Customers need to know that their needs will be met not only through the transactional process, but that they will continue indefinitely. They want availability and attention. They want trust. And they don't want to pick a long-distance relationship when they can have the real thing.