The Secret of Building Successful Business Relationships

Every business owner can tell you the importance of differentiating your business.

In social media circles, we talk about “building relationships” and “building trust.

We know doing those things will rock our business but we get stuck on the “how.” And execution is what really matters.

The one way sure way to do all of the above…. be a problem solver. If you improve one skill, resolve to do one thing or empower employees in one way, problem solving should be it.

Seems painfully obvious, doesn’t it? Yet a lack of problem-solving skills and initiative continues to be the single biggest customer service failure out there. And failing to help solve your customer’s problems, in turn, creates problems, for you AND them.

Every problem is the start of a story. Some are short, some long. Some difficult and some easy. All stories teach us lessons and give us experience. Step into that story with your customer and you’ll build a relationship with them. Fail to solve problems, and you’ll miss out on relationships, sales, referrals, and much more.

But problem-solving is about more than just reaching a solution. We can suggest alternatives, find new ways of doing things, educate each other on why the problem can’t be solved (rarely the case) or understand why the current path may not be the right one.

Why Aren’t More People Better Problem Solvers?

There are many reasons we’re not all good problem solvers. Here are 7 that quickly come to mind:

  • We put parameters on ourselves and aren’t comfortable stepping outside of them
  • Someone else (like an employer) puts parameters on us and we’re uncomfortable challenging that
  • We have the brain power but are either afraid or too lazy to use it
  • We don’t know the answer and freeze rather than stopping to think through alternatives
  • We haven’t developed the technique  don’t have the technical knowledge
  • We don’t have a process to solve problems
  • We’re not really interested in solving the problem. The “it’s not MY problem” syndrome.

In business, the biggest reason that people fail to be problem-solvers is that we don’t teach and empower them to be so.

Empower People to Solve Problems

Ever been on a phone call with tech support and you could tell the customer service rep was reading from a script and really didn’t have a clue what to do?

If I could encourage your business to do one thing to improve your customer experience it would be to empower your employees (all of them, not just call center/tech support) to solve problems for customers and provide them the skill set to do so. Your customers will appreciate it and will be far more forgiving of the times a problem can’t be resolved or is extremely difficult to fix.

By enabling them, your employees will become a relationship building extension of your business.

How To Solve Problems

While there is no one sure-fire way to solve all problems, the path is typically pretty similar.

  1. Identify The Problem
  2. Gather Information
  3. Determine Root Cause
  4. Investigate Possible Solutions
  5. Implement Best Solution
  6. Test to make sure you actually solved the problem it, if not go back to #4!

The hardest step is often #1 because of the human factor. The person experiencing the problem may not always know how to accurately describe it or their perception of what is wrong may be different than what is actually happening… Reminds me of the time my grandmother told me she had “deleted the internet<” but had actually deleted her browser shortcut.

If you’re not a techie and have ever had to call for computer support of some kind you probably know what I mean. Learning to listen and ask good questions is your key to solving problems.

What To Do With Problems You Can’t Fix

Sometimes we get hit with problems that are just too far outside our abilities or they are unrelated to what we do. Legal or regulatory reasons may also prohibit us from recommending certain options. So what then?

It’s important to know that being a problem solver doesn’t mean that YOU always “fix” the problem.

Knowing when and where to direct someone, so that your customer can move in the direction of getting their problem fixed is the next step. It may mean escalating within your organization, or pointing them to an outside resource.

When I wanted to reduce the amount of my services work, I first built a network of people to whom I could refer work, so as I continued to get requests I could easily point them to a reliable source. A positive experience was created by helping those in need get the right assistance and was much easier than just telling them “I can’t help you.” The worst thing you can do is leave someone hanging with nowhere to go. That exact experience recently is what inspired this post!

If you take one thing away I hope it’s this, that being a problem solver will help you build relationships and trust, and will endear you to your clients in a way few other things can.

Now it’s your turn? How do YOU solve problems and what do you do when you can’t solve the problem?


  1. Chris "The Traffic Blogger" on January 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    My favorite part about this article is that you are empowering your audience and teaching them to solve problems… which is exactly what you are telling them to go off and do as well for their audience. Nice 🙂

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