In today’s climate of immediate customer reactions, many business owners are taking a fresh approach to customer service and follow-up, much of which begins before a visitor even arrives on-site.

Establishing good customer relations always begins with a connection between buyer and seller. While in the past this was a more gradual process with long-term follow-up, today’s buying trends call for pre-visit connectivity as well as on-site relationship building.

Pre-visit market research is the standard with current buyers. Before an on-site visit, they know more about your company and your products than most long-time customers. They are coming prepared with specific questions regarding what you do, how you do it and what benefit it will be to them.

This is where online and connective promotions inform the potential buyer and prepare you for customer trends and shifting needs. Your story needs to be out there, along with testimonials, reviews and insight from current and new customers. This involves more than just an FAQ page or an “About Us” paragraph. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and imagine the information you would want to see and learn about a company before you visit and buy.

Ask yourself these questions: What sets your company apart from competitors? What makes coming to your site important to a client? Are you putting out parallel information about pairing your products with other products and services to show connections and trends? What role do you play in your community and with other businesses in your area? Are you tied in with regional promotional and tourism programs?

Promotion and information are first steps to establishing connections, but preparation for on-site visits is essential too. Employees benefit from as much customer relations training as possible and need to be kept informed of company policies, changes, promotions and operations. First connections may be with the person directing parking, or at your welcome kiosk. Incoming customers may be speaking with those leaving and asking about the experience, so each sector of your operation must be customer-oriented and ready to make the customer visit extraordinary.

But in all the preparation, don’t forget that transactions also must be honest and measurable. If the customer does not have a good experience, or feels there has been no benefit to the visit or the sale, you haven’t really made the lasting connection. Someone within your organization assigned to review online and person-to-person responses is important to customer service follow-ups and bolstering good communication.

Buying habits across all industry sectors have changed dramatically, and customer relationship building is trending in new directions as well. Much more time and effort are required in the pre-visit stage than ever before. Help your customers feel prepared and ready to visit or purchase online by including lots of information upfront. This will provide a connection point early and help you build a consistent, loyal following.

The above information is provided for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling. The author is a former agricultural economic development and marketing specialist.